Colorado's Jubilee Ministries get chance to show off their work to Presiding Bishop

February 22, 2012

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori meets with homeless clients of the St. Francis Center in Denver.About 60 representatives of Jubilee Ministries across Colorado got the chance to meet Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and tell her in person about the work they do, during a reception for her at the St. Francis Center in Denver on November 5, 2011.

Bishop Katharine also toured the St. Francis Center, the diocesan-sponsored day shelter for the homeless, a Jubilee Ministry founded 28 years ago, and visited an apartment at the adjacent Cornerstone, the 2-year-old, 50-unit residence that provides housing and case management for the formerly homeless. The following day, she and Colorado Bishop Rob O’Neill drove to Leadville to visit St. George’s Episcopal Church, another Jubilee ministry that runs a four-time-a-week feeding program in Colorado’s high country.

“Bishop Katharine seemed to be very at home with the guests at St. Francis Center,” said Tom Luehrs, executive director, who functioned as tour guide.  “She had her picture taken with them and spoke with them as if they had been friends.  During our tour, as I explained what services we offered and the people we served and their needs, she seemed to not only be very compassionate, but she understood what we were doing and why we were offering the services we offered.  She was very engaging, supportive, and very down-to-earth.”

“It was our honor and privilege to host her and those in Jubilee Ministries,” Luehrs said.

A time for sharing with Bishop Katharine

During the reception in the community room at Cornerstone, guests watched a video about Jubilee Ministry in Colorado, then representatives from 14 different ministries each had the opportunity to give a one-minute presentation, sharing with Bishop Katharine what they thought it was important for her to know about them and their work.

She heard about the hundreds of hungry people fed every week by Metro CareRing in Denver. She heard about how Caring Ministries of Fort Morgan cares for the rural hungry and homeless in Morgan County. She heard about the outreach to immigrants at the 32nd Avenue Jubilee Center in northwest Denver.

She heard about the health care needs of the uninsured in Boulder County that St. Benedict’s Health and Healing Ministry meet. She heard about the families that are housed at Island Grove Apartments in Greeley, and the GEDs that have been awarded thanks to that ministry’s computer lab and job training programs.

She heard about how the homeless and their allies come together every Friday in a park in Longmont to form the Common Cathedral community. She heard about how volunteers from 19 Episcopal parishes serve a hot meal to the hungry every Tuesday at St. Clare’s in Denver. She heard about how the Sudanese are integrating themselves into American society while still working to benefit their ravaged homeland, through the efforts of the Sudanese Community Church.

She heard about how St. Brigit’s in Frederick turned a large plot of vacant land into a thriving community garden; how St. Thomas in Denver houses homeless families, and teaches English to new immigrants and is launching its own garden; how St. Raphael’s food bank is feeding the hungry in Colorado Springs; how All Saints in Loveland houses and feeds the needy in that community.

"Feed my sheep" takes on a new meaning

She even heard how Blanche Zembower, executive director of Caring Association for Native Americans (CANA), figured out what to do with a gift of 15 live sheep, and how CANA continues to serve the needs of Native Americans who come to Denver for medical care.

“Christ said ‘Feed my sheep,’ or ‘Eat my sheep’ in the case of CANA,” Bishop Katharine said, visibly moved by all she’d heard. “This room is filled with saints. William Temple, the former Archbishop of Canterbury in the 1940s, said the church is the only organization that exists primarily for the benefit of non-members. You are giving yourselves away, until there will be no more need to give yourselves away.”

“Thank you,” she said, “for the leadership you are providing in Colorado and beyond.”

The following day, Bishop Katharine, preaching at St. John’s Cathedral, made reference to two of the St. Francis Center clients she had met who touched her heart. “We’re all looking for some kind of love and welcome into blessed community, including Kent and Princess, whom I met at St. Francis Center yesterday,” she told worshippers.  “God uses all those yearnings to draw us close, fill us, and heal us.  And once one hunger begins to be answered, we discover other yearnings – like wanting to know that no one goes hungry around here, or for peace in this neighborhood and around the world.”

Colorado’s Bishop Rob O’Neill, who accompanied Bishop Katharine to the St. Francis Center, was equally generous in his praise of the center and the other Jubilee Ministries. “I can’t tell you how deeply moved and touched I am as you have talked about the work you do,” he said. “You are salt and leaven and light to a darkened world who needs you and your light.”

Not the first primate at St. Francis Center

Bishop Katharine’s visit wasn’t the first time a Presiding Bishop has paid a call on the St. Francis Center. Bishop Edmund Browning spent some time there during the late 1980s, recalled the Rev. Bert Womack, the founder of the St. Francis Center. A year later, The Most Rev. Donald Coggin, retired Archbishop of Canterbury, also visited.

“It’s always been interesting to me how gracious the people we serve are to people like that,” said Womack, chuckling at the memory of one St. Francis Center guest who kissed Bishop Browning’s ring and later told Archbishop Coggin of his desire to visit Lambeth Palace. “And I’m always grateful when they include us on their itinerary.”

Womack said he was impressed by Bishop Katharine during her visit. “I was very taken by her presence,” he said. “She has a peaceful countenance, and the ability to capture and absorb what’s being said and presented to her. I was also very touched by the amount of time she spent there. I got the impression she was willing to be there the rest of the day.”