Columnists Mark my words

Help them to know why we’re the Heartland

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. He has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Imagine that you’ve been given 24 hours to pack. Because your life is in danger, you’re being moved. You can pack only one suitcase and a small carry-on. Oh, by the way, you’ll never be returning to your home.

What would you take?

Sadly, this is a situation faced most recently by refugees from Afghanistan. But many before them endured the same scenario. Perhaps the flight from their homeland was not as rushed, but consider the emotional toll in leaving behind what was so familiar.

Growing up, I only knew my maternal grandparents who emigrated from Croatia. Unfortunately, I never asked what that experience was like. The journey to Kansas City, Kansas, must have been grueling: It was the farthest either of them had been from home and was likely their first time aboard a ship and maybe even a train.

Grandma was illiterate; Grandpa spoke only a few words of English. They settled in an area called Strawberry Hill for two reasons: There were already Croatians there, and it was close to the packing houses where many of them worked. What struggles they faced to learn English, use a different currency, live in a totally new culture and work with people who had an ingrained distrust of “foreigners.”

The center spread of this issue, pages 8 and 9, highlights a new group of refugees coming into the Heartland and efforts to provide for them. Can you imagine what these folks are experiencing right now? Pope Francis encourages us to engage in a “culture of encounter,” to put ourselves into the shoes of another. Doing so expands our hearts and opens our eyes to the incredible diversity, yet commonality, of the human race.

 While many offer these refugees from Afghanistan their heartfelt prayers, which are important, it’s critical to extend practical help as well. This story captures that idea:

A smoke detector shrieked in the middle of the night, startling a family awake. Immediately, the parents yelled for their children to hurry outside. Once there, the parents started counting and discovered one child missing. A parent’s worst fear was realized as they saw their son in a second-story window, trapped by the flames.

The father, a devout church goer, dropped to his knees and prayed for God to save his son. The mother, too, was a person of deep faith but also very practical. Without a second thought, she ran to the neighbors’ house, yanked their extension ladder from the garage wall, propped it against her house and rescued her son.

There are times when the best way to express faith is to get off your knees, go get a ladder and do what needs to be done. (Story adapted from “Sower’s Seeds That Nurture Family Values,” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)

The Letter to St. James at Mass a few weeks ago said the same thing, albeit more succinctly: “Faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

I commend St. Pius X Parish in Mission and Catholic Charities for being proactive in ensuring as seamless a transition as possible for our newest refugees.

So, what are you waiting for? Get off your knees (or out of your chair), grab the excess stuff around your home and do what needs to be done.

Go ahead, make your ancestors proud!

About the author

Fr. Mark Goldasich

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