“I’m deeply grateful for your hospitality,” said Archbishop Alexander Sample to visitors and volunteers who shared a Christmas Eve meal today at St. Francis dining hall.
Before saying a prayer, the archbishop reminded eaters, many of whom live on the streets, that God doesn’t come in grandeur, but instead as a humble, tiny baby who slept in a cattle feedbox when there was no room at the inn.
“God is with you always,” he told the room. “As tough as it gets, he is always with you.”
Archbishop Sample was joined by his his sister Marti, who is visiting from Salt Lake City. The archbishop divulged that his sister is planning a move to Portland this summer.
Tables were set with crudité and cheese plates, so guests could whet their appetites as volunteers swooped through the hall with plated meals. Each table also had flyers with the locations of Christmas Day meals.
Every year since 1980, Riccardo and Georgette Spaccarelli have prepared the Christmas Eve meal at St. Francis dining hall. They started cooking this morning at 10 a.m. They are the proprietors of Riccardo's Ristorante in Lake Oswego.
Each visitor left with a few presents from the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul ministry – gifts bag with treats, socks, hats and toiletries. Parishioner Mary Segal said an army of volunteers helped after Mass on Sunday to prepare the gift bags.
“We’re so excited that the archbishop came,” she said.
The band Homemade Jam kept the atmosphere cheery by playing background tunes onstage.
Parishioner Joe Nigg enjoys the boisterous holiday meals at St. Francis dining hall. He tries to volunteer once a week.
“It’s important for us as Christians to connect with people who have less than we do,“ he said. “It keeps our faith honest.”
The archbishop celebrated Midnight Mass that evening at St. Mary Cathedral in Northwest Portland.