As I have come to be “at home” in Missoula’s giving community, I am more than ever impressed at the generosity I encounter every day. We might call upon last weekend’s Gospel from Matthew as an evaluative tool. The question is asked, “Lord, when did we see you a stranger … or naked … or ill or in prison?” And the king responds, “whatever you did for one of the least [brothers/sisters] of mine, you did for me.”

A few weeks ago, I attended the annual YWCA luncheon and was overwhelmed by a large room full of donors, whose outpouring of support was very heartening. At a recent “build day” for our parish, working on a Habitat for Humanity house, I noted the presence of several other folks I don’t know who are regularly involved in the work of Habitat. Last week, Family Promise was the beneficiary of the collection for the annual Thanksgiving Prayer Service.

Through the fall, Missoulians have attended the Ronald McDonald “Red Shoe Ball,” contributed to the Missoula Food Bank’s ongoing food drives, participated in the tennis tournament for Watson Children’s Shelter, supported the activities of Mountain Home Montana, welcomed several refugee families through Soft Landing and the International Rescue Committee and supported these families through personal mentoring … the list goes on and on. Indeed, we in Missoula may agree that we have reached out to “the least of these.”

No matter the agency, or the event, I have met a different set of generous people, all focused on carrying out the mission of helping those in need through a particular service. The fingerprints of thousands of good people are found throughout the kindness of Missoula residents.

Next weekend, Dec. 8-10, Blessed Trinity Catholic Community offers its own vehicle for caring for the homeless of Missoula through our sixth annual No Room at the Inn: A Festival of Crèches. From a small beginning, this event has grown through the generosity of many who are concerned particularly with three agencies that work with and for the homeless of our community. No Room at the Inn centers around the creative display of over 200 home crèches, or “nativities” and is complimented by musical entertainment, song of Missoula church and community groups, food, sales of Fair Trade items, and raffles of goods and services donated by local religious congregations.

Why a crèche? The traditional scene of Mary, Joseph and the shepherds and kings gathered around the manger containing the Christ child is represented in many homes, churches and places of business during this season of Advent and Christmas. St. Francis of Assisi, who popularized the custom in the Middle Ages, used the crèche as a catechetical tool to teach his followers about the birth of Jesus. Through the centuries since, the crèche has become a vehicle for capturing the imagination, assisting all of us to be mindful of the sacred origins of this wonderful season of giving.

Today, when people all over the world, in our country and particularly in our city, seek a permanent home, reflection on the most well-known homeless family reinforces our call to care for “the least” of our brothers and sisters. The crèches that are displayed at Blessed Trinity come from all over the world and capture anew each year the beauty of the season and invite all to celebrate the generosity of this caring community in which we live. All funds raised at No Room at the Inn are donated to Habitat, Family Promise and the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative.

See blessedtrinitymissoula.org for more information.

S. Mary Jo Quinn, a Sister of Charity of Leavenworth, is a staff member of Blessed Trinity Catholic Community with particular responsibility for music/liturgy and outreach. She may be reached at maryjoq@blessedtrinitymissoula.org.

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