Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Dreaming of Open Access to Church Facilities

What we hear often bothers our consciences.  A religious sister adds to the burden with her words on the opinion page of the Catholic Times. She recounts her encounter with a homeless woman who she helped. She fed her and gave her a place to stay on church property without notifying anybody, and sent her off with bus fare.

Results were that she returned repeatedly, strongly asked for food, a place to stay, and a job. When the sister told her she would find her a place to stay, she said no; she didn't want anyone to notify her family. She refused to leave, which put the sister in a difficult situation. The church grounds had many different rooms, classrooms and facilities, but it was difficult to find a place for a homeless woman.

Church property is not a public welfare facility. It is not a place where persons can stay for any long period of time. This fact she knows well but whenever we are required to turn our backs on those looking for help, she finds it difficult.

Churches are not used during the week as they are on Sundays, and she who gives many talks finds it awkward using Jesus' words about what we do to the least we do to him, and when she  finds herself saying no to those in need: homeless, the elderly, children, these words come to mind. All could be welcomed to use church property.

She mentions how Pope Francis has asked that they open the religious houses in Europe to the migrants and refugees which gave her great joy. How would Jesus look upon the way we use our facilities in Korea?  In this year of mercy  are we using our facilities to express this mercy?

Many are those who remember using the church's buildings and playgrounds  as children. Neighborhood children  can use the parking lots of the churches as playgrounds. Young people can come to use the basket ball courts and ping pong tables. Migrants and foreign workers can use the rooms for meetings and celebrations. Those who have for one reason or another not had a marriage ceremony can use the churches for these activities. The homeless can find rest from the rain and a place to rest in rooms set aside for this purpose.

She concludes her article wondering if this is only a  dream. Is this kind of thinking unrealistic, impossible?

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