Compassion Shortens Distances
“We can do it. We have the power, because we have God. And we have our faith that leads us to action.”
When Alejandra was a child living in Mexico, she used to visit the house of some religious sisters. Inside the entrance of the house hung a picture of one of the nuns in Africa hugging a child who suffered from malnutrition. “It was so sweet to see that image and feel the love expressed in that picture,” says Alejandra. And every time she saw the photo, Alejandra would think that one day she would become a nun and go to Africa to help children in need.
Alejandra now lives in California, and that desire to help people living in poverty was reborn when she encountered Catholic Relief Services through CRS Rice Bowl, a Lenten program. “I started to watch the videos and read the material,” she says, “and every time I was more shocked to learn about the poverty and hunger that our brothers and sisters experience around the world even today.” Gradually, Alejandra began to motivate others in her parish to participate in concrete actions of solidarity. Today she leads the way volunteering for CRS in her diocese.
During Lent, Alejandra enjoys cooking CRS Rice Bowl recipes from countries where CRS serves with people in her own community. The recipes give Alejandra an opportunity to share the cultures of different countries with others. “By cooking a recipe,” she says, “we are traveling, and we are hugging our brothers and sisters … we are getting to know part of their life. We reflect with them because for us they are recipes for Lent, an option for our dishes; but for our brothers and sisters around the world, it is a meal that may be the only one they have in the day.”
Alejandra's work is not limited to educating and raising awareness—she is always looking for opportunities to raise money to support CRS programs that fight hunger and malnutrition. Every summer, Alejandra meets with other leaders to plan a concert at which, in addition to music, they have food for sale, raffles, and speakers who share stories of solidarity. These concerts celebrate and thank the people who have contributed to CRS Rice Bowl and other initiatives. For Alejandra, showing gratitude is very important because she knows that many families give even when they themselves are in need.
Through her work as a CRS volunteer, Alejandra has discovered that her vocation was not to be a nun, but to serve the Church in a different way by motivating others to act on behalf of the most vulnerable people. “I have realized that I didn't need to go to Africa. That desire I had as a child to help those in need, I was already doing it.”
When Alejandra speaks, her passion and commitment to those in need are undeniable. Perhaps that is why those in her community describe her enthusiasm as an unstoppable force. To Alejandra, living in solidarity is an active mission of faith. “Brother, sister, I invite you,” says Alejandra, “come, join me. Let us be supportive and bring hope to our brothers and sisters most in need. Let's hug them, welcome them. We can do it. We have the power, because we have God. And we have our faith that leads us to action.”
In his encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, St. John Paul II reminds us that solidarity “is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good.”
To combat hunger and malnutrition, people committed to the common good, such as Alejandra, are needed. People willing to know the reality of our brothers and sisters who are hungry and who have the courage to promote change are needed.
Together, we can lead the way to a world without hunger.