As I push on out of the Parish Office and onto Washington Blvd, the sun is brightly shining. The grass on the boulevard is freshly cut. The trees are wonderfully green and fragrant. There is not a soul to be seen. I can’t help but smile as I think about the activity about to be unleashed in the neighborhood. Surveying the street I notice a pickup and cars pulling up in front of the now boarded up community center. People emerge and start unloading and setting up tables. A gas grill is fired up and the smell of roasting hotdogs and hamburgers begins to fill the air.
“Good mornings” are exchanged as more volunteers arrive. Laughter bounces off the walls of the tall buildings that surround us. A homeless man wanders over to see what is going on. He reads the sign being hung off the main table and exclaims “I have heard of “Flash Mob’s” but a Flash Picnic? That’s a new one for me.” He burst out laughing as he headed down the table filling a plate, a hot dog, potato salad and all the fixins. Soon word spreads and the street and sidewalk come alive with people. A couple people come down from the chancery building. A construction crew walks over from the new scaffold work going up. Seniors with grandchildren come down out of nearby apartments. Two young men with guitars hanging off their backs grab seconds. “Who is doing this?” one of them asks. I respond, “St. Aloysius Church.” “Where on earth is St. Aloysius?” Somebody next to me points to the building not 100 feet away. “I’ve lived here 10 years and I never new that church was there.” “10 years”, I replied? “Welcome to the neighborhood! Welcome to St. Al’s.”
In the last week of November, I brought one of my potted plants into the house for the winter. It was very green and had no evidence of any budding flowers. So I decided to put it in a warm, well-lighted area, with plans of maintaining it until spring. But guess what? When I went to water it, a tiny bud greeted me! And now after two weeks, I have a beautiful daisy-like flower all dressed in orange.
But for this plant to survive and thrive, it needed to be relocated.
In the past two months, the St. Aloysius Community Center too had to be “relocated.” Years of relationships built on care, nourishment, and love, now benefits the St. Al’s Community Center as it has become a Ministry without walls. We are meeting people where they are: in the streets, in their apartments and homes, and in their hearts—addressing the needs of mind, body, and spirit! Our relationships are surviving and most importantly thriving.
As we relocated, we needed a way to store donations. Through initial storage space at Our Lady of La Salette Parish in Berkley and the work of dedicated volunteers, the newly formed St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services has been able to store and prepare donations used in our ministries.
In a few short months, we have been given another promising opportunity. Our sister parish, St. Josaphat in Detroit, has wonderfully asked to become an active companion in ministry to our brothers and sisters in Detroit. St. Josaphat is an advertisement icon for the City of Detroit. With its beautiful cross spires, St. Josaphat boldly stands along southbound I-75 on Canfield (ten minutes from St. Aloysius) as a welcoming gateway to Downtown Detroit. Fr. Darrel Roman has graciously offered the parish hall for much-needed dinner/party space for St. Aloysius’ Parish and the Senior Program. But also, the basement and second floor area of the parish hall can be utilized for storage of donated groceries and clothing. And a bonus for our volunteers is safe and abundant parking space—free of Downtown Detroit meter maids!
An orange daisy is a joyful gift of nature, unexpected yet so welcome especially in the darker days of winter. We are so grateful for all the volunteers and parishes who have given so much to the St. Aloysius ministries. We welcome St. Josaphat as our new companion. May we all be God’s instrument of peace and joy as we serve our brothers and sisters in downtown Detroit.
It’s 6 a.m. on a cool damp September morning. Volunteers are slowly arriving. Our first 12 gallons of coffee are brewing, and my cup is full as I am standing outside in front of the old double wood doors that are the main entry into the Community Center.
To my right and just across the street is the newly remodeled Westin Hotel. The building is wonderfully lit up and is already a buzz of activity; people are laughing and milling along the street. In front of the hotel, Eli the doorman is calling for a taxi from among the line of taxi cabs that wait along Washington Blvd. and serve the hotel patrons. The long line of taxis slowly moves forward.
To my left the buildings are all closed down; there has been no life in them for years. There is only darkness. Within the shadows you can sense quiet slow movement, as people are working their way to the bus station. About 10 feet away sitting on the steel pipe guardrail that protects the flower bed, I notice a shivering man with his hands buried in his face. He is wearing rags and beside him on the sidewalk is a torn plastic bag holding what I would guess all of his possessions. There is movement at the man’s feet; several rats are scurrying around him and over his torn shoes investigating the plastic bag. One of the rats, sitting on its tail in front of him looks to be trying to get his attention. We are immersed in silence. I take a couple steps toward the man, the rats scurry away. I wish them good morning. I hand the gentleman my coffee. He gives me his blessing. Another day begins at St. Al’s.