Saint Ignatius High School

A Super Sunday

On Sunday night, while he was watching the Super Bowl, Mr. Healey's mind returned to the milestone that was happening far away from the bright lights and TV cameras: the 1,000th Sunday of the Labre Ministry to the Homeless. Here, he reflects on what really matters, especially those things that happen far outside the spotlight.
I only know one person who ever went to a Super Bowl.  It was Super Bowl XXXV, held in Tampa and won by the Baltimore Ravens.  One of the executives for the Ravens was a brother-in-law of Jim Skerl ‘74, and the whole Skerl clan made their way to sunny Florida to watch what should have been the first Super Bowl victory of the (real, original) Cleveland Browns.
Little could Jim have known that on the evening of Super Bowl LVI the legacy begun 19 years and 12 weeks ago by him, Tim Grady ’95, and two seniors, Bryan Norton ’03 and Robert Snyderburn ’03, would reach what would have seemed unimaginable heights.  This past Sunday, while most of America gathered to celebrate the biggest unofficial holiday in existence, a small group representing the Saint Ignatius community made their way through the streets of Cleveland for the 1,000th time, and brought food, drink, and the love of Christ to our least brothers and sisters.
The Saint Benedict Joseph Labre Ministry to the Homeless had no name on that first excursion through Downtown in search of people to serve, and the ministers had trouble finding homeless people to serve - on that night the poor did seem to be truly, and not just metaphorically, invisible.  But after a while they found Ron outside the Bishop Cosgrove Center, and Ron told them about Shorty, and thus, like a scavenger hunt in search of people to serve, Labre was off and running. 
Week after week the number of people being served grew, as did the number of vans, routes, and volunteers - both students and adults - in this special work of God.  Alumni took Labre to college with them, and other high schools heard about the ministry and started their own.
As I sat with my wife and dog on Sunday evening, watching the first half of the Super Bowl, my mind was not on Labre or their 1,000th venture into the streets looking for the face of Jesus.  In fact, after praying that morning for their success, I was only thinking about the chili dogs that I would consume during the game (my age and health restrict me to chili dogs twice a year and so this was a big deal for me).
The trigger that brought my thoughts back to Labre was, strangely, the injury to Odell Beckham, Jr.  Being a very casual - at best - fan of professional football, I thought that I remembered that Beckham had played with the Browns, and so I took out my trusty iPad and looked him up.  Not only was I correct in my memory, but I was led to a story about the special shoes that the star receiver had been wearing prior to his injury.  During his pregame warmups Beckham wore a pair of cleats that were worth $200,000, and that were literally bejeweled with almost 1,500 diamonds.
The first thing that popped into my head was that the biblical proverb “pride cometh before the fall” was, in this case, literal.  The second thought was more charitable and one of sadness: what is missing from the lives of the rich and famous such that they feel the need to make sure that no one will ever forget that they are rich and famous.
And then my mind went to those who are neither rich nor famous, to those who are being met by Saint Ignatius vans even while announcers gush over the “tragedy” of Odell Beckham’s injury.
Pope St. John Paul said that of all of the things in this world that really don’t matter, the one that matters most is soccer.  He was, of course, correct.  But my guess is that there are those who would substitute American football for soccer, and my guess is also that there are those who think that things like the Super Bowl really do matter.
What really does matter is love.  What really does matter is helping to restore the dignity of those who feel that they have none.  What really does matter is human contact with those who are ignored by the world.  What really does matter is being a companion - one who shares bread - with those who are without food and without a table of friends to share it.
What really does matter is that for 1,000 consecutive Sundays adult leaders like Connor Walters ’09, theology teacher Amanda Martin, and campus chaplain Fr. Dan Reim, S.J. have driven students, parents, alumni, and other assorted friends of Labre in vans packed with food, drink, blankets, batteries, and so many other things that we take for granted.
Thank you, to all those who have played a role - large or small - in making the Labre Ministry such an important part of the lives of all involved, and especially in the lives of those who may not look like it, but who are destined to become rich and famous in the Kingdom of God.