After whistling to get the attention of the city's homeless, who stood in line to get chili and bread, Kellie Ross, clad in a simple white dress and fleece, yelled, If you want to get your feet washed come see me.
In an almost surreal sight, 50 volunteers joined Ross, the co-founder of the Missionaries of Our Lady of Divine Mercy, a prayer group from Bristow, to enter the park in the heart of the nations capital where many homeless dwell, and see Christ in them and be Christ to them. The outreach to the homeless is not the typical sandwich distribution of big cities. These volunteers not only set up a large buffet style table with hot food, but they come bearing foot washing kits. They sit on little stools and humbly wash the feet of the homeless and then clothe them with brand new socks. The air is filled with a sense of reverence as two guitarists lead praise and worship songs. The music was just the starting point for the prayerful tone of Sundays picnic, where nearly 150 men and some women were fed. After having their fill, and while some still waited to get their feet washed, several of the park residents joined the volunteers for a rosary procession around the park. Touting pictures of Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Guadalupe, the volunteers attracted more people for the procession as they wound their way through the park. I'm just a fool for Jesus, said Ross, noting that she strives to make the poor and homeless comfortable. I do whatever it takes to bring a soul to Christ. Regarding their mission, Ross said, We are a little grain of sand. Were feeding them with mercy and we try to develop a relationship with them. Were allowing God to use us. She explained, We're called to be servants to others. Everything is a prayer. She emphasized the importance of just being with the poor and listening to them. Ross, who is a nurse by profession, noted that many of them have not taken off their shoes in months, and encourages them to have their feet washed and disinfected.
The ministry is a profound integration of deep prayer and radical action and Ross makes it clear that her passion for social justice does not supersede her fervent love and longing for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. In fact, two people who pray 24 hours a day for the intentions of the ministry. Work without prayers is dead. Ross spends time in adoration each day for strength and sustenance in her ministry and encourages other members of the group to do the same. We want to change the world through prayer, said Ross. The image of Divine Mercy is the impetus behind the ministry, which stemmed from a Divine Mercy Prayer Group. After reading the Diary of St. Faustina, to whom Jesus appeared in the 1930s in Poland, Ross felt compelled to spread the devotion of Gods fathomless mercy. The prayer group started with the help of Father Jack Fullen, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Its all a miracle of God. God is glorifying Himself through this ministry, said Ross, who takes no credit for the work. She spoke about receiving Gods mercy in the sacraments, and she added, Mercy is a verb. We pray, we listen and we act with faith and trust. The message of mercy transfigured into action has drawn many to the ministry of the missionaries. Theresa Fortman, 19, conceded that she initially thought it might be weird to wash the feet of the homeless. However, she has found that washing their feet is absolutely beautiful. Fortman, who has worked with the ministry for a year said, This is an amazing way to serve Jesus. I can see how beautiful the homeless are and this just means the world to me. As she cheerfully scrubbed the foot of a resident in the park, Emi Curi said with a smile, This is what I'm called to do. Curi, a parishioner of Holy Trinity Church, came Sunday with her two teenage sons. I love the poor and the homeless. They preach to me, she said. I go to daily Mass, but I get my greatest homilies here. They teach me about humility, abandonment, surrender and trust. The most significant aspect of the groups charism is that all their work is done with great love.I feel in my heart that love transcends every affliction in this world,
Aside from their work in the park, the missionaries have a free clothing store called the House of Mercy. Run entirely by volunteers, the overtly Catholic store provides free clothing to the poor and homeless. Images of the Blessed Mother and Divine Mercy are plastered on the walls and the Eternal World Television Network plays in the background. Instead of price tags, all items have prayer cards attached to them. Although the clothing is used, only the best is distributed,. The shoes and socks, however, are brand new. There is a sense of dignity in giving out new shoes. All who come to volunteer at the House of Mercy are required to spend at least 15 minutes of prayer during their shift. If you cant get into the right frame of mind you cant serve the poor, The main goal is to project Christ. Its not about the food and the clothes. Its about giving them hope and providing human contact. The ministry transcends the temporal needs of the poor and homeless.There's a huge hunger for God, said Ross. The goal is to Bring people hope. We're trying to do corporeal works of mercy.
After a conversion back to the faith she was baptized in, Ross found herself yearning to continue to learn more about the Church. If you give your heart to Jesus your heart will never be the same, she said. Over a year ago, Ross made a radical decision to give away all her fashionable clothing and jewellry and now dresses simply. God was calling me out of darkness and into the light.
From St Faustina's diary v 742 :..You are to show mercy to your neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to excuse or absolve yourself from it.