An Invitation to Share in the Ministry of Joppa

By Dena Forret

Tamara and her husband Bob Barrett have been married 44 years and have been members of St. Boniface Parish for 40 of those years.  They have two grown children, Jason and Heather. Both have been active members of the parish, together spearheading for ten years the take-out meals room at the Annual Turkey Dinner.  Among Tamara’s involvements, she has been a CRHP Spiritual Director, visited El Salvador, fed the hungry, shared her faith through RCIA, facilitated bible studies, mass ministries and presides over Word & Communion Services at Legacy.  Now she has said yes to a new ministry with St. Boniface to serve the poor through Joppa!

Three years ago, parishioner Mary Ann Saluri, a very active volunteer with Joppa who personally visits the homeless in their camps, shared with Tamara a memorial service that is held annually to remember those who have died on our streets during the year.  The service is held on the west steps of the Capitol on the first day of winter, December 21st..  Tamara says, “While I stood at the memorial service in the freezing cold, it occurred to me that my discomfort was for only an hour but an every day, every hour discomfort for those who live on the streets. I heard the life stories of those we have lost that would touch the hardest of hearts.”

When St. Boniface embraced Joppa as a second mission to the poor, Tamara immediately joined the core team.  This year, Tamara will be serving on Joppa’s Christmas Celebration Committee and said, “St. Boniface’s role in the celebration is an exciting one for me.  We will be acting as “personal hosts” for our homeless guests who come to the celebration to receive a wonderful meal served by the Granger Assumption Knights of Columbus. Activities they can participate in are planned by various volunteer groups. Our role as personal hosts will be to ensure our guests get their meals and are free to participate in the other planned activities.  We will watch their belongings while they enjoy the festivities and visit with those in attendance, making their night a special one. I am so appreciative of all who have stepped up to act as personal hosts. Your ministry will bless you multifold.”

I asked Tamara how and why she chose to serve the homeless through Joppa.  She said, “After attending Christ Renews His Parish at St. Boniface, I was on fire to know more about my faith and myself in relation to that faith. I attended classes and earned a Theology of Ministry Certificate from Creighton University where I learned about Christianity and, in particular, the Catholic faith I professed to believe in. While I was already active in the church, I wanted to participate more fully, and this learning experience gave me the confidence to do that.  It’s been an evolution from learning and knowledge to active participation wherever my so-called gifts would lead me.  Now it leads me here.”

“I think growing up in a very poor household, experiencing the extreme poverty of El Salvador, attending the Joppa Memorial Service and speaking with and hearing some of the homeless people’s stories compelled me to be a part of this ministry.  Bob really wanted to be a part of the Tiny Home village project and encouraged me to sign up for the core team with him. Joppa hits the streets with such enthusiasm while treating each and every person with utmost respect.  It’s a great and true example of respect for life. Jesus calls us to find the reasons for poverty and then go find the solutions to alleviate it.  He calls us to action.  Guess I got the bug.”

How can the parish help Tamara in her Christmas mission?  Tamara shares, “In the bulletin, there is a list of needed items that will be wrapped and placed in the shoe boxes you have so generously supplied, which will be given to the guests at the Christmas Celebration. We now need your help in purchasing these items to fill the shoe boxes.  The deadline for me to turn these items over to Joppa is December 1st, so we need them before then.  We will also be donating special blessing bags with needed items that are listed in the bulletin.”

“In addition, we need a large number of  small and varied bread loaves with the hope each guest will be able to leave the festivities with two or three loaves.  As you do your holiday baking, consider making several loaves and putting some in your freezer.”  Tamara’s next comment sounds rather biblical if you will recall the story of Jesus and the loaves and the fishes.  She says, “I just know we can make these loaves multiply.”

There will also be a night organized for great pie bakers to join hands to make 50 mini pies since St. Boniface is committed to providing dessert for the dinner.”

Lastly Tamara asks of us, “First and foremost, I would ask you all to pray for the less fortunate whether in El Salvador or here, for those already on the streets or might be headed there for whatever reason. Pray too for Joppa and all its volunteers.”

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