Multiplying Bread – Msgr. Charles McGlinn

Msgr. Charles McGlinn’s Homily February 9, 2020

“In 1970, this was in the dark ages, I was a very young priest and I was assigned to be the associate at an inner city parish in Kansas City, KS and we had a little school there that the parents strove mightily to keep open.  It was a poor area, very poor and I would go over to the school quite a bit and I noticed at lunch time that a number of the kids had not brought their lunches with them and so they really didn’t have anything to eat. Thank God the sisters who taught there had a lot of peanut butter and jelly, so that helped, but I talked to the sisters about it and they said, ‘You know if the kids don’t have proper nutrition and a lot of these kids don’t have breakfast when they come and if they don’t have lunch they do very poorly in school and their just lackluster.  The peanut butter jelly helps, but it doesn’t do the trick.’ So I did a little investigation and the surrounding public schools also did not have a lunch program and it was a very poor area. I did find out however that in the western part of the county, th same school district, there were school lunches that were provided and I wondered why they had them and we didn’t. The western side was more affluent. It was also a lot more white people and our side was pretty much black, so it had to do with race too I thought. So anyway I gathered a few of the parents.  They were mostly single moms, some of them on welfare and we went down to a meeting of the school board and we asked them why the situation was the way it was and they said, ‘well we would like to provide lunches for you, but there just is no money and we can’t do it.’ That just sort of made us a little bit madder I think and so we went to the Mayor’s office and the mayor said, ‘Well that’s not my jurisdiction. We can’t help you.’ So I wrote a letter to senator George McGovern who happened to be running for president I think that year, but he more importantly was the chair of the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and I told him our situation and wondered if he could help us, so he wrote me back and said, ‘Let’s hold some public hearings.’  And so he did. He came and senator Belmont from Oklahoma and there were a couple other senators who were part of that committee and it was before the school board and it was a public hearing and a public arena. He had a lot of parents there because it was pretty well advertised and the chairman asked the superintendent why the situation was the way it was. The superintendent responded by saying, ‘Well you know this district, district 500, is made up of a lot of smaller districts. They consolidate, but before they consolidated these other western districts had school lunches so they just continued on and we’d like to help the eastern part of the county but we just don’t have the money.’ Well the senate committee really reprimanded them severely and it was all printed up in the paper of course.  The upshot was that the next fall, all schools had hot lunch for the children.

Hunger.  That’s a reality folks.  We perhaps don’t see it on a day by day basis, but it’s here even in Johnson County and throughout the United States which is the richest country in the world, the most powerful and we produce more food than we could ever use or take in ourselves, so why is it that the distribution is not more than what it is?  And I think of the children, the children do not have that nutrition whose lives are stunted really because of it and I did a little research and just a few statistics, I won’t give you too many, and this is the United States Department of Agriculture Report. More than 37 million people in the United States struggle with hunger and that includes more than 11 million children in the United States of America.  Our country. Poverty and hunger are found in every county in the United States. There’s not a county that’s not afflicted with poverty and hunger. Worldwide over 2 billion people do not know where their next meal is coming from and worldwide over 3 million children under the age of 5 die each year from malnutrition. A shameful statistic. Have you ever seen hunger yourself straight up and personal, close? I have.  I’ve seen it in this county. I’ve seen it in Guatemala where it can be very extreme. Hunger. You know, the parish has always been among the leaders in the county in responding to the appeals of Catholic Charities, St. Mary’s Kitchen and other avenues to help the hungry in our county and I congratulate you. You’re really a beacon of light to many. You are salt of the earth to many. I’d like to just pose the question, is everyone here involved?  Is everyone interested? Is everyone knowledgeable about the children particularly who suffer from hunger and malnutrition? We all are responsible.

I have a little prayer I’d like to share with you.  I entitled this prayer, ‘Multiplying Bread.’

Jesus Lord our world’s in need
Hungry, sick, war-torn
The suffering and poverty
Our spirit’s down, forlorn

I want to help to give support
To help the poor to live
With food, clean water, clothing too
But what Lord can I give?

The needs are always so immense
My resources so small
I would not even make a dent
If I gave my all

Trust in me ad in my love
I hear my people cry
Put your gifts into my hands
I’ll make them multiply

Thank you Jesus Lord my God
Thanks with all my heart
You have multiplied the bread
From us never part”