Gary Marvin's Acceptance Speech for the Jim Flynn Social Responsibility Award

Joan Shanahan, Gary Marvin, Fr. Randal HubbardFirst of all I want to thank Fr. Randy, Joan Shanahan, and all the members of the Social Responsibility Steering Committee for accepting me for this award and making this evening possible, including many “behind the scenes” preparations and announcements prior to tonight’s gathering.
 
I also want to thank Brayton Bowen and my wife, Rita, for the “behind my back” collaboration they did in gathering information on my past experiences that contributed to the material for my nomination.  I am especially appreciative of Brayton’s “over the top” introduction tonight.
 
I also want to extend my personal thanks to all who provided the wine and food for this event as well as the lovely setting in which we find ourselves tonight.
 

I offer a special thanks to all of you who have come here this evening to be with Rita and me at this special event.
 
And finally, I wish to thank Bev Edwards for the wonderful music that has added such a special touch to this evening.
 
My first experience with doing anything that could be described as “social outreach” was when I was an undergraduate in college. Somehow I had signed up to visit the elderly patients in a nearby county “old folks home” as it was called back then. It was a far cry from the atmosphere you generally find in assisted living facilities these days. There was a strong odor of urine in the air and most everyone was sitting in chairs or wheelchairs, not communicating or interacting with anyone.
 
I spotted this one woman sitting quite by herself and decided that I would make a try to communicate with her, since she seemed even more isolated than the others in the room. I came close and feebly tried to start a conversation, when she began to rock back and forth and she was saying, “Oh, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy…Lordy, Lordy, Lordy.” I didn’t seem to be making any headway and she kept up her little chant “Oh, Lordy, Lordy, Lordy.” I eventually gave up and stepped away to look for some others in the room who might be more responsive. Just then a staff member came over to me and whispered in my ear that that lady was on a portable toilet and she was a bit embarrassed and overwhelmed by a man coming over to her in that situation.
 
So if you hear me mumbling “Oh, Lordy, Lord, Lordy” tonight, know that I am just a bit self-conscious and overwhelmed by all the attention you have so kindly bestowed on me tonight with this Jim Flynn Award. When Fr. Randy stopped me in church some weeks back to tell me I had been chosen for this award, I was in shock and disbelief. Certainly overwhelmed.
 
Commitment to active and creative social responsibility is an essential focus of our community. It was planted by Fr. Flynn and continues to be watered by Fr. Randy. With the active help of many others over the years, we know that it is God who has given the increase to the work we have done. As a consequence, this award is such a special recognition from a community that Rita and I are proud to call our spiritual home.
 
When we first joined Epiphany in 1983, one thing that struck us very profoundly was the fact that this community believed in taking 10% of its income, -- “right off the top” Fr. Joe said – “before the light bill was paid,” and set this amount aside to fund any number of outreach efforts to support agencies who serve the local or even wider community, including some international efforts for social justice and care for the poor. This principle of “community tithing” was something we had not seen anywhere else in a Catholic parish. I am pleased to say that it still is a fundamental principle at work here today.
 
As I look at all the many ways this community reaches out to those in need, I am so very moved when I see so many people participating in big ways and small ways to live the gospel in tangible terms.  As Deacon Lucio pointed out last week in his homily, we are indeed a community that searches to see where Jesus is staying, here in our community and beyond. The challenge to live the Gospel is so vast that at times it may seem overwhelming. It is then that we see the value of joining hands to help put the love of God into practice. There is often something more powerful when we join with others to make real the faith we profess.
 
Social Responsibility is the prophetic conscience of our community. It calls us to “Do justice, love goodness, and to walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6: 8)
 
As the staff at Catholic Charities are fond of saying, “We reach out to those in need, not because they are Catholic, but because we are Catholic.” This is who we are as people of faith. We know that people of other faiths and those of no faith can do the exact same deeds of kindness to help relieve the suffering of others, particularly the vulnerable, the sick, the addicted and the lost. God’s work is done in this way by many people of good will. But for us, our involvement is an expression of the love of God we have received, a recognition of the fact that by loving the brother or sister we can see, we find our way to return love to the God we have not seen.
 
As disciples of Jesus, we try to imitate the great lessons we have received from our Teacher.
 
  • He never expected people to be perfect, but he always tried to make them whole.  
  • He never looked down on others because of their faults, but he showed them a compassion that brought them forgiveness.
  • He never suffered religious hypocrisy lightly, but he forgave his religious persecutors who brought about his death.
 
When I see so many of you living this way, it is then I realize that this award certainly honors you too who do these things as Jesus did. You have shown me how to live this way. You have invited me to participate in expressions of faith that would be absent in my life without your example, your leadership, and your encouragement. I have watched new ministries come to birth and grow due to the hard work of so many here at Epiphany. This award honors that commitment over the 46 years of this community’s life. It is indeed the way that we profess the faith that we believe.
 
May God bless the work of Social Responsibility far into the future, for it is the heart beat of this living community.
 
In closing, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.  When St. Jerome was asked to translate the original Greek used by St. Paul into the vernacular language of the western Roman Empire of the 4 th century, he was able to give a poetic beauty to his Latin translation.
 
Here is the quote as St. Jerome translated it: “Alter alterius onera portate et sic adimplebitis legem Christi.” Carry one another’s burdens, and thus you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6: 2)
 
Carry one another’s burdens, and thus you will fulfill the law of Christ, who lives for ever and ever.
 
Amen.