Volunteers wash feet of homeless at André House

Hector, an André House guest who said he hasn't eaten in three days, insisted on washing the feet of one of the core team leaders. He never did return to the food line, insisting that "someone else needs it more than I do." In remembrance of the humble act of Jesus and His call to humble servitude, each Holy Thursday the André House community in Phoenix gathers and washes the feet of their guests. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Hector, an André House guest who said he hasn’t eaten in three days, insisted on washing the feet of one of the core team leaders. He never did return to the food line, insisting that “someone else needs it more than I do.” In remembrance of the humble act of Jesus and His call to humble servitude, each Holy Thursday the André House community in Phoenix gathers and washes the feet of their guests. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Hector, a guest at André House, had just finished washing and conditioning with lotion the feet of Jay, a second year volunteer on the core team at the Holy Cross-run ministry for homeless in the Phoenix area.

“I can’t believe I did it!” Hector exclaimed with extreme joy in his face and not a hint of hunger.

Hector sat several minutes in the outside line closest to the dining room longing not for food — “someone else needs it more than I do,” he said — but to wash someone’s feet, as part of André House’s longtime tradition: washing and caring for the feet of the guests as they awaited their turn in the soup line.

“That act of service… to have one of our guests insist on washing one of the core member’s feet was very moving,” said Therese Barnhart, director of volunteer services and communication.

She also noted the relaxed atmosphere of the volunteers and the overall joyful spirit. Some volunteers reminded the guests about the example Jesus showed at the Last Supper while they massaged their guest’s tired, worn feet. They also fitted the guests with new, clean white socks.

“It’s living out the gospel of the day,” Holy Cross Brother Richard Armstrong said.

Volunteers wash the feet of an André House guest on Holy Thursday April 2 in remembrance of the humble act of Jesus and His call to humble servitude. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Volunteers wash the feet of an André House guest on Holy Thursday April 2 in remembrance of the humble act of Jesus and His call to humble servitude. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Carrying on what Jesus did for His disciples is what prompted Allison Ghan to spend a second Holy Thursday at André House April 2. This time she brought two others from City Square Church with her. She found the experience humbling and called it “a beautiful blessing.”

Ghan was very aware that many of André House’s guests may go long periods without experiencing human touch. She is a social worker at the county’s Healthcare for the Homeless on the Human Services Campus next to André House and recognized some of her clients. The foot-washing allowed her to interact with them on a more human level.

James isn’t one of Ghan’s clients, but she did get to wash his feet. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. He didn’t pass up the opportunity to pray either. James, who said Jesus called him to be a preacher, prayed for all of the guests getting their feet washed that evening, for peace in the world and for safety, especially of fellow homeless guests.

Jamie Bailey has been regularly washing feet at André House on Holy Thursday since she visited the facility as a Seton Catholic Preparatory student in 2001. She has missed some here and there if she was pregnant or had very young children, but makes it a priority when she can.

“The people that you meet are so incredible. They do more for us than we do for them,” said Bailey, who got a baby-sitter so she and her husband, Eric, could serve together.

She even had a practice run earlier in the week. To help explain to her 6, 3 and 2-year-olds why they would be away, Bailey held a similar washing of the feet on Tuesday.