"You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God" (2 Corinthians, 9:11)
Fr. Joe Kelly was the Pastor and Director of the Newman Center on the Illinois State University campus for many years. He also introduced Tina to the Catholic Worker Movement and co-founded Clare House with her. Larry Quane, an emeritus professor at ISU who assisted Joe at the Newman Center has written a book, "Journey of a Faith Community--The Homilies of Fr. Joseph Kelly--The Lessons We Learned, the Lessons We Live." In his book, Larry stated that Thanksgiving was Joe's favorite holiday. In his Thanksgiving homily, Joe told us that "This annual celebration has a warmth and richness singularly different than other holidays. There is not the worry and clutter of gifts, even though that insanity begins in earnest the next day. There is within the traditional mechanics of Thanksgiving an invitation to reflection, to pause amidst the demands of life to evaluate life itself, to re-embrace the good that has been given and to be thankful for the richness that goodness has brought to each of us." And, "Thanksgiving has the best chance of touching again the goodness within each family tradition, by hindsight to know anew the blessings of God that are present. Thanksgiving is a time to be reflective and grateful." What wonderful thoughts for us to consider as we reflect on the meanings of our missions at Clare House.
As you well know, our traditional mission at Clare House is to provide food for our less fortunate sisters and brothers, and this mission intensifies during each Fall season with our annual food drive. This year, the demands for food have been great; so, our efforts must meet these needs. And, we also give thanks to those who donate food throughout the year.
In addition, for the last 2 years, Clare House has embarked on a new mission. Since July, 2012, we have become part of the Little Free Library system which has spread throughout the United States and even into some other countries. You may have noticed what looks like a "bird house" in front of Clare House and in several other Bloomington-Normal neighborhoods. During this time, I have collected children's books at church and garage sales, along with donations from friends and family, to give to children who accompany their parents and grandparents on Wednesdays and Fridays to Clare House for food. This has been an extremely rewarding experience for me, for which I am very thankful. To see the smile and look on a child's face, and also on their parent's and grandparent's faces, is so heartwarming. Each child and family is special and I've been able to get to know them, and they get to know me, as I offer them a book. By talking with people in line, I now better understand who they are and what their needs are, which go beyond a bag of food or a book. A kind word to share the day, the weather, how they're feeling, and how they've been doing if I haven't seen them for some time is worth so much. And, for this I am eternally grateful to our sisters and brothers in line who have welcomed me into their lives.
As we continue this new "free library" mission at Clare House, I ask all of you to join with me. If you have children's books that your children or grandchildren have out-grown, please consider donating them to us. Besides being kind to children and their families, we are "paying it forward" by encouraging them to learn to read which is so important for their future, in school and in life. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to pick up your books. Thank you.