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Editorial | Love your neighbor — really

Society of St. Vincent de Paul, parish groups show the power of forming relationships with those in our neighborhoods

We don’t have to go far to serve others.

In Mark 12, Jesus is asked to name the greatest commandment. “Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these’” (Mark 12:29-31).

Of course, we usually understand “neighbor” to broadly refer to anyone we encounter. But sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to take a look at what we could do to love the people who actually live next door and down the block.

As highlighted in this issue of the Review, parishioners from Our Lady of Lourdes in University City work alongside a homeowner in the neighborhood to cultivate a garden. Over the past several years, Lourdes parishioners have developed relationships with other fellow University City residents, many of them older women, showing up to repair homes and clean yards. “I like to continue the relationship, and not just make it a one-time visit,” said parishioner Gerry Banet.

In this week’s Steadfast in Faith section, the work of volunteers from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is explored. Vincentians are starting to make their way through the long list of households affected by flooding, visiting each family to offer assistance. Volunteers take care of neighbors in need within their own parish boundaries.

While the St. Vincent de Paul Society is tackling a great number of flood-related cases right now, Vincentian home visits take place year-round. When they visit a neighbor in need, Vincentians don’t just offer resources like thrift store vouchers and utility and rent assistance — they sit down with the neighbor to listen to their story and take time to pray together.

Prayer is an essential part of these Vincentian friendships, said Julie Komanetsky, program director at the society.

“I had one woman (at a Multi-Agency Resource Center event) tell me that the prayers meant more than the gift card,” Komanetsky said. “Another time, I asked if I could pray for a woman, and when I finished, she in turn asked if she could pray for me.”

“These are two-way relationships, and our Vincentians feel that,” she said.

Our world could use more of that: neighbors sitting down together, getting to know each other. Offering a prayer or a helping hand, an invitation to coffee on the front porch or a genuine “How are you doing?” as you pass each other while walking the dog.

There are also many organizations, like the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, that could use our gifts of time or money to make a tangible difference to those in need in our neighborhoods.

Loving the people around us through prayer, word and deed is the greatest way to spend our time here on earth. If we look closely, we’ll pass Jesus on our streets every day.

He’s in the face of every neighbor.

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