2016 Annual Benefactor Appreciation

2016 Annual Benefactor Appreciation

Pope Francis says: Accompanying on its own is not enough. It is not enough to offer someone a sandwich unless it is accompanied by the possibility of learning how to stand on one’s own two feet. Charity that leaves the poor as they are, is not sufficient. True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice, it demands that the poor find the way to be poor no longer. It asks — and it asks us, the Church, it asks the institutions — to ensure that no one ever again stand in need of a soup-kitchen, of makeshift lodgings, of a service of legal assistance in order to have one’s legitimate right recognized to live and to work, to be fully a person.

There is an old saying: “You can’t really understand another person’s experience until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”

We talk about walking in each other’s shoes but it can be hard to imagine the difficulties so many face. Empathizing with the marginalized is not always easy.

For one minute I ask you to close your eyes, and imagine these realities:

  • being unable to pay your bills because you have no job.
  • being ashamed to smile because you can’t afford to go to a dentist.
  • being unable to sleep because you are an elderly person and you live on your own in a rundown neighborhood known for its violence.
  • being unable to feed your children.
  • not having the warm clothes needed to survive our harsh winters.
  • having nowhere to leave your child while you go and work in the vineyards all day.
  • arriving in a new country and new city after years in a refugee camp.
  • being unable to speak English.
  • being a teenage boy with no one to show you how to be a man or a teenage girl…a woman.
  • having nowhere to go after school except the streets of the inner city.
  • never dancing, picking up a paint brush, or writing a poem.

These are the experiences of real people, with real stories…people that we encounter every day in our ministries.

Now open your eyes and look around you. How fortunate we are that together we have the resources and vision to create a world that we want for all of our children.

Teenagers are mentored. People learn new skills and find jobs. Families can feed their children, pay their bills, and go to the dentist. Now they can smile. Our elders have a safe place to live. Children experience a whole new world of the arts where their imaginations know no limits.

Like us, I know that you believe that we can raise the quality of life for every child and family. Our task is to make this possible. Our mission is to provide practical, step by step assistance and your financial support is crucial to that mission.

Together, every day — you our supporters, our sisters, staff, oblates, and volunteers — work tirelessly to build a world where all people, regardless of race, creed or circumstance can achieve their full potential.

In this time of political gridlock I am reminded of the President’s comments about Pope Francis when he said: The theme of “our conversation together was a belief that in politics and in life the quality of empathy, the ability to stand in somebody else’s shoes and to care for someone even if they don't look like you or talk like you or share your philosophy —that's critical.

It’s the lack of empathy that makes it very easy for us to plunge into wars. It's the lack of empathy that allows us to ignore the homeless on the streets. And obviously central to my Christian faith is a belief in treating others as I’d have them treat me. And what I think created so much love and excitement for His Holiness has been that he seems to live this, and shows that joy continuously.”

May all of us continue to be an empathetic, passionate people, longing to be the face of justice for each other.

So tonight — even though there is still much to do — we need to take a moment to celebrate all of the small miracles that we see every day. What a great world we are creating for future generations! You, our generous donors, have much to be proud of and we don’t say it enough…THANK YOU!

Sister Anne Wambach, OSB, the twenty-first prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pennsylvania is a native of Philadelphia. She moved to Mount St. Benedict Monastery in 1992 to respond to a desire to experience the monastic way of life. Previously a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Chestnut Hill, Sister Anne began the formal transfer process to the Erie Benedictines in 1993 and made her monastic profession in 1997.

Sister Anne has served the people of the Diocese of Erie as a teacher at St. Gregory's School in North East, Pa., from 1992-1995, and at the Neighborhood Art House in Erie, beginning as program director in 1995 and as executive director since 2005. She served on the Monastic Council from 2006-2010.