One year ago we were still buzzing after our “first annual” Churchyard Harvest Festival at Holy Family, with musicians on a stage under the trees, artists under canopies and food trucks on Izard Street.
We didn’t know at the time that within months in our chapel we would host members of the Omaha Symphony and Liz Gre performing her original composition based on stories of her mother. Or that 30 high school students from East Omaha schools would gather to listen and talk with two dynamic musicians and share a meal catered by a Latino chef.
We didn’t know that the archbishop would choose to close the Holy Family Church parish, and put the care and use of the historic building in the care of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, which had offices in the old rectory.
Such plans we had. Such momentum. Such a sense of the spirit moving.
And then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and like everyone, we are adjusting to our new world. But our plans and dreams are still intact, and we work every day to take steps along the road to the future, when we can gather people in what is now the Holy Family Community Center.
This month we launch the Listen & Learn Lunch Series with stories recorded in our choir loft told by Black Catholics, all members of Saint Benedict the Moor parish. We have secured a partnership with The Moth, which will provide training and opportunity to craft and tell personal stories, letting our community members share experiences with their neighbors. We will screen art films and sponsor panel discussions among Omaha artists.
All of the above will be posted or streamed from Holy Family. One day, hopefully soon, all of this and more will take place live and together in Holy Family, but none of us know when that day will come.
Here’s what we do know, however.
Every day 70-100 people, mostly homeless, line up at our door to be handed a sack lunch. Every day we load 140 more lunches on a van and send them out to the streets of East Omaha, including to seniors living in high-rise apartments.
Every day dozens of people wait at our door to receive free clothing: socks, underwear, pants and shirts, hoodies and jackets, and soon, hats, gloves and winter coats.
Every day, volunteers from around Omaha, some members of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, many not, gather to make those lunches, to hand out sacks and drinks and friendly words, to drive the vans, to find pants and shirts that fit.
Yes, we have plans for the future, architectural renovations, education and performance, training and financial assistance. But mostly — right now — we feed and clothe the homeless, like the folks at Holy Family have done for decades. We are committed, we are honored, to continue the legacy of service that the priests and nuns and generations of Holy Family parishioners started, maintained and passed on to us.
It is a role that we are learning, a community we are getting to know, problems we are helping to solve, and a mission of service we invite all of you to share with us.
Bruce Noble, Director of Holy Family Ministries