Burnsville couple can’t stomach hunger

| October 7, 2016 | 0 Comments
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Jerry and Barb Krosnowski hold a child during one of their trips to the Philippines as part of their ministry for Risen Savior Missions, which they founded in 2006. Courtesy Jerry and Barb Krosnowski

Mary, Mother of the Church parishioners battle starvation in the Philippines; pastor honors ministry work in new icon

Jerry and Barb Krosnowski of Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville have a heart for mission work.

They’ve been doing it since 1967 when they lived in Detroit. But, decades of helping people in third-world countries did not prepare them for what they would discover in the Philippines 10 years ago.

After trying to establish a sister parish in Haiti while members of Risen Savior in Burnsville, they encountered obstacles and eventually started looking for a new sister parish.

While searching, they met a Filipino doctor who invited them to come to the Philippines and tour the islands.

Jerry accepted. Barb later called it a “mistake.”

They now know it was God orchestrating a relief effort that they later took on to feed the hungry across the islands. When Jerry came back from his three-week trip in September 2006, he couldn’t forget what he saw.

“Getting to the different islands, I’m seeing all these starving children, and it surprised me and I was taken aback that the numbers were so great,” said Jerry, 75, who, along with Barb, owned and operated a tour company prior to retirement. “I went to this one island that had no cars. There were 60,000 people on the island and the kids were so sick, and they were hungry and they were starving.”

“And, they were dying,” said Barb, 75.

“I was quite overwhelmed,” Jerry said. “In fact, I was so overwhelmed by what I saw that I almost quit doing missionary work.”

He walked in areas where homeless children were living on the streets and eating dead animals. His group visited garbage dumps that had people living in them.

Jerry’s encounter culminated in one simple dinner conversation with Bishop José Advincula, who is now archbishop of Capiz.

“I asked if any American charities have been here in the last year,” Jerry recalled. “He said, ‘No Jerry, but we’ve been praying for someone like you to come.’”

That’s all it took.

When Jerry got home, he, Barb, and their daughter, Pam Germ, set to work getting food to the Philippines. Jerry had spent time on the trip with a staff member from Feed My Starving Children, and he asked if the organization would be willing to provide meals he could ship to the Philippines.

The partnership quickly was formed, and just one month after returning home, he and his family shipped 100,000 meals to the Philippines. That was the start of a ministry they named Risen Savior Missions.

They kept sending larger amounts of food every year, and to date have sent more than 56 million meals to the Philippines. They have gotten one of the villages Jerry visited on his first trip out of poverty, and are working to do the same across the country. They also work to educate and catechize the people they feed, and help villages become self-sustaining.

And, there’s much more work to do, which is why they are raising money to send more meals. Coming up Oct. 22 is their annual gala at Mary, Mother of the Church. The event comes at a crucial time, as they are running low on funds to keep sending food until the end of the year.

But, that doesn’t mean they are in panic mode as they head into October. They have faced financial woes before, almost every year in fact. Somehow, the $75,000 goal manages to be reached. And, that translates to 9 million meals and 70,000 kids they can feed.

“We’re always begging for money so that we can ship more food,” Jerry said. “Every year since we’ve been doing this, we looked at November or December and we realized we’re going to run out of money. Every year, God comes through and he gives us enough money to ship the food.”

Father Jim Perkl, pastor of Mary, Mother of the Church in Burnsville, poses with his Good Shepherd icon, which contains pictures of children from the Philippines. The icon will be on display at the Oct. 22 gala for Risen Savior Missions, started in 2006 by parishioners Jerry and Barb Krosnowski. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Their ministry gained significant momentum a few months ago when Father Jim Perkl, pastor of Mary, Mother, went to the Philippines to visit the feeding sites of Risen Savior Missions. He was so impressed that he put his artistic skills to work to create an icon depicting the missions. It features an image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, and actual pictures of kids in the Philippines, along with a picture of Jerry and Barb.

“Jerry said, ‘Come and see,’” Father Perkl said. “I just went with him and learned firsthand what the mission was about, went to the feeding sites, saw the lay leadership. I heard there were thousands of laity involved, and I knew there were several religious orders involved.”

Father Perkl was deeply touched by his experience.

“The words I thought about a lot are the words, ‘I thirst’ from Jesus,” said Father Perkl who served meals to the hungry while he was there. “Jerry said, ‘If you come to the mission, you will meet Jesus, and you’ll meet him in his thirst and his hunger.’ That’s what he said would happen, and that’s what did happen. We did meet him in his hunger and thirst.”

Father Perkl had been asked before his 10-day trip in January and early February to create an icon depicting the Good Shepherd as a way of promoting the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program, which the parish uses. Originally, he wasn’t sure he would be able to find the time.

The trip changed his mind.

“When I went to Risen Savior Missions, I then knew that I would have to do this project of the Good Shepherd,” he said noting that the finished icon will be on display at the gala. “So, I did the icon for Jerry and for the missions as a way to say, ‘This is what Risen Savior Missions does. It feeds kids.’ But, also I wanted to show how Risen Savior Missions works with helping serve the Eucharist because by working with the Catholic Church and working with the bishops like he does, the heart of Jesus, which you see in the icon, moves the hand of Jesus, which you see, to serve the Eucharist.”

After working with her parents for the first seven years, Germ made her first trip to the Philippines in 2013. She, too, was aghast at the poverty and starvation. But, she saw something more.

“Here were people who were so desperately poor, and yet they had the Lord,” she said. “And, you could see it in them. They were still joyful and they still had wonderful family relationships.”

The same can be said about the Krosnowskis. Working together for 10 years in Risen Savior Missions has deepened their faith, increased their devotion to the Church and the Eucharist, and solidified their commitment to keep delivering meals until, as Barb says, “we fall over.”

Pam, her husband, Joe, and their three children all have been a part of the work, and the intergenerational effort has made clear how they see God in it.

“It truly cements in my mind that God loves to use broken vessels,” Pam said. “I would never have thought — ever — in my lifetime that we would do something like this, that [God] would choose people with a travel background to become these missionaries who do humanitarian relief, who ship flip flops, who visit garbage dumps, and talk with bishops and cardinals, from very humble beginnings to 9 million meals.”

For more information or to buy tickets, email Jerry@risensaviormissions.org or visit http://www.risensaviormissions.org.

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