Sitting in her small office at the Friends of St. Andrew Hospitality Center in Aurora, Siobhan Latimer focuses her eyes on a small statue of Jesus and holds back tears as she talks about how this ministry of Queen of Peace Parish will get to stay in the building that they love.
“I was getting nervous,” said Latimer, the director of the soup kitchen. “And I thought ‘I am sorry I should have trusted you all along, but I am human, and I got nervous.’”
Friends of St. Andrew was started by Queen of Peace parishioners in 1986, but when the long-time owner of the building they rent on Dallas Street passed away in 2016, the new owners put the property up for sale. Queen of Peace couldn’t afford the asking price, so the parish community did their best to put their faith in God to provide a way for them to continue serving the less fortunate.
“A lot of praying,” said Latimer. “But it had gone on for a long enough time that we finally just said ‘It is in your hands, all we ask now is that your will be done. You know what ours is, but we accept your will — whatever is for this — and right after that, the guy bought it.”
The “guy” is a business owner in Aurora who has asked to remain anonymous, but he bought the building and told ‘Friends of St. Andrew’ that they will remain the tenants, providing an answer to their prayers.
“I said ‘Jesus, you heard us, you listened, you actually listened to us,’” Latimer said. “And all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.”
‘For I was hungry, and you gave me food’
Friends of St. Andrew is the only soup kitchen in Aurora, and every Monday to Friday a rotating group of 70 volunteers serve 100-150 hot meals to those in need.
“I love it down here, it is fulfilling to be here,” said Hannah Rottman, who has volunteered for 18 years. “I was a teacher for 27 years and I have always liked working with people and it seems like a lot of our hungry and homeless are forgotten.”
The center is actually about five miles from Queen of Peace, but its location just off of Colfax Avenue positions it to serve roughly 27,000 people a year. And Friends is more than just a soup kitchen; the service center also provides food baskets, toiletries, help with photo IDs, a free telephone, and the option for their guests to use the center for their mailing address.
“Every person has a different story,” says Rottman. “It is not all people that don’t want to work, it is people that do want to work. Maybe they lost their job because they were sick or something happened, but you try and help each individual the best you can.”
Faith through adversity
Father Felix Medina, the pastor at Queen of Peace, said despite the uncertainty there was never any talk of stopping the ministry.
“It was a time to really turn to the Lord and say, ‘Lord please do something,’” said Father Medina. “If we need to move, we move. If we need to go on the streets for a while, we will go on the streets, and we will be there serving the people, but tell us, tell us what you want.’”
As word about Friends’ situation begin to spread, multiple people reached out with offers to help, and thanks to the generosity of the anonymous new owner, Queen of Peace won’t have to find a new home.
“It was a great confirmation that the Lord knows what we desire, the Lord is attentive to our prayers, and the Lord always does what’s best for us,” said Father Medina. “Sometimes God wants us to change, and have a completely new direction for the ministry, but in this case, he said, ‘No, you are doing well, and I want you to stay.’”
Father Medina said throughout the process he would visit regularly with the volunteers, and that he was encouraged by how faithful they remained.
“The Lord tests his apostles,” said Father Medina. “I think all of scripture is about how we can be more reliant on God, and less reliant on ourselves. That was my prayer: ‘Lord you are testing us, because you love us and because you want us to rely more on you and be more focused on you, and we know that you will take care of us.’”