By: Dominique Johnson

“Whenever we set out to love as Jesus loved, we have to take the Lord as our example; especially when it comes to loving the poor.” – Pope Francis

At the end of last year’s Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis instituted a World Day of the Poor, so “Communities can become an ever-greater sign of Christ’s charity for the least and those most in need.”

The first World Day of the Poor will take place this month, on November 19th. In this initiative, the pope has called all Catholics to have a true encounter with those living in our communities who may often be overlooked.

What does it mean to encounter the poor among us? Pope Francis shares that it means “to meet their gaze, to embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude.”

The pope is calling us to do more than give financially or volunteer our time. He is reminding us to be like Christ. To step outside of our comfort zones and walk side by side with the poor, and get to know them and see beyond their worldly status, so we can see them the way Christ does.

In Southeast Alaska, we can encounter those less fortunate in our communities by volunteering at our local soup kitchens and homeless shelters, and while we are there sharing conversation with the people we are serving.

Catholic Community Service,serves meals to seniors who are homebound in Angoon, Craig, Klawock, Haines, Klukwan, Hoonah, Juneau, Kake, Saxman, Ketchikan, Sitka, Skagway, Wrangell and Yakutat. These programs need volunteers to serve those in need living in these communities and who are willing to get know the people they are serving.
The St. Vincent de Paul Society in Juneau serves the poor by providing housing, housing assistance, food and other services. Like the other organizations St. Vincent de Paul gives volunteers the opportunity to encounter our neighbors who are less fortunate.

There are other ways that we can serve and encounter the poor in our communities and we do not have to serve alone. We can serve together with our families, friends and church communities to make these connections as we are reminded that we are all sons and daughters of Christ. Hopefully our encounters with the poor won’t be a once a year activity, but a reminder that we should encounter the poor on a regular basis to be disciples of Christ.

Pope Francis concluded his message announcing the World Day of the Poor saying, “This new World Day, should become a powerful appeal to our consciences as believers, allowing us to grow in the conviction that sharing with the poor enables us to understand the deepest truth of the Gospel. The poor are not a problem: they are a resource from which to draw as we strive to accept and practice in our lives the essence of the Gospel.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities through Catholic Commuinty Service visit www.ccsjuneau.org or call (907) 463-6100

For volunteer needs at St. Vincent de Paul visit svdpjuneau.org or call (907) 789-5535