In this Year of Mercy, we are reminded of the Corporal Works of Mercy, that command us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, help those imprisoned, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, and bury the dead. Each of these items are about doing true justice to our brothers and sisters, by restoring the human dignity due to them. We are each called to individually do those things “for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, (Matthew 25:40)”, there are times however when we cannot do what is necessary on our own to bring about true mercy and justice to our brothers. In those times, it is important that we come together with other Catholics, Christians, and community leaders to help solve the difficult social issues that plague our community
The Polk Ecumenical Council for Empowerment (PEACE) is one organization that allows us to come together to solve the issues of our local community. PEACE works diligently alongside community leaders to ensure Polk County continues to bring justice and mercy to the needs of its citizens. On October 24th, 20 local Churches bringing over 300 people, gathered together at St Joseph Catholic Church for the Community Action Problems Assembly of PEACE. The purpose of the assembly was to discuss the issues that PEACE will attempt to tackle this year. St Matthew had 5 parishioners in attendance at the event.
With Florida House and Senate Candidates in attendance members of PEACE shared the background on three issues that affect our local community, the importance of reducing youth arrests in our county, increase availability of affordable mental health treatments, and increasing availability of affordable health care treatment. After each report a network member give personal testimonies of how these issues personally affected them. A member of St Joseph’s shared how children of friends and family members have been arrested for minor offenses like a school yard fight when they were young and could not get employment they studied for because of having an arrest record. A husband and wife from St David’s Episcopal in Lakeland shared how the lack of affordable mental health treatment in Polk County has led to hardship for the both and been a strain on their marriage. Finally, a single mother from First Missionary Baptism Church in Winter Haven shared the struggles she has had in the past to get proper and affordable health care for not only herself but for her children.
Following the testimonies Richard Monteverde was elected Recording Sectary of the organization and the night ended with the GNAT (Great Network-member All the Time) award being presented. Getting its name from the plague of Gnats that drove Pharaoh to do justice for the enslaved Hebrews, the award is presented to Network Members who attended all four of the annual meetings, brought 3 or members to the Nehemiah Action, and donated at least $200 to continue to the mission of PEACE. This year Rem Brown, Richard Monteverde, and 29 other Network Members were recognized as GNATS.
If you are interested in assisting to bring justice to our community by being a network member, please contact Richard Monteverde at 863-324-3040. Commitments are minimal, network members are asked to attend 4 meetings a year, invite 3 people to the Nehemiah Action, and donate to help maintain the PEACE organization. Opportunities are available to serve on issue research committees that interview local community leaders that are experts in the current years PEACE issues.