Matthew 25:40 says, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me,” and it’s the Bible verse that University Catholic students kept close to their heart as they put together 150 Blessing Bags to distribute to the homeless Friday, Dec. 3, at the Frassati House.
“University Catholic has had the honor of hosting a student-led Blessing Bag Night each of the last three semesters where 30 to 40 college students collect items to make care packages to those experiencing homelessness,” said Father Gervan Menezes, University Catholic chaplain.
Items for the bags were purchased through donations from University Catholic students as well as local Knights of Columbus councils. They contain basic necessities such as water, granola bars, applesauce, toothpaste, toothbrushes, socks, feminine products and special cards wishing them a “Merry Christmas.”
“We are all called by God to help those less fortunate than us. Hebrews 13:16, Deuteronomy 15:11 and Matthew 19:21 are just a few of the countless verses that call us to give and to serve the poor,” said Brennen O’Keeffe, Belmont University sophomore and co-leader of the University Catholic Apostolic Dimension for the Fall 2021 semester. “Giving back is so important because I have been blessed in so many aspects of my life. I wouldn’t be going to school in Nashville if it wasn’t for my parents and all the sacrifices they have made for me.
“God has blessed me in so many ways, the least I can do is serve those who are less fortunate than me. Giving back during the Christmas season is especially important because we want people to feel loved and to know they are cared for,” O’Keeffe said. “I love this quote from Mother Teresa when she says, ‘Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody. I think that is a much greater hunger, much greater poverty, than the person who has nothing to eat.’ Yes, we want to help feed those who are hungry, but we want them to know they are loved by us and by God as well.”
The students have taken that one step further by not delivering the bags to a specific shelter or program for the homeless, but instead keeping some in their cars and stopping when they see a homeless person on the street.
“Most of the time, what (the homeless) really need is a smile and the opportunity to know that we recognize them as sons and daughters of God,” Father Menezes said. “While appreciative of these items, recipients are often ecstatic by the ease of delivery, and connection they get to make ‘receiving’ this blessing. Learning someone’s name and praying for them is an efficacious gift beyond our understanding.”
O’Keeffe said there was one man that led to an experience he won’t soon forget.
“I had a quick conversation with one of the men to whom I gave a bag, and in that 30 second conversation, he expressed his gratitude for our community and told me how grateful he was for such a simple bag,” O’Keeffe said. “It is moments like these that bring me joy and remind me why we need to continue to give back to those in our community.
“Overall, it was a very rewarding experience,” O’Keeffe said. “This was my first year participating, and I will gladly participate in each year going forward.”