The cars started arriving at 1:30 PM, as members of The Benedictine Service Corps and monks of Incarnation Monastery set up tables and bags for the pantry that was to begin at 2 PM. Each bag contained an assortment of canned meats and vegetables, dried goods, and other food items that would be delivered to hungry people in North Omaha. It was the first day of The Benedictine Way’s new feeding ministry, St. Benedict’s Pantry. Gage Woodyard, a Benedictine Service Corps member and one of leaders of the project, gave a thumbs up to the other members of The Benedictine Way; a sign that he was smiling behind his mask.
“All of us were in masks, all of us had gloves on,” said Woodyard, “to prevent any sort of exchange of germs.” Volunteers would deliver the bags to the cars based on household size, being sure to maintain 6 feet of distance from visitors. The line continued to grow as 2 PM approached, a sign of the need in the community, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We live in a neighborhood in which 30% of the people were living below the poverty line, before the pandemic” said Brother James Dowd, Prior of Incarnation Monastery and The Benedictine Way. “With the unemployment crisis that has occurred as part of the pandemic it has become really difficult in this part of the city.”
The struggles of the North Omaha community became even more clear on the day of the food pantry. Woodyard shared that “for three hours of shopping, it took us fifteen minutes to hand out all the food that we had acquired.”
Indeed, even as the last bags were being carried out, more people arrived in need of food.
Plans for St. Benedict’s Pantry in the coming weeks involve more food, more volunteers, and more visibility in North Omaha. As The Benedictine Way prepares to ramp up this ministry, Br. James reflected on the instrumental role played by The Benedictine Service Corps, “We could not have done it without the hard work of the young adults in our community,” he said, “From helping us connect with community partners to organizing the logistics of the days, their leadership in helping to create St. Benedict’s Pantry was vital.”
The members of The Benedictine Service Corps live with the community of The Benedictine Way in North Omaha and work with various churches and non-profits in the city during their 10-month commitment. Many of this year’s members had already been working in feeding ministries prior to the pandemic. These young adults were ready to respond to the increased need for food in the North Omaha community, and expressed gratitude that they were in a position to make a difference. “It’s such a pivotal point in history right now,” said Beau Mohon, member of the service corps, “Especially in America, and it’s making people realize how much we depend on each other, and how important community is.”
Composed of the monks of Incarnation Monastery, residential and non-residential oblates, and the service corps, The Benedictine Way lives out its call to follow Christ through the example set by St. Benedict: through prayer, service, and community.
“Prayer is the first step we must take to listen to God’s call for us in the world,” said Br. James, “the next step is action through service, which is exactly how St. Benedict’s Pantry came to be.”
The Benedictine Service Corps is still accepting applications for the 2020-2021 program year and encourages young adults who are serious about their prayer life and passionate about service to consider applying. More information and an application form can be found on their website: www.thebenedictineway.org/bsc.