Community members of all ages, races and religious backgrounds came together Jan. 16 at St. Matthew Catholic Church in St. Paul to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.
The satellite breakfast was one of six neighborhood locations at local churches sponsored by the St. Paul Area Council of Churches, which live-streamed the MLK holiday breakfast at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
During the meal, the 2012 Local Legend Community award was given to St. Matthew’s parish for making “significant contributions to the social and cultural fabric of the community,” said Bob DeNardo, a parishioner and West Side/West St. Paul Planning Committee co-chair.
DeNardo has lived in the area for most of his life and said he has seen the church “evolve into a community recognizing all persons who are all striving for our own sense of communication with God.”
He added that St. Matthew’s is welcoming to everyone no matter who they are.
“We will not judge you,” he said. “We’re an anchor institution for everyone on the west side.”
While the award is usually given to an individual, St. Matthew’s was recognized as a whole.
Marking its 125th anniversary, St. Matthew’s has made significant contributions to its community, to the broader community and working toward “the common good,” DeNardo said.
According to the event’s program, St. Matthew’s has provided support on issues including “housing, child care, medical care, feeding the hungry and immigration.”
Brothers Joseph and Pat Stevens have been a part of St. Matthew’s parish for more than 30 years and grew up in the area.
The two felt a special connection to the event, and both were active in social justice.
Pat Stevens said he was “very active” in race relations in the Twin Cities during the 1960s.
“I actually lost my job teaching school because I was in a community that was rather racist,” he said.
He was part of a movement, he said, that critically examined racial attitudes.
“Years later, we won that case. It’s a good reminder we need to respect all people’s dignity,” Stevens said. “The community here treasure this.”
Joseph Stevens found the event “very inspiring.”
“It makes you want to go out and help people in the community,” he said. “St. Matthew’s does that.”
Joseph Stevens was part of a group at St. Matthew’s that went to Romania to help impoverished people. He said they have raised more than $50,000 in the past eight years.
Humboldt High School’s Friendship Club members served food at the event. The program’s motto is “We Share, We Care, We Serve, We Learn,” and it has reached out to more than 50,000 people in the last 48 years. Founder Gary M. Ales was recognized at the event as well his students. The group won the 2012 Emerging Legend Award.
“St. Matthew’s is dedicated to helping the community and greater community,” he said. “It’s pretty cool.”