Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday and those who live in the ashes

Two items for you this Ash Wednesday: the first in Virginia and the second in Sacramento. I hope these are of interest to friends on both coasts, for we are all connected in this shrinking world.

The first was brought to my attention by Joan Burchell earlier this week: a report by the Commonwealth and Voices of Virginia Children that predicts how the recession will hit the poor in Virginia:
Forecasting for the first time the impact of the current recession’s rising unemployment on the number of Virginians forced into poverty, a new report by The Commonwealth Institute and Voices for Virginia’s Children estimates that an additional 122,000 to 218,000 people will be living in poverty by year’s end. Among the hardest hit will be Virginia’s children with an additional 44,000 to 73,000 children living in poverty.
“Increases in unemployment lead to increases in poverty,” said , executive director of The Commonwealth Institute. “This new information provides us a look around the corner to see what lies ahead for Virginia as the economy worsens.”
You can read the full report HERE.

Next, please watch Oprah today at 4pm if you get a chance. My very close friends at Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento are featured today, and the program takes a walk with Sister Libby Fernandez into the tent towns on the rivers and the gruesome poverty of Sacramento. This is from an email earlier this week from Joan Burke at L&F:
The Oprah Winfrey Show asked Loaves & Fishes if they could interview one of the homeless mothers at Maryhouse. Favor Whitesides [in the middle in the photo above with her family], a very devoted mother of three bright and beautiful children, agreed to share her story. Oprah Correspondent Lisa Ling (Carmichael native), Sister Libby and I also visited the large tent city in Sacramento with over 100 tents spread out over several acres as far as the eye can see. Over 200 people live there in a scene straight out of the Great Depression. When I asked the film crew if they had seen anything like it anywhere else, the sound man replied, “Only in a war zone.”
Our friends at L&F provided this link to the program if you want to know more: OPRAH.

On this Ash Wednesday, and throughout Lent, I hope all of us will think and pray about the role we can play in lifting people out of the ashes. While Ash Wednesday and Lent are intensely personal, part of our introspection should take us outside of ourselves to ask how we can become servants to those in poverty all around us. Tomorrow, Feb. 26, IMPACT will be holding a large gathering to talk about our involvement in the community, and if you can make it, please do. To learn more about IMPACT and St. Paul's role, please check out the IMPACT blog set up by John Frazee HERE.

I pray you have a blessed Ash Wednesday and a holy Lent.

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