Praising God through song and feeding homeless in one night

By Christine Bordelon

The spirit of helping others is strong in young adult Catholics in New Orleans. Once a month, a dedicated group spends a Wednesday evening filling bags with sandwiches and other goodies and then hand-delivers them to the homeless under the interstate as part of the archdiocese’s Young Adult Ministry’s Magnify and Midnight Run event.

“I love the fellowship of it,” said second-year LSU Dental School student Alli Beth Blanchard, 23. “I’m surrounded by liked-minded young adults focused on increasing their faith while helping others.”

While stepping a bit out of her comfort zone for the activity, Blanchard said Young Adult Ministry as a whole is a way “to meet God where I am today.”

She has participated in Archdiocese of New Orleans’ Young Adult ministry activities over the past year, and she and others said that during Magnify and Midnight Run, not only do they enjoy the camaraderie of making bag meals, they also slow down for an hour during praise and worship that follows at Mater Dolorosa Church. Hearing meaningful words to songs prepares them to encounter those in need.

“It lets us be the hands and feet of Jesus,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to do that.”
The recent Magnify and Midnight Run was a hot evening, and they handed out more than 50 bags of food and lots of water. They met a man named James, another named Antonio from Mexico and others under the Claiborne overpass. All were thankful for the bounty.

Volunteer Will MacMaster, who is originally from Michigan but in his last seminarian year at Notre Dame Seminary, joined the group this night. He spoke briefly in Spanish with Antonio, to learn how he came to New Orleans approximately seven months ago for work. Antonio said he is Catholic and attends Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in New Orleans. MacMaster was accompanied by his friend, Michael Lamy, a third-year seminarian. Lamy’s brother, Patrick Lamy Jr., has headed this activity over the past year as a Young Adult Council member.

“In dealing with the homeless, sometimes you find they don’t feel like humans to others; people don’t acknowledge them,” said Patrick Lamy. “When you shake their hands … you realize they may be down on their luck or have mental issues. We are here to help them out and put a smile on their faces. … It comforts them knowing people are there thinking about them.”

Lamy, an Archbishop Rummel graduate, brought the Midnight Run idea to New Orleans after having participated in a similar Catholic Charities event in New York. As part of the council’s service committee, he thought it would get young adults involved.

“For me, I think it’s fantastic to help, but as important as providing food, water, a friendly face and a kind ear, what’s more important is the impact it has on the young people who are doing the volunteering. Christians in general and Catholics more specifically are called to do something for those less fortunate than themselves. This is a facilitated way to do that.”

He thinks it prompts future action, getting young adults to realize maybe they can’t do everything for everybody, but “I know I can feed the man standing on the corner.”

The monthly gathering begins and ends with prayer. Sometimes, as in this night, some of the homeless participate in prayer. Lamy prayed that they would be “a light and beacon for others in Christ.”

“Thank you,” was yelled to the young adult volunteers as they finished distributing food and water.

The next Magnify and Midnight Run is Sept. 20 at Mater Dolorosa, but it is but one of the regular events of the Young Adult Ministry. Members also meet to pray the rosary monthly outdoors in City Park (next one is Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.), meeting at the Morning Call; attend Christ in the City, and Theology on Tap and Young Catholic Professionals.

Sam Pitre, the new associate director of the CYO Youth and Young Adult Ministry, said a new Young Adult Council has begun meeting and is currently assessing the ongoing programs. Listening sessions for young adults also are being held to get input on the interests of young adults.

“This ministry has a lot of potential,” Pitre said. “We have a lot of great things going on already, and want to be able to better serve young adults and see what we can do to help the parishes as well.

“I think sometimes the church is seen as special people really into their faith, but really the church is for everyone. I am excited to see where the council goes with that and how our council reaches out to more young adults in areas that I don’t reach out to.”

For details on the Young Adult Ministry, call Pitre at 227-3228 or email spitre@arch-no.org. The Young Adult Ministry Office is at Transfiguration of the Lord Parish, 2241 Mendez St. off of Elysian Fields, New Orleans.

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarionherald.org.

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