Brian T. Olszewski, The Catholic Virginian
“How pleased Our Lord is with your concern for the relief of his suffering members.”
– St. Vincent de Paul, Patron of the Diocese of Richmond
One of the threads that runs throughout the Diocese of Richmond’s 200-year history is care for those in need. In decade after decade, there are examples of the Catholic community addressing needs of the poor, the uneducated, the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned.
As part of its bicentennial observance, the diocese has designated Sept. 27-Oct. 4 as an Octave of Service.
“Many of our parishes have reached out already and continue to reach out,” said Michael School, Bicentennial Task Force project manager. “This octave is set aside as a recognition of that foundation of who we have been from the very beginning.”
He said the Octave of Service provides focus on another aspect of Catholic life in the diocese.
“We’ve had a chance to do that during our liturgical celebrations throughout the year, we’ll have a chance to do that as well during our Eucharistic Congress in November,” he said. “But this particular moment is a moment in time which we can celebrate the presence of the Catholic community for the past 200 years by sharing that charism of charity that St. Vincent de Paul exemplified and inspired in us to our local community.”
The Bicentennial Task Force has provided parishes with a planning guide to help them in determining its service projects and recruiting participants. Parishes, schools, campus ministries and families are encouraged to partner with each other or with community organizations to assist neighbors, undertake beautification projects, serve at food pantries, and write cards of encouragement to the imprisoned, to name a few of the ideas listed in the planning guide.
Those participating in the Octave of Service need not carry out service every day, according to the planning guide. It suggests designating one day on which everyone participates, one day with different groups at various sites in the community, or multiple days with different groups doing different projects.
The planning guide also provides participating entities with prayers and encourages participants to pray together before and after they have served. Another option is scheduling a rosary or prayer service for vulnerable populations.
School noted that the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are the basis “for how we can practically be the hands and feet of Christ,” adding that the diocese’s bishops “have really seen works of charity as essential to their mission.”
“It’s part of our DNA, part of who we are. When we celebrate the bicentennial, we look at everything that makes us who we are, and we celebrate those things and we celebrate them together,” he said.
School termed the Octave of Service “unifying.”
“One of our bicentennial themes is communion — that we are united with one another in this work,” he said. “In particular we’re united as we’re sent forth, we’re united in that mission.”
Lest the Octave of Service be seen as an end in itself, the planning guide states:
“The Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s commitment to walking with those in our communities who are most in need should, and must, continue long after the projects have concluded. Consider this week not as a one-time event, but as an opportunity for your parish/school/campus ministry to kickstart a growing effort of outreach and justice.”
Editor’s note: For further information about the Octave of Service, contact your parish.