Cross display encourages Corporal Works of Mercy

A woman interacts with a Lenten cross display at St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville. The display includes information for participating in the Corporal Works of Mercy on a local, national and international level.

By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger

CORALVILLE — Three crosses are on display in St. Thomas More Parish’s gathering space this Lent. Tags hang from the horizontal beams, with each tag containing information about engaging in one of the seven Corporal Works of Mercy on the local, national and international level.

The interactive display is part of the parish’s Lenten Corporal Works of Mercy project, organized by the St. Thomas More Social Justice Commission (SJC). The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes these works as “charitable actions by which we help our neighbors in their bodily needs,” treating neighbors as if they were Christ in disguise. Works of Mercy include feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting the prisoners, burying the dead and giving alms to the poor.

Linda Myers, a longtime SJC member, said she borrowed the idea for the project from a parish in Des Moines. She shared photos of that parish’s display with the SJC. The commission “thought it was a really good idea and that we could probably do it here.”


An anonymous parishioner built the crosses and SJC members made the tags that include ideas for getting involved and contact information for social assistance organizations. SJC members vetted all organizations listed on the tags. Collection boxes for local beneficiaries are located at the base of the crosses. Another parishioner donated artwork for prayer cards. The crosses also display information about Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Rice Bowl, the annual Lenten collection to address hunger and poverty locally and abroad.

SJC members erected the display on Ash Wednesday and spoke during Masses the first weekend of Lent. Bulletin blurbs each week focus on one of the Corporal Works of Mercy and suggested actions. Parishioners have been eager to take the tags with them and discern how to get involved, Myers said. “It’s just gone really well.”

Parishioners have already been generous in sheltering the homeless by donating several carloads full of items to 180 Afghan refugees in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Cecilia Roudebush, a SJC member, said the refugees’ lives were in danger in Afghanistan because they served as translators to American troops. U.S. forces withdrew from the country last year after the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s capital city of Kabul.

The parish is working with the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids to address the material needs of the refugees as they move from temporary to permanent housing. Some of the refugees are interested in becoming truck drivers, so parishioners plan to help them study for exams once they become acclimated.

Roudabush said she isn’t surprised by the early success of the endeavor. “We have the most generous parish members. Any time one of the SJC members brings up a need in the community, people fly forward with items.”

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