CAMBRIDGE, ST. JOHN - Marisa Peters, Lora Taylor and Shelby Farr, members of the pro-life youth group at St. John the Baptist Parish in Cambridge, are pictured outside Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach in Lincoln. The group’s leader, Sondra Jonson, said they are “passionately devoted to ending abortion and bringing a renewed sense of the dignity of every human life to our culture.” (Courtesy photo)
CAMBRIDGE (SNR) - The pro-life youth group at St. John the Baptist Parish in Cambridge, which includes all Catholic high school students in Cambridge, traveled to Lincoln recently to serve a meal at Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach.
Leader Sondra Jonson said the group is “passionately devoted to ending abortion and bringing a renewed sense of the dignity of every human life to our culture.”
The group is involved in outreach to those who are marginalized in society—the poor and abandoned, the homeless, the vulnerable babies in the womb and those threatened by euthanasia.
“We are active in becoming educated in the issues,” she said, “praying here in Cambridge, at the abortion clinic in Lincoln, and in state, national and international prayer efforts; and we are committed to alleviating suffering where we can.”
The group recently erected a pro-life billboard in their area, and are planning a fundraiser in June, a Walk for Life in which the young people who walk will be sponsored by donations from community members. The money raised will go to the pregnancy center in McCook.
Jonson said the students are certainly equipped with the enthusiasm needed for these projects.
“They love it,” she said. “They’ve opened my eyes!”
One of the group’s recent projects was serving at Matt Talbot Kitchen and Outreach in Lincoln. The students wanted for a year to help serve at Matt Talbot, Jonson said, but the challenge was to find a day in the students’ jam-packed schedules to make the 200-mile trip. On the day of state wrestling, they managed to coordinate Cambridge students and volunteers from the Cathedral Knights of Columbus in Lincoln, and drove 200 miles to help with lunch.
Jonson said the first thing she noticed, walking into Matt Talbot, was a table piled high with loaves of bread. She said she was told that donors leave the bread, and when the patrons leave, they are welcome to take a loaf with them.
“Bread,” she said. “I remembered the Gospel story and Jesus’s words, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ He said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them… to set before the people.” (Mark 6: 38-41)
The students joined the many volunteers, including the Knights of Columbus, already at work in the kitchen.
Jonson said the students watched the joyful volunteers, and filled in by running the coffee pot and drink table.
The patrons filtered through “quietly, peacefully, gently.” The menu was tuna casserole, vegetables, cupcakes and fresh rolls and bread, all made by volunteers from Millard.
Jonson said the students knew what a privilege they had to serve some of Lincoln’s most precious citizens—those to whom the word “extra” does not exist.
“They don’t have extra clothes, extra food, extra friends or extra money,” she said. “The only things they have too much of are need and want, hurt and loneliness.”
She said one patron became ill during lunch, and the students watched the Matt Talbot volunteers rush to help the man and to get him clean clothes. She said one volunteer in particular, aptly named “Matt,” kept saying to him, “We’re here for you, buddy. Don’t worry, we’re here for you.”
She called their service “priceless kindness to someone suffering both sickness and humiliation. This poor soul had all he owned in a gym bag at his side.”
Above the man on the wall was a painting of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who also carried all she owned in one small bag.
“She knew she could best reach the poor by remaining poor,” she said.
“My youth group and I would be returning that night to Cambridge, to our warm, safe homes,” Jonson continued. “Many of those to whom we had handed coffee and cupcakes would be spending the dark hours in the corners and crevices of public buildings, wrapped in their abandonment, resigned to their poverty. But now we hope something else lingers with them---the prayers of those who served them, and the promise of a warm haven and hot meal the next day at Matt Talbot.”
“‘The poor you will always have among you,’ Jesus said (Mark 14:7), but did He also wonder if we would go among the poor?
“There seems so little we can do to address their problems, but there’s always something we can give, even something small like a smile, a cup of coffee, a damp rag for soiled hands, a loaf of bread.
“If you’ve ever asked yourself the question our desperate ancestor posed to God,” she concluded, “‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’-- just spend a few hours at Matt Talbot. You’ll never wonder again. You’ll just know.”
Matt Talbot Kitchen & Outreach is now located at 2121 N. 27th St. in Lincoln. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, call (402) 477-4116 or visit mtkserves.org.