Seminarian Brian Ching, C.S.C., sends his second installment in his series on his pastoral year at St. John Vianney Parish in Goodyear, AZ. Today’s post reflects on food and the true meaning of community.
Here at St. John Vianney, each Sunday one of the ministries/programs of the parish sponsors a breakfast after mass as a fundraiser. These breakfast sales go well beyond the usual coffee and doughnuts. Being here in the southwest, with a strong Mexican population, the post-Mass breakfast takes on a distinctly Mexican flavor, with breakfast burritos, pan dulce, nachos, and, of course, menudo.
For those not familiar with Mexican cuisine, menudo is a time and labor intensive soup that plays an integral part in many family celebrations. The hiccup for most folks is its main ingredient … which happens to be beef tripe – yes, that would be a cow’s stomach. Yet this seemingly deters few, and bowls and bowls of menudo get served up as breakfast after each of our Sunday masses among Mexicanos and Anglos alike. In the interest of honesty, I have tried it, and admittedly, it is delicious.
This reflection really isn’t all about tripe, but the menudo is a symbol of an amazing spirit of community that I have come to discover here at St. John Vianney. We often speak of the Church and of a parish in terms of a “community” as in a “community of believers,” but my time so far here at St. John Vianney has totally expanded my vision of a parish as community. This is a community in the truest sense of the word. Yes, everyone gathers for worship on a regular basis. Worship, and in particular the Mass, is certainly the root of life in the parish, but life also extends far beyond one hour on Sundays. After sharing at the table of the Lord, it is beautiful to see our parishioners then sharing outside of Mass (even if it is over a bowl of tripe), sharing what is new in their lives.
Even in difficult or trying times, the parish plays an important role in representing and voicing the needs of the community. In the wake of the tension brought about by SB1070, an Arizona Senate bill aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration, the Avondale Police Chief elected to come here to St. John Vianney, to speak after the Sunday Masses in order to ease some of the tension and fear in the community.
It is easy for us to see our Churches as sacramental dispensaries, but my time here at St. John Vianney has often reminded me that the influence and responsibility of a parish goes beyond Sunday Mass, that a parish can and should be the heart of a community, allowing them to live the example of love they have received in the Eucharist.