Browsing The Northern Cross

UMD students extend mercy to local homeless population 

By The Northern Cross 

For three weeks leading up to Divine Mercy Sunday on April 16, the Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Minnesota Duluth collected thousands of donations for “blessing bags” to share with the local homeless population of Duluth and surrounding areas. 

Each year during Lent, bulldogCatholic hosts a Divine Mercy Drive. The goal is to collect toiletries, nonperishables, and other essential items to place into drawstring bags. People keep these bags in their cars, and when they encounter someone asking for help, they are prepared to respond.

Students at the University of Minnesota Duluth Newman Center fill “blessing bags” — small backpacks containing nonperishable foods and toiletries for those in need — April 16 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary in Duluth. (Submitted photo)

On Divine Mercy Sunday, students assembled more than 1,200 of those bags. 

“We believe that mercy is, quite possibly, the most profound expression of love,” said Father Mike Schmitz, chaplain of the university ministry, in a press release. “We believe that mercy is the love we deserve the least but need the most. As Christians, we believe that God has loved us like this. Even more, we believe that God has not just given us mercy, but that he wants us to pass along the mercy we have received. I think we all want to do this, but not all of us know how, and not all of us have considered how we might love the people around us. We want to love, but we are not ready to love when love is required. These ‘blessing bags’ are one small way that we can prepare to love.” 

This year’s Divine Mercy Drive was amplified from a local campaign to a national one, due to an online community of people that watch the community’s Masses via the Internet. 

“We call them the ‘Virtual Front Pew,’” Father Schmitz said. “These are folks who can’t make it to Mass due to illness or other extreme circumstances. We wanted to bridge our ministries this Lent by hosting this drive with both the students and Virtual Front Pew. We were overwhelmed with the response! It was such a joy to see an incredibly generous response from so many — both local and national.” 

The ministry also donated four carloads of additional supplies to CHUM, a Duluth nonprofit that cares for the city’s homeless population.