Nourishment, in Jesus' Name
On several occasions our Lord spoke to St. Faustina about the importance of performing deeds of mercy.
He said: "I demand from you deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to your neighbors always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it" (Diary of St. Faustina, 742).
by Patricia Cloutier
Nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Andrew Simone and his wife, Joan, attended a Catholic prayer group and had a conversion. Afterwards, they gave away their life savings and nearly all their possessions, including two expensive vehicles. They also paid off the mortgages of financially troubled friends.
Relying on the grace of God, they took vows of poverty and dedicated their lives to helping the world's impoverished. First, they began working with Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, collecting and sending donations from Canada.
Then, Mother Teresa encouraged the couple to start a Canadian-based organization to bring food to the Third World. In 1985, the Simone's started the all-volunteer group Canadian Food for Children (CFFC), run today out of a warehouse near Toronto.
"We are not philanthropists. We are not humanists," Dr. Simone, a Harvard-educated dermatologist, told The Catholic Register in an interview published in 2003. "We are Catholic Christians trying to do what the Holy Father said: We have a mission to proclaim the truth."
He went on to say that because "an empty stomach has no ears," he wants CFFC to deliver food along with the message that God provides and loves.
CFFC operates five days a week, sending out, on average, nearly one 12-meter-long container a day (at a cost of $1.5 million annually). It's an immense undertaking. The containers include food, shoes, medication, toys, blankets, hygiene products, and clothes — all of which are donated by companies and private citizens. Volunteers, many of them high school students, show up each day filled with joy and a sense of peace that they are truly Jesus' hands and feet in action!
My own involvement with CFFC began 11 years ago upon reading a newspaper article about the group. I began collecting a few odds and ends and bringing them to the warehouse. My "collecting" has since mushroomed into full-time volunteering for CFFC!
When you realize how so many in the world have so little, you begin to see everything in a new light. For instance, if I see even just an elastic band on the sidewalk, I pounce, knowing full well that missionaries are hard up for elastic bands. What great excitement I get, too, in finding a $1 bag of linens or blankets that can be shipped. I get equal excitement seeing to it that we include a little candy in the shipments. Would you believe that the little ones in many far away lands have never even tasted candy?
The biggest motivation all the volunteers have in helping the poor and sick are the numerous photographs displayed in the warehouse. The photos are of very dear children and adults near death — like Jennifer was. The photos are displayed side by side with the "after" photos of them taken after they receive food and medication from CFFC.
Over the years, I have come to know Dr. Simone and Joan, who have raised 13 children. They are truly humble people wishing to do everything for Jesus. A banner on the warehouse wall sums it up: "Jesus is our strength."
Patricia Cloutier lives in Williamstown, ON, Canada.