Parishioners urged to help poor

Sharing: A Clarksville church turns its concern for the poor toward two parishes in Western Maryland.

March 16, 2001|By Diane Reynolds | Diane Reynolds,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In the 1930s, when Clarksville was an impoverished farming community, the Rev. Howard Bishop, pastor of St. Louis Roman Catholic Church, felt an added concern for the rural poor.

With Clarksville a thriving suburb today, St. Louis' traditional concern for the rural poor has turned toward the western end of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, to two Appalachian parishes in Maryland left behind by prosperity.

Last night, those concerns were addressed by newly ordained Bishop W. Francis Malooly in his first official visit to St. Louis church. Speaking at a Lenten Appeal reception to an audience of about 100, the bishop asked St. Louis parishioners to remember the less fortunate.

"Being generous is part of being good followers of Jesus," the bishop told the guests gathered around a buffet table decorated with a shamrock ice sculpture. "This parish is outstanding and strong. ... To share your resources with others is a blessing."

Malooly reminded his audience of the gospel story of Zaccheus, a tax collector whose encounter with Jesus led him to offer half of all he had to the poor.

Malooly said in an interview this week, "We need to reach beyond our own boundaries ... beyond the needs of our own parishes. St. Louis has stepped up very quickly to do this."

For Monsignor Joseph Luca, pastor of St. Louis, interest in forging ties with the western part of the state grew out of visits to the parishes of St. Joseph's of Midland and St. Mary's of Lonaconing.

"Many of our people have places on Deep Creek Lake," Luca said this week. "The scenery is spectacular, but if you look beyond the veneer, you see the poverty and the hurting people. To have this sharp contrast within our vicariate says something to me. How do you justify these two ends of the spectrum? It makes a lot of sense to me to bridge the difference.

"It is what I personally witnessed and saw that motivated this," he added. "We are trying to make a difference in the lives of people who are really suffering up there."

Luca noted the 14 percent unemployment in Western Maryland and the loss of a major employer, Kelly-Springfield, as contributing to the hardship.

In a videotape shown at the reception for the bishop, Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore asked viewers to consider "sacrificial giving" or stretching beyond a comfortable gift to help those in need.

Are affluent Howard residents really willing to make sacrifices? "I think people do that," Luca said.

"How much does it matter to miss a movie ... if you can help somebody?" agreed Tammy Way, a member of the St. Louis school board. "I look at my house and my children and think I am very, very blessed. I feel very blessed that I can help."

Way, who has traveled to poorer sections of Western Maryland, finds that "the people are very loving, good parents and hard workers."

Malooly believes it is symbolically important that on his first visit to St. Louis as bishop, he is asking parishes in his vicariate to draw closer together - through prayer and through outreach.

In establishing a connection with these sister parishes, St. Louis parish understands the need to do more than supply financial support.

"The part I'm really hoping for is the person-to-person," Luca said.

"We lose a sense of how we are blessed because we presume everyone has what we do. I believe if the kids go out there and personally help ... they will come back enriched. It's a life-changing experience.

"It's not coincidence that God made this connection between us."

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