When I began reviewing the results of our recent parish survey, a common thread became apparent in the responses to the question of “If you were a member of Sacred Heart five, 10, or 15 years from now, what would you want the parish to be known for?”. When I say “became apparent,” I really mean something more like a cacophony of voices all exclaiming the same phrases as loudly as possible. It was a survey, after all. As I’m sure many of you could relate, if you’re given the chance to sound off anonymously regarding something you care about or are invested in, you do so emphatically. While many answers also created common threads, from ensuring a welcoming atmosphere, to our dedication to Catholic social teaching, our attentiveness to social justice issues, and the preservation and promotion of our church’s history, more than 40% of responses to this short answer question featured a desire for our parish to be synonymous with outreach to the homeless and vulnerable throughout our community.
Those near and far, veteran or new to our parish know that Sacred Heart has never been an example of ‘insular thinking,’ whether you take the literal or figurative representation of the concept. The parish does its best to be accepting and welcoming of all walks and situations, always aiding when it can. It’s an incredible sight to be met with such passion toward putting our faith into action as these responses suggest. It’s not even a suggestion, really. It is an active function of those who make up our church. James 2 has been a guiding light for my vocations, and it seems to be firmly in the mind of our parishioners.
We have an excellent opportunity in just a few weeks to put our faith into action and specifically assist the unhoused and vulnerable. On Wednesday, May 10, Sacred Heart will host its third Hillsborough Community Homeless Outreach event, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the North Campus. The event will connect those in need to social services and shelters like Tampa Hope, as well as address their more immediate necessities such as food, clothing, showers, and haircuts. We’ll need a fleet of volunteers to join the participating vendors in assisting our guests with these resources during the event. If you have not already considered volunteering from the ads in the bulletin or in the church, please take to heart this chance to embody what so many of you want our parish to be known for, and register your interest at hoceapp.com.
Our staff, clergy, and committees have a desire to host events like these more often, as they are a proven gateway to recovery for those who take part. In a recent article penned by 83Degrees Media, a guest from our January 2022 event recounted her own path to a new home from our outreach. Having been ruled medically unable to work in 2021, and later losing the apartment she shared with a loved one who passed on, the guest met with representatives from Catholic Charities and Tampa Hope at the North Campus, and was accepted to the shelter alongside 17 others that day. That guest had a permanent housing solution arise in December, and credits our event, as well as the staff, volunteers and resources at Tampa Hope with getting her back into a place of her own. You can read her story, and learn about Tampa Hope’s latest expansion at shfla.org/hopecottages.
While the upcoming event is in the middle of the week, and may limit some from volunteering, know that there are always opportunities to assist those in need through parish ministries like Hands of Hope and St. Vincent de Paul, and through our Giving From the Heart drives. Know, too, that we see your commitment and appreciate you for ‘loudly’ advocating for a parish community identified by its commitment to service.
Peace and All Good,