Bishop Michael W. Fisher wants the 175th diocesan anniversary to be a year of service. He led the way when he visited the Response to Love Center and helped serve chicken and ribs to the 150 or so guests.
The May 5 visit included meeting with the many guests who live below the poverty level.
“It feels like home when I come back here,” Bishop Fisher said. “I think it’s direct care for our people. It’s hands on. Our holy father talks about getting the smell of the sheep on us. That’s from being with the people. We want them to know the Church is there with them.”
Bishop Fisher said he wants people to recognize the need of Catholics to always be in service to God’s people. He came to the center to show his support for those who need it the most.
“We’re here for them. We’re here for their care,” he said. “There are corporal works of mercy that we believe in – to feed the poor, to clothe the naked, to be with those who are vulnerable in our society and to be able to reach out and let them know we’re walking with them.”
This is not Bishop Fisher’s first time at Response to Love, he served turkey dinners on Thanksgiving. “It’s in his heart,” explained Michael Gilhooly, assistant director of the center. “When he says he feel at home here, he really does.”
Joining the bishop were Father Peter Karalus, vicar general of the diocese, and Father Benjamin Fiore, SJ, pastor of St. Michael Parish, which sponsors the center’s outreach program.
A typical day at Response to Love starts with the crowd coming in at 8:30 in the morning. Some stay and eat, others take part in the adult education or English as a second language classes taught upstairs. A food pantry helps families stretch thin budgets. A chapel provides spiritual warmth. Through collaboration with other agencies key services around health and wellness, education, employment and social services are also provided.
“They come because we’re family,” explained Sister M. Johnice Rzadkiewicz, CSSF, the foundress of the East Side social service center. “We’re not as big as some other places are, but the personal involvement we have with people, the rapport. We know them. We love them. We know where their family lives. We know when they’re hospitalized. We know when there is a death. We come together as a family.”
On Oct. 22, all parishes and families of parishes will be invited to take part in a Day of Service to meet the needs of their local community. Bishop Fisher would also like to set aside a few days to feed the hungry in the diocese through meal programs similar to what Response to Love offers.