Richard Quinton believes strongly in the power of personal invitation. When he arrived at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Holiday eight years ago, another parishioner approached him about becoming an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion. Quinton agreed and has been serving in that role ever since. For the last year and a half, Quinton can be found each week greeting the people at the parish’s new St. Vincent de Paul Society’s food pantry. Invitation again brought Quinton to this new ministry.
“How did I get involved? I was asked!” said Quinton. “I hate to say no when anybody asks me for help. That’s how I courageously live the Gospel.”
More than just the greeter, Quinton is the spiritual advisor for the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society chapter. As members work hard each week to provide food, rent, and help with utilities to people in need, Quinton helps keep the spiritual component of their mission at the forefront of all they do.
“We pray for the ministry, we pray for the people that need help, we have a prayer group before and after the food pantry opens, at our meetings we have readings and reflections,” explained Quinton. “It’s a beautiful job.”
The prayer is certainly bearing fruit. The food pantry serves nearly 200 people a month. During November they provided families with all the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal and they are gearing up to do it again by helping families with everything they need for a Christmas feast in December. Quinton said seeing the line outside the pantry doors each week is something special to behold, as over the last year the people have gone from strangers to friends.
“We’re there for them. They’re our friends. We treat them with every respect. We don’t consider them as any different than us except they’re in little more need and we’re there to help,” said Quinton. “We treat them with the dignity and respect that’s entitled to them.”
Since Quinton has been blessed so much by his involvement as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, he is now the one doing the inviting.
“Courageously Living the Gospel to me is reaching out to others to become members of the ministries we have available. I’m always looking out for new parishioners or people who haven’t joined the church yet,” said Quinton. “We need help, but it’s also for their benefit, to take the next step in faith. Sometimes they just need a personal invitation to get started.”
Perhaps the greatest invitation that Quinton has responded to is the invitation of Jesus to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration. It had always been an important practice to Quinton but when he arrived at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, which is run by Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament Fathers, he began to learn about St. Peter Julian Eymard, the founder of the order and a promoter of Eucharistic Adoration. Before long, Quinton had joined the Aggregation of the Blessed Sacrament, a lay association that shares in the charism of Saint Peter Julian Eymard by centering their lives on the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Celebrating their 160th anniversary this year, members of the aggregation from the Diocese of St. Petersburg and the Diocese of Orlando joined together for a three-day retreat at the end of November.
“These are people who put the Eucharist at the center of their life, as a center of worship and service,” explained Father Bill Fickel, who commented that a life centered on the Eucharist perfectly complements a life that courageously lives the Gospel.
“The Eucharist is the sacrament of transformation and Courageously Living the Gospel in an instrument for transformation. Just as the Holy Spirit overshadows the bread and wine on the altar to become the body and blood of Christ, the Holy Spirit can also overshadow us to transform society, to become missionary disciples.”
The anniversary of the aggregation is the second jubilee the parish has celebrated this year. Since January 2019, the parish has been celebrating their 50th anniversary with parish retreats, fashion shows, concerts, dinners, and an appreciation lunch. The year-long celebration will culminate on New Year’s Eve with a special Mass and New Year’s Eve Party.
“We are a gem of a parish,” said Father Fickel. “There is a lot of generosity on the part of the people.”