By MAIRE O’NEILL
When temperatures drop at this time of the year, we become more aware of the homeless in our New Mexico communities when the risk of hypothermia joins the long list of other challenges they face. Since June, parishioners at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church have been putting together bags for distribution to the homeless.
Wording on the bags is a quote from St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, which states, “The Divine Heart of Jesus is an ocean full of all good things wherein poor souls can cast their needs; it is an ocean full of joy to drown all our sadness, an ocean of humility to drown all our folly, an ocean of mercy to those in distress, an ocean of love in which to submerge our poverty.”
The project began after an IHM group completed a “Wisdom and Works of Mercy” study which challenged them to come up with a work of God’s loving mercy. They were concerned about the homeless they saw standing on street corners in Santa Fe and Albuquerque and decided to put together bags packed with nonperishable snacks, a water bottle, socks, toiletries, pain relievers, a rosary, a prayer card, and information on services and shelters in the metro areas.
The bags were hung in the narthex at IHM in Los Alamos and at St. Joseph’s in White Rock and before Father Glennon Jones even announced their availability, most of them had been taken by parishioners to pass out. Another 200 bags were assembled, which were quickly distributed and another 200 are slated to be filled this coming Sunday.
The IHM Teams of Our Lady team which is currently sponsoring this ministry needs items from the list below to put in the bags which they plan to distribute three or four times a year. Coordinator Greg Erpenbeck provided a list the items needed. Those most needed for Sunday’s bag-stuffing session are marked with an asterisk.
- Small packet of baby wipes*
- Toothbrush caps
- Toothpaste (travel size)
- Deodorant (travel size)
- Shampoo (travel size)
- Packets of Advil or Tylenol*
- Band Aids*
- Beef jerky
- Fruit snacks
- Soft granola bar
- 8oz bottle of water
- Feminine products
- Ziplock bags (quart)
- Ziplock bags (sandwich)
- Hand warmers (available at Costco)
- Toilet paper
If you can help purchase any of the above items please bring them to the IHM office before noon Friday for the 200 bags, or after that during regular office hours for future bags.
For more than 25 years, two other programs at IHM have served the homeless. The Loaves and Fishes Ministry helps Bienvenidos Outreach Inc. of Santa Fe feed the hungry by delivering sack lunches in the summer and huge pots of homemade chicken/vegetable/rice soup with sandwiches in winter on the second Sunday of the month. Stacy McLaughlin is the organizer of this group.
The second ministry, My Brother’s Keeper, makes handmade sleeping bags for the homeless from many types of recycled materials including old/damaged blankets or quilts, sheets, double knit polyester, denim, and many other heavy materials. The group, headed by Patricia Jakubowski, meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in White Rock on Fridays from 9:15 to 11:30 a.m. and all are welcome to stop by and help.
“Homelessness causes so much loneliness which destroys a person’s sense of self-worth. Sometimes having a bag to give to someone along with a simple smile and a word of kindness can make a big difference to an otherwise very hard day,” said one IHM parishioner. “Homeless people are often stereotyped and stigmatized, but the truth of the matter is that many people are just one paycheck away from homelessness.”
For more information on any of the three programs, call the IHM parish office at 505.662.6193.