Friday, August 9, 2013

The face of hunger

By John Andrews
Director, Department of Communications

I stepped away from the smiles and handshakes that preceded the grand opening of the Galilee Center in Mecca to get a picture of the building. For years it had been a packing house that held the fruits of so many field workers’ labors. Now it is a place of refuge and sustenance for the poor.

I had to walk up Hammond Road a few hundred yards to get a shot of the new sign. On the way back to the event, as I passed a pickup truck parked at the side of the road, I heard a voice call out to me. “Are they serving food here tomorrow?” The woman behind the wheel was doing her best to be polite but you couldn’t miss the desperation in her eyes. A boy about 10, her son, I presumed, sat in the passenger seat. I didn’t know the answer to her question and I said I would go back to the center and try to find out.

Later, during the grand opening ceremony, there were some wonderful words spoken about how this center came to be, about the inspiring ministry of its founders Gloria Gomez and Claudia Castorena. But what registered most in my consciousness that evening, and drove home why places like the Galilee Center are so important, was my brief exchange with the woman in the truck. As hard as it may be for some of us to acknowledge, the face of the hungry, the one I saw that evening, is the face of Christ.

This has been a point of emphasis for Pope Francis in the early months of his papacy. In the sea of complicated issues that we are attempting to navigate as Catholics, the Holy Father wants us to recognize that we are often looking past the great whale in front of us – poverty, and the hunger that comes with it.

Consider that someone in the world dies of starvation every 3.6 seconds, and a third of the world’s population is considered to be starving. Closer to home, more than a quarter of the total population of Riverside County – where the Galilee Center is located – is considered “food insecure” and nearly 20 percent of children in Riverside County live in poverty.

As the great rock artist and global activist, Bono, once chided his audience after a monologue about the evils of apartheid, “Am I bugging you? Don’t mean to bug you….”

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