New director of The Lord’s Diner experienced in social work and in feeding the masses

Emily Thome is transitioning from St. Peter the Apostle Parish to The Lord’s Diner. (Advance photo)

Emily Thome can’t help but reflect on the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 as she transitions to director of The Lord’s Diner.

“He didn’t make food out of nothing,” she said. “He asked his disciples to give what they had and he also asked them to distribute it. The Holy Spirit has worked using this same model at The Lord’s Diner for 20 years. My desire is that we continue to get more of the diocese involved as well as the broader Wichita and Pittsburg communities to participate in this ministry.”

Thome said she hopes that those who participate will have the opportunity to share who Christ is with their neighbors and to see Christ in them.

Cooking for an several schools

Fulfilling that desire is within her grasp because preparing large numbers of meals isn’t anything new to her.

It started when Thome, who has a degree in social work, began substitute teaching in Catholic schools years ago. “When they needed a food service director for the lunch program at St. Peter’s it worked perfect with my kids,” she said.

Lunch programs often struggle, so while director at St. Peter’s, she assisted and eventually began managing the lunch program at Holy Spirit in Goddard, and serving food for St. Margaret Mary in Wichita – gaining economies of scale by combining the food production for the three schools.

“I am currently in between two jobs,” she said last week from her office at the Diner. “In addition to training here, I’m finishing up at the schools.”

Getting to know staff

Thome is getting to know the staff and regular guests at the Diner, how the ministry operates, and has even driven a food truck. “I can’t wait to get my foot in the door and get started full time here,” she said.

She said The Lord’s Diner is a dream job for her, which sounds strange to some people. “This position gives me an opportunity to combine my educational, professional experience, and faith,” Thome said.

She previously worked in social services at The Kansas Department for Children and Families in El Dorado, Mercy Regional Health Center in Manhattan, and also has non-profit experience from working in the Development Office at Conception Abbey and Conception Seminary College in Conception, Missouri.

Thome said asking what God wants her to do in her life has been a continual process. After serving food to families from the front of the school during the Covid pandemic, she said she was reminded of why she had pursued a degree in social work – to serve those most in need – and it had rekindled that passion.

Listening to Mother Teresa

But that was just the beginning. After reading a book last December about Mother Teresa, Thome said a question from the book struck her: “When was the last time you sat in the silence and asked God ‘What can I do for you?’ So I started asking God that question.”

“I had also been going through this reflection on the Gospels every morning and every day it was bringing up feeding the 5,000, or carrying your cross, loving your neighbor, Christ’s example of serving other people,” she said. “You hear things in your heart and this question of ‘Do you love me?’ came up,” she said.

“I believe love is an action, not a feeling. And so I had to ask myself, am I acting out of love? And the question, again, came up, am I doing what you want me to do, Lord? And I heard very clearly ‘feed my sheep,’ and I thought, great, I do that every day. But why is God asking me to do what I was already doing?” she asked herself.

She saw it in the Advance

It was about that time that the director of The Lord’s Diner job opening was announced in the Catholic Advance.

“My husband said, ‘You’re going to apply for this, right? You have everything they’re looking for.’ And I honestly was afraid to answer. We agreed to pray about it and came to the conclusion that if it was God’s will for me to get this job, then he would leave the door open and if it wasn’t, he would shut it.”
The door stayed open.

“I’m super excited to get to serve my neighbors in need. I’m super excited to feed his sheep and to feed them with love. That’s what I’m most excited about because The Lord’s Diner has been doing that for a long time. And now I get to be part of it.”

Emily and her husband, Jarrod, are active parishioners at St. John the Evangelist in Clonmel. They are the parents of two sets of twins: 14-year-old Sophia and Olivia and 11-year-old Nora and Grace, who attend Bishop Carroll Catholic High School and St. Peter the Apostle Catholic School respectively.