The food pantry at Risen Lord Church in Maysel, Clay County, West Virginia is just one example of how we are responding. It used to provide food for 105 children a week through its backpack program at an elementary school in Clay County. When the local schools closed at the beginning of the pandemic, it served 1,167 students during the first week.
John Denver got it right when he described West Virginia as “almost heaven” in his song, “Country Roads.” I cannot keep from humming the tune as Father Thien Duc Nguyen drives me from the airport in Clarksburg to St. Thomas Church in Gassaway where he serves as the pastor.
One Saturday afternoon after Mass practice with the altar boys and girls, Seminarian Khanh Ha noticed that the children were not leaving to return home. When he asked why, the answer was disturbing.
From poisonous spiders and snakes to arid spring-to-fall heat to crushing poverty made worse by a corrupt government, life is not easy for the people of Bahia Negra, Paraguay nor for the Divine Word Missionaries who share in their existence.
When he saw a young man angry and seeking revenge after his brother was killed by rival gang members in front of his house, Brother Bernie knew he wanted to offer peace to this man and his family.
Rodrigo Gomez grew up without a father. “Everything for me was kind of hard because I had to figure out stuff on my own.”
The food pantry is open every Thursday at St. Thomas Catholic Church in West Virginia and on this particular Thursday, there is a long line. The need is especially acute.