July 21, 2006

Serra Club vocations essay: Student finds examples of feet-washing at home and abroad

(Editor’s note: Kerry White wrote the following award-winning essay in the spring of this year while Father William Munshower was the pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis. Father Munshower has since been given permission to retire from active ministry, and is now seeing to the spiritual and temporal needs of the students and staff at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis.)

By Kerry White

In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. In doing so, he exemplified the spirit of service that should be felt by all Christians and invited all people to serve one another.

Priests, brothers and sisters, as the leaders of our faith, must especially demonstrate that spirit.

Great religious leaders, such as Archbishop Oscar Romero and Mother Teresa, provided the most obvious example of Catholics living up to that duty.

In a more personal way, men such as my pastor, Father William Munshower, also serve their communities.

Oscar Romero, the late archbishop of San Salvador, was the spiritual leader of a nation in chaos. Torture and murder were carried out by the government against political enemies, and paramilitary groups committed terrorist acts.

Archbishop Romero called for a stop to the violence. He requested that the United States no longer provide military aid to the government and commanded soldiers to disobey immoral orders.

Archbishop Romero was murdered in 1980 while he preached against violence. He served others by speaking out against violence, and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Mother Teresa, a Catholic missionary to India, served others by helping the poor. Mother Teresa established homes for the poorest terminally ill patients. People who never had a chance at living a decent life were at least afforded the dignity of a peaceful death.

Mother Teresa was also one of the first people to allow AIDS victims into her homes.

Finally, Mother Teresa spoke out against abortion. She protected and cared for those whom others chose to ignore.

Famous people can provide wonderful examples of Christian service, but ordinary people also fulfill Jesus’ request that we wash one another’s feet.

My pastor, Father William Munshower, truly serves his community. Father Munshower preaches about community and openness, and he also provides an example of those qualities.

Father Munshower tries to get to know all of his parishioners. He is active at St. Thomas Aquinas School, where he discusses the faith with students.

He also pursues social justice actively. I remember participating in a protest against the death penalty with Father Munshower and my dad on a cold winter night.

Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.” Father Munshower even “washes the feet” of criminals, the least of God’s people.

In Jesus’ time, washing the feet of another was a chore to be done by servants. Jesus chose to wash his disciples’ feet. He was not reluctant and he did not complain.

It is not only priests, brothers, and sisters who should serve their fellow human beings. As a young person, I am not always as eager as I should be to serve others. With the examples of those who have chosen a religious vocation, I can learn to accept Jesus’ invitation.

(Kerry White is the son of Robert and Terry White, members of St. Thomas Aquinas Parish in Indianapolis. Kerry just completed the 11th grade at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, and is the 11th-grade division winner in the 2006 Serra Club Vocations Essay Contest.) †


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