Steepletown is in the midst of a milestone year. While initial conversations, planning and staffing began early in the 90’s, Steepletown’s Articles of Incorporation from the State of Michigan is dated March 8, 1994. Accordingly, Steepletown is in its 25th year of existence and has its 25th anniversary coming up in 2019. And yet the inception of Steepletown goes back many, many more years. Whether its “loving our neighbor as ourselves” or “feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless…” the efforts of Steepletown attempt to put the Gospel teachings of Jesus into practice.
One of the criticisms of Steepletown however is that this is not clearly communicated, and that Steepletown has taken on the mantle of government and is just another social agency. So it would seem that I have failed in effectively communicating why Steepletown exists. To that end let me issue a formal apology to those who have supported this work throughout Steepletown’s 25 years and as part of my penance, commit to doing much better at making the connection.
Two years after Pope Francis’ election to the papacy, he announced a Jubilee Year of Mercy (12/8/15-11/20/16). According to the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops’ website, “the practice of a jubilee year has ancient roots in the Jewish tradition and evidence for it can be found in the Old Testament. The jubilee year was called every fifty years and was a time for forgiveness. It stood as a reminder of God’s providence and mercy.” As the practice of the jubilee year was adopted into the Catholic Church, these themes of mercy, forgiveness, and solidarity continued. In announcing the Jubilee Year of Mercy, Pope Francis reminds us that “Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.”
The faith tradition of the Catholic Church has embraced specific practices that are referred to as Spiritual Works of Mercy and Corporal Works of Mercy. Both provide guidance on how mercy is to be experienced within and by the Catholic faith community. The Corporal Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. They “are charitable actions by which we help our neighbors in their bodily needs” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). They respond to the basic needs of humanity as we journey together through this life.
Over the next several weeks I will be writing/blogging on how Steepletown has embraced the Works of Mercy as the framework for living out our mission, a mission which reads “ to promote neighbor helping neighbor live with dignity and hope.” In this enewsletter I will begin with one of the Corporal Works of Mercy- visiting the prisoners.