Mary Ghisolfo, Lay Marist serving with Notre Dame des Victoires, San Francisco, California, writes to answer the question: 'Why Does Ministry Among the Poor Awaken for Us the Critical Role of a Marist Vocation?'
'At our best, we are instruments of God's mercy working to help others taste the boundless love of the Lord, especially those who find themselves on the margins.' (Statement of Identity, US Province of the Society of Mary – Assembly and Chapter June 2013
The parishioners at Notre Dame des Victoires Church (NDV) are committed to supporting the Gubbio Project, an organization which serves the homeless, hungry and those in need of various health services, in San Francisco. The Gubbio Project provides Sacred Sleep for those in need of a safe and kind place to rest. Gubbio guests are served coffee, tea, toast, warm bagels and peanut butter and jelly from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. most days.
One Friday per month, NDV School students in every grade (K-8) take a turn preparing PB&J sandwiches and assembling bag lunches that include other nourishing foods. The students also add a cheery, handwritten note to the lunch sack. The bag lunches are brought to the Gubbio Center at St. John's Church in the Mission district, and student and parent volunteers hand them out to the guests. Pre-pandemic, delicious and hearty breakfast foods were prepared at home by the parishioners and school parents and brought to the church where the meal was served from 7:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. by the students and the adults. One of NDV's Marist priests also assisted with serving the meal. The Gubbio guests regularly expressed their gratitude for the hot and delicious food as well as the kindness and care extended to them by the servers.
From the outset of the pandemic, the Gubbio Project went from being fully shut down to a more modified program. Presently, coffee, tea, toast, PB&J and bagels are offered to the guests outside in the church courtyard. Sacred Sleep is once again offered inside the church on a limited basis, and the NDV students continue to make the bag lunches and help distribute them to the Gubbio guests each month. The NDV volunteers look forward to getting back to serving a more robust breakfast to the guests as before.
The Gubbio Project follows a set of Guiding Principles which include the following:
All people, especially those who are living on the streets or have mental health or substance abuse issues, are worthy of respect, dignity and loving kindness.
Compassion is a covenant between equals; not a relationship between healer and wounded.
The Gubbio Project is unconditional giving. Everyone is welcome.
This Gubbio ministry among the poor and unhoused truly supports and awakens for us the critical role of a Marist vocation. We are called to do the Work of Mary in the World. The members of the NDV Parish and School, young and old, experience first-hand what it means to be compassionate, inclusive and extend hospitality especially to those in need.