We are greeted by Kathy Ray, who has been Director of Operations at Our Daily Bread for eight years. She gives us a tour of the facilities, and fills us in on the history and mission of Our Daily Bread.
Our Daily Bread has been in operation in this neighborhood for over 25 years. They serve a meal from 9:45—11:45 daily, Monday through Friday, followed by a snack from 1:00—2:00 Monday through Thursday. They are the highest volume soup kitchen in Greater Cincinnati, serving an average of 450 meals per day. They recently broke their record by serving 547 meals in just under two hours. All the food that Our Daily Bread serves comes from donations. Each meal service begins with a prayer for kitchen staff and volunteers, usually a short reflection followed by the Our Father.
Our Daily Bread is not just a place to have a meal. Many of their clients have some sort of mental illness. Our Daily Bread helps these people by providing activities two days a week, as well as access to social services, legal aid, job help, clothing, computers, and more. There is a women’s support group that meets regularly and they also distribute groceries.
Just as important as all those services? The sense of community that Our Daily Bread provides for its guests. Every guest is greeted with a friendly hello and a smile. All of the guests we spoke with listed a sense of family, welcome, and community as why they keep coming back. This is no accident—Kathy says that she strives to make all the guests feel welcomed. Our Daily Bread works at creating a homey feel, with food served on real china with silverware, and whenever donations provide, fresh flowers on the tables. Our Daily Bread volunteers bus the tables for guests.
One of the bussers on the day ACO visits is Fr. Hilarion Kistner, O.F.M. Fr. Hilarion has volunteered at Our Daily Bread weekly for eight years.
Fr. Hilarion is St. Anthony Messenger Press’s resident Scripture expert, and editor of Sunday Homily Helps. He has been a friar for 63 years.
He knew early in life that he was called to the priesthood, but it was only later that he realized he was called to be a Franciscan friar. While in the seminary he, “fell in love with St. Francis, and…wanted to be like him.” Which, Father humbly admits, “is hard.”
He began his work at Our Daily Bread in response to his province’s reminder that the friars “are supposed to be people involved with the poor.” This is a key part of the Franciscan charism.
Fr. Hilarion sees his work as “an opportunity to serve Jesus.” In the way of Mother Teresa, he sees “Jesus in disguise in all people.” Father says, “Every human being contains the glory of God.” Fr. Hilarion “serves God by serving others.”
Ask any volunteer, and you will hear the same—the experience of helping others is as transformative for the giver as the receiver. And as Christians, it is what we are called to do: to be Jesus’ hands on earth. This call comes not just at the holidays; it is perpetual. Need knows no season.
Kathy reminds us that Our Daily Bread and places like it need our help 365 days a year. When we are on the beach in June, people are hungry. When we are taking down our Christmas decorations in January, someone needs a warm place to sleep. Remember that the next time you pray, “Give us this day our daily bread….”