Service ministry takes flight - Catholic Courier

Service ministry takes flight

As Dan Williams dwelt on his parish’s Lenten theme, “Who Is My Neighbor,” it occurred to him that many Hammondsport residents need home repair but can’t do it themselves.

So, during the next liturgy-committee meeting for St. Gabriel’s Parish, he enthusiastically pitched his brainstorm about developing a Good Samaritan program of sorts.

“I’m not shy about bringing up ideas,” Williams said with a laugh.
In this case, the idea quickly took flight. “Joseph’s Hammer” – named in honor of Joseph the Worker, the husband of the Virgin Mary – had completed approximately 20 projects through late April, with more than 30 volunteers – mostly from St. Gabriel’s – taking part.

The handiwork ministry acquires its projects through word of mouth as well as referrals from social-service agencies. Among the types of work performed thus far: painting and caulking, as well as repair/replacement of light fixtures, molding, kitchen sinks, porches, venetian blinds, telephone jacks, doors, dead bolts and insulation.

Many recipients of the service reside in mobile homes; are aging; and/or are battling illness and injury, according to Bob DeSeyn, project coordinator. For instance, DeSeyn said that Joseph’s Hammer recently built ramps for a woman with cerebral palsy, as well as for a man whose leg was amputated due to a motorcycle accident five years ago. DeSeyn also noted that a railing was constructed for a woman afflicted with multiple sclerosis, cancer and arthritis. “All she wanted was a railing on her porch so she could pull herself up,” DeSeyn remarked.

Joseph’s Hammer also sponsored a spring cleanup day April 17 for the entire Hammondsport area. That effort involved transporting vegetation and trash to the proper disposal places in town, as well as a cleanup of St. Gabriel’s church grounds.

The ministry, which performed its first project in February, has benefitted from a solid infrastructure. Its project leader is Williams, who has served since December as part-time pastoral minister at St. Gabriel’s and is studying for the permanent diaconate (he’s due to be ordained in 2007.) DeSeyn, meanwhile, coordinates the working teams and is lauded by Williams for his organizational abilities. Other leadership people are Carol Simmonds, administrator; and Lorraine Barker, Carl Peck and Luther Perkins, advisers.
Williams said Joseph’s Hammer has a core group of approximately 10 people. He remarked that he originally envisioned the ministry as a vehicle for men to volunteer, since most parish volunteers are women. But thus far Joseph’s Hammer has included several women as well as men; combined, they represent a wide scope in age and handiwork ability. “It’s been great to see different talents come forward,” Williams said.

As the ministry has grown, Joseph’s Hammer has seen other religious denominations jump on board. “Sister Anne (Michelle McGill, SSJ, St. Gabriel’s pastoral administrator) mentioned it at an ecumenical meeting of local pastors, and they all wanted to be involved,” Williams said.

“This is not so much a Catholic issue; I don’t know if it’s even a religious issue. It’s just the right thing to do,” DeSeyn commented.

DeSeyn said that unlike many forms of charity, Joseph’s Hammer is special because of its hands-on nature. “People providing service can see the benefits something tangible, something that’s needed,” he said.
Though well-organized, the ministry needs financial as well as volunteer support. At this point, Williams quipped, “We’re relying on the Holy Spirit for funding.” He said Joseph’s Hammer would gladly accept donations of cash and supplies. For more information on the ministry or to make a donation, call the parish at 607/569-3501.

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