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Christ House volunteers honored

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Forty years ago, Daisy Finney might have been the last person expected to volunteer to cook and serve the evening meal at Catholic Charities Christ House in Alexandria. Her husband of 20 years had just died. Grieving, she was left with two teenage sons to raise and a full-time job at Riggs National Bank.

“I kept hearing from the Lord, ‘You need to give back. You need to give back,’” Finney said at a Catholic Charities lunch honoring volunteers Nov. 2. 

Finney signed up to volunteer with fellow parishioners from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington. Each night before the group’s shift, she cooked a meat loaf to serve to the homeless the next day. On serving day, she left her job two hours early to get to Christ House. Now remarried to Edward, her husband of 17 years who volunteers with her, she’s been doing it ever since.

“It was a satisfaction to me that I was serving God. We were a Catholic family serving God,” she said. “I didn’t know as much about homeless people as I do now.”

Finney was one of more than 100 volunteers from diocesan parishes, other local houses of worship, and community groups who showed up on the beautiful, crisp Saturday to be honored. Also present were Father Edward Hathaway, rector of the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria, and Father Robert Cilinski, diocesan vicar for charitable works and pastor of Church of the Nativity in Burke. Volunteers were honored with a framed painting of Christ House, painted by a Christ House resident. 

Catholic Charities relies on these volunteers to cook and serve the hot meal to the needy 365 days a year at Christ House. 

Christ House is one of Catholic Charities’ hubs where staff dispense emergency assistance, providing rent, utility and other financial aid to people in need. It operates the clothing ministry and thrift store, with proceeds funneled back into the emergency assistance program. Catholic Charities operates the men’s transitional housing program, where 14 homeless men are sheltered and receive counseling and mentoring, including resume building, and assistance finding employment.

Forty years ago as a newly ordained deacon, Father Cilinski served as acting director. He recalled one particularly inebriated homeless man who knocked on the Christ House door at 3 a.m. Denied entry until he sobered up, the man reminded then Deacon Cilinski the name on the sign. 

“ ‘It’s not your house, it’s Christ House,’ he told me. He was right,” Father Cilinski said. “That has stuck with me throughout my ministry.” 

“It’s really a soul-to-soul apostolate,” said Father Hathaway. “Alexandria is different from a suburb where the poor are more hidden. We’re confronted with the poverty of our neighbors who sometimes live side by side with those with plenty.” 

Snider is deputy director of diocesan communications.

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019