Getting to know our partners #1

Interview by Peter Sage (Food for All DC’s Director) with Brother Mike from The Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Washington, DC.

Brother Mike has been helping coordinate the outreach work of The Shrine of the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, one of Food For All DC’s partners in the Mount Pleasant area of Washington DC. He is also a friar with the order of Capuchin Franciscans, joining the order 4 years ago.

Peter – What inspired you to join a religious order?

I am a big family man, so I thought a religious order would be best for me. Proverbs 27:17 states: “Iron sharpens iron; one man sharpens another.” I knew that by living with other brothers I would be challenged by my brothers to grow in holiness. I joined the Capuchin Franciscans, embracing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I wanted to embrace a simple life so I could better work with and serve those living in poverty.

Brother Mike – When I was a college student, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. At one point I thought, “God created me, so God knows me better than I know myself, so let me ask God.” I started to pray daily and got the message to become a Catholic priest, which was not my idea of happiness at the time! I had thought about becoming a teacher or a counselor or a social worker. However, as a priest I realized I could be all of those at once.

Peter – How does prayer fit into your life now?

Brother Mike – I am enjoying prayer life now. I am an extrovert and like to be busy and prayer helps find balance. I start and end my day in prayer. I take inspiration from Christ who went out to pray before performing miracles. Christ used prayer to seek guidance from God. God is also calling me to begin with prayer, to seek God’s will before engaging in action.What motivates you to serve others? I have experienced how the Catholic Church cares for people holistically, addressing people’s needs from the spiritual to the worldly. My role this summer has especially been to help people with their physical needs. My work in the world becomes a prayer itself. Therefore, I express prayer both in the prayer space and in the worldly space.

Peter – How do you distribute the food you receive from Food For All?

Brother Mike – Sacred Heart Church serves a number of communities in the Washington area, including the Salvadorian, the Vietnamese, the Haitian and the Brazilian communities. As a result, we have nine masses over the weekend in different languages. We distribute food after eight of the masses to people we have identified as food-insecure. We also provide cooked food for 75 people Monday through Friday, many of whom are homeless.

Peter – Is there anything you would like to add?

Brother Mike – I am impressed by the mentality of many of the food recipients. In the midst of their poverty, they are not greedy, taking whatever they can for themselves. Rather, they are aware of the needs of others and want to make sure the food is properly shared. They are community-minded.

In Brother Mike’s words: This photo was taken at a Catholic Conference in Phoenix. It was in the midst of a tent city. The woman there helping me is homeless and she noticed the pigeon struggling and together we freed it from being all tangled in string. It was a powerful moment for me. What a metaphor, a woman imprisoned in her suffering from homelessness notices a pigeon imprisoned in string. She desired to free the bird from its suffering, as I am sure she desired to be freed from her suffering on the street.

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