Last Sunday, Oct. 27, following the 9 a.m. Mass, we had a very nice blessing of the new water fountain that our parish installed a couple of months ago. Mr. Alan Graham of Mobile Loaves and Fishes (who gave us a big donation for the fountain) and about 40 to 50 parishioners participated, including some who donated money to the project and some who donated sweat equity, or both. It was a nice, simple affair.
Well, it must have been a slow news day because we appeared on page one of the Metro Section of the Austin American Statesman. Our parish appeared on KXAN news. Our water fountain was a subject of discussion on a radio talk program on KLBJ, AM 590. The fountain blessing got picked up on “Morning Briefing” on the National Catholic Reporter website, and a notice in USA Today. But the best of all was that St. Austin and Mobile Loaves and Fishes got a “horns up” in the Oct. 28 issue of The Daily Texan, the University of Texas newspaper!
What to make of all this? First of all, it is of course very heartening to see that our efforts got recognized. But also it is a bit disturbing that when a church congregation does something not just for itself but for the general community as a whole it makes such a big splash. Is it really that unusual that a church would do something that primarily benefits people who are not its members? There are two possible explanations.
The simplest of course is that we don’t do very much for those who are not our members. To the extent this is true we need to look at why we as a church body exist and how well we are carrying out that mission. Vatican Council II teaches us that the Church exists as a sacrament for the salvation of the whole world. Our concern needs to extend to everyone, because that is the mission that Jesus gave us. If we are not doing that then we need to do better!
But the other explanation is that we do reach out beyond our church boundaries but do it in quiet and unassuming ways that often fail to get noticed. The day before the fountain blessing we had close to 100 people here packing meals for Catholic Relief Services to ship to Burkina Fasso in Africa in order to feed hungry people. In just over two hours our dedicated crew of St. Austin parishioners packed 10,000 meals! You should have seen them go! All of those meals are going to feed hungry people in another country on another continent. That is outreach!
The same afternoon following that blessing, a wonderful organ concert was presented in our church, feeding a different need of the human soul for artistry and beauty. Man does not live on packaged meals alone.
Every day in our worship, in our parish school, in our charitable and social justice ministries, St. Austin reaches out in support, in consolation, in help. Maybe we need to make these efforts better known.
In any case, we do NOT do these things because of the positive publicity that they attract. The publicity is good and I am glad our fountain made such a splash (pun intended). But ultimately we do all this because this is what Jesus told us to do. As long as He sees, the effort is worthwhile.