Moving Forward in Faith

Riding on the St. Vincent de Paul “breakfast bus” Sunday, I was amazed by the generosity of so many people. By the “name” of the bus, you know it was connected to St. Vincent de Paul. This time, however, two buses caravaned to park under the overpass near St. Vincent Church in St. Louis. Some regular breakfast patrons came, and some were new.

The bus always parks in the same spot, but the schedule varies with the demands on those who manage this ministry.

The second bus carried the “hair salon” that was set up to give folks a shave, a haircut and/or a hygiene package after they ate a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage and biscuits and gravy. When these patrons left they were full and barbered.

The food was prepared and served on one bus, and Stephanie and Bianca took care of the shaves and haircuts. Before the stylists boarded the bus, they hauled boxes and boxes of hygiene products they had purchased and bagged for the homeless who accepted their offers. Since I had missed the inaugural bus “salon” last October, I didn’t want to miss this one.

The mostly men black and white were grateful for the services. One of the men, Herbert, pulled out a wrinkled card with the Prayer of St. Francis on it. He said he wanted to get a T-shirt with the prayer on it and did I think that would be all right? Another man spoke to me about St. Vincent de Paul, explaining that he spoke for the poor. I told him I’d heard that.

Most of the men were older, and everyone was polite. We were genuinely glad they stopped by for breakfast and conversation. The people who prepare the breakfasts, and those who fix the dinners on the “Mobile Kitchen,” aren’t wealthy people for the most part. Yet, they want to share, and they share with humility.

To go on the breakfast bus takes planning; you have to go to church on Saturday evening, and if you’re preparing food for the bus, you have to get an early start. Everything is served hot. If you’re going to cut hair, you need supplies, and Bianca and Stephanie brought theirs. It was also really encouraging to see the second bus driver was still in his 20s or 30s as were a few of the other volunteers.

When we worry about what will happen next in the Church, who will be there after we are no longer able to serve, we should just look around at all of the young people actively practicing their faith and supporting others in their search for the spiritual side of their lives.

The bus is only one ministry, and every parish has so many others. People are stepping up to join the ranks of those who minister to others. This may be the beginning of a new era of service, encouraged by Pope Francis and sustained by our peers. Together we go forward.