The Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City's newest tool is a providential chariot of charity, Bishop W. Shawn McKnight said Wednesday.
McKnight spoke to about 40 people as he christened a new mobile resource bus outside the Schwartze Catholic Center on West Main Street in Jefferson City.
The bishop of the Diocese of Jefferson City, which encompasses 38 counties in central and northern Missouri, said it was appropriate to recognize the church's acquisition of the bus at this time because the twin feasts of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary are celebrated this coming weekend.
"As patroness of the Diocese of Jefferson City, the Immaculate Heart of Mary magnifies the centrality of heart, charity and devotion in the life and mission of the church," McKnight said. To be a true disciple of the Lord " requires that we be doers of the Word and not hearers only. Mary's son showed us the way to salvation by making sacrifice for the good of others."
The mobile resource bus is an "office on wheels," said Dan Lester, executive director of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, which raised funds for the bus.
He said the bus can transport food, clothing and personal hygiene products efficiently and effectively to rural areas, particularly during times of natural disasters. Additionally, the vehicle offers an office space — complete with communications, a computer, a printer and a Wi-Fi hotspot — that will allow staff to go to sites and meet face to face with clients seeking assistance with housing, energy and other basic needs.
As a test run, staff have recently taken the bus to areas of the state affected by floods in 2017 to provide support for families, Lester said.
"Accessing needed resources often entails long drives," Lester told listeners Wednesday. "There's more need for mobile services. We believe this model is one that will continue to grow and expand."
Linda McAnany, president of the charity's board, said the vehicle will help connect communities within the diocese.
"We can go from location to location. We can meet with other charities that need our help," McAnany said. "Many times, it's difficult for people to meet with us. This lets us go out and meet with them."
McKnight said the bus helps the church respond to its concerns for urban poor and for people who suffer or are in need in the peripheries.
"Pope Francis has been insistent with us about being a church that reaches out to the margins," he said. "We are called to bring God's very heart out into the world."
The vehicle will let many more people come to know the love of God, McKnight said.
"This bus," he said, "will bring the kingdom of God to those who are in need."