Sister Mary Miller
Sister Mary

Dear Friends,

I suppose if you asked people on the street, “What is Emmaus?” they would answer, “a place that feeds hungry people for free.” And they’d be right, to a point. But the COVID-19 pandemic gives me an insight into why that response is limited. To be sure, we never miss a day during this pandemic of feeding those who come to the door of both the pantry and the soup kitchen. All through the lock-down Emmaus continues to receive generous donations and to welcome selfless volunteers, all of which we try to acknowledge in this newsletter. So what is lacking?

In a recent interview Pope Francis was asked what you should say to a beggar in the street? The Pope replied, “Hello. How are you?” And he noted that once you ask that question, the person seeking your help immediately knows if you genuinely care about them or if you’re responding with a false charity. They’ll know you are sincere if, after asking the question, you take time to listen, really listen, to the answer.

That’s what the Emmaus family is not able to do during the pandemic. The Emmaus motto is “Bread for the body, care for the soul” and during these quarantine months I feel we are only fulfilling half our mission. We may shout the question, “Hello. How are you?”  to the guest who stands six feet away in the pantry or to the guest who reaches out for a packaged hot meal at the kitchen. But we are not able to get close enough to the other to listen for the reply, to sit down with them and talk, to give a comforting touch, to exchange a hug…to do all that you do when you talk to a friend. We miss being the family of Emmaus.  

“Hello, how are you?” is as far as we can go during the pandemic. But the question is never enough. It’s the human exchange that comes after the question that determines the integrity of Emmaus. The question for Emmaus is always: in the breaking of the bread do we see each other as we truly are in the sight of God? And do we live out that beatific insight with kindness and largess?

In Peace,
Sister Mary