Benefit walk strengthens friendship with, outreach to poor

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Pictured from left to right are: Fr. Dale Craig, SOLT, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish, Fr. Steven Kunkel, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, and Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM, rector of St Mary's Basilica. Fr. Kunkel participated in the walk with his dog, a rescue dog named Hope. (Lindsay Wantland/CATHOLIC SUN)
Pictured from left to right are: Fr. Dale Craig, SOLT, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish, Fr. Steven Kunkel, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, and Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM, rector of St Mary’s Basilica. Fr. Kunkel participated in the walk with his dog, a rescue dog named Hope. (Lindsay Wantland/CATHOLIC SUN)

Walking a mile can improve lives and transform hearts. Several valley residents demonstrated this in a special way.

The diocesan council of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul held its eighth annual Friends of the Poor Walk Sept. 19, in conjunction with the national organization. The event took place at the Main Watkins Campus of the society in Phoenix, just one of 247 different walks nationally.

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Friends of the Poor Walk

Saturday, Oct. 10

Registration: 7:45 a.m.

Start: 8 a.m.

St. Clare of Assisi Parish, 17111 W. Bell Road, Surprise

Info: Sheila Richardson, (623) 875-0851

Bill Ford, (928) 252-3808

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“The purpose of this event is to raise awareness of the plight of those who are less fortunate than us,” said Mary Anne Hunter, the current acting president for the diocesan council. “The people out here walking have raised money, have gotten pledges, etc., for their walk, and that money will all go back to their conferences to help the poor.”

Hunter explained money raised by the walkers will be used to help the disadvantaged with a wide variety of needs, such as assistance paying for rent, utility bills, prescriptions or auto repair, or for buying extra food that the conference may need to help feed people, “but every bit of the money goes to the conference for their works.”

There are 85 parish-based Vincentian conferences of charity in the Diocese of Phoenix. Its nearly 7,000 volunteers made nearly 48,500 home visits last year to pray with and serve those in need in their neighborhoods.

Fr. Dale Craig, SOLT, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish, expressed his excitement at being a part of this year’s “Friends of the Poor” walk. “The great St. Vincent de Paul members said, ‘Come on down, Father!’ and I’m happy to be here.”

Fr. Craig also stated caring for the poor is crucial. “We have to recognize that we’re first servants, we’re servants of everybody,” Fr. Craig said. “Jesus came to serve, not to be served.”

Fr. Steven Kunkel, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, echoed these sentiments. “We’re made in God’s image and likeness and God is generous, so when we’re being generous, we’re imitating God,” Fr. Kunkel said.” If we do what we were made for, it’s going to lead to our happiness. We have a need to give, just as God has a need to be loving and merciful towards us.”

Fr. Kunkel also brought along a walking companion, his 11-year-old Kelpie-Lab mix named Hope. “The schoolchildren have a bet going as to who is going to be the better walker, me or Hope,” Fr. Kunkel said. “I think Hope got more votes than I did.”

The Friends of the Poor Walk was a tremendous national success in 2014, consisting of 25,000 walkers who raised over 2.6 million dollars.

Hunter explained participating in the walk is a noble way to assist those in need, but for those who cannot, there are other ways. Hunter noted that the three aspects of serving the Church, namely ‘time, treasure and talent,’ are the same key elements which people can use to assist St. Vincent de Paul. In addition, people can always serve through prayer.

The walk at St. Vincent de Paul’s headquarters was just one of seven held in Arizona this year with the next one scheduled for Oct. 10 in Surprise.

Hunter stated that in helping the poor, people become rich. “A lot of times we think, ‘Oh, we’re going to help the poor,’ but no, it’s actually the poor who help us.”

By Lindsay Wantland, The Catholic Sun.

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