Diocese lending a hand to warm souls this winter

Dennis Rau, left, and Dan Weyant talk about the logistics of housing up to 130 men in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception’s gymnasium beginning in late February. (Advance photo)

By Christopher M. Riggs
The weather outside – like the song says – may be frightful but volunteers from Catholic parishes and Interfaith Ministries are making sure the homeless have a delightful place to sleep this winter from Feb. 15 through March 7.
Dan Weyant, interim director of the Respect Life and Social Justice Office for the Diocese of Wichita, said the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and other churches in the downtown Wichita area are providing shelter this winter for the homeless men as part of the city-
wide interdenominational Warming Souls program.
“There are more homeless than can be placed in the current shelters,” he said, “so the Diocese of Wichita is going to house these individuals for three weeks. Other denominations within the city have been taking their turns doing this since the first of October.”
Weyant is estimating that 110 to 130 men will seek shelter in the Cathedral gymnasium, depending upon how bad the weather is. Homeless women and children in need are being directed to another, separate shelter.
Interfaith Ministries has a group of trained personnel who supervise the temporary shelters. “They bring in cots, set them up, and they will also bring in bedding and take care of it. They will stay in the gym to make sure that everybody follows the rules,” he said.
The diocese will also supply the homeless with a sack supper and breakfast for every night they are at the Cathedral gymnasium.
“We’re asking the city’s parishes for volunteers to assemble sack suppers daily,” he said, “so that we will have enough food on hand.”
The volunteers will gather at the Cathedral gym to assemble the supper sacks for that night and then prepare sack breakfasts for the next morning.
The Lord’s Diner is playing a part in Warming Souls. Weyant said the Diner will order the food, create the menu, and will store the bulk food. “With the chef putting together the menu, I think we’ll have some nicer, more creative sacks of food, rather than just peanut butter and crackers.”
Dennis Rau, maintenance supervisor for the Cathedral campus, is making sure the gym is ready when the diocese’s turn to shelter the men comes around. Rau will be responsible for seating and setting up a television and card games as well as being on call in case of any maintenance needs.
“The Respect Life and Social Justice Office is grateful for the opportunity to team with The Lord’s Diner and Interfaith Ministries by extending our Catholic hospitality to those who would suffer without this program,” Weyant said.