Ten years ago, Fr. Jim Hewes read a newspaper article that changed his life. It was about poor people in the Philippines, outside Manila, who existed by scavenging through garbage on a seven-story-high municipal dump.
The story of their extreme poverty could have made the news by itself, but there was more: The mountain of trash had been loosened by rain and had collapsed, flattening about one hundred of the shanties next to the dump. Then, whether ignited by the stoves in the huts or by a fallen power line, the wall of garbage burst into flames. Hundreds were killed—men, women, and children.
Fr. Hewes, then pastor of two churches in rural upstate New York—St. John’s in Clyde and St. Patrick’s in Savannah—was no stranger to poverty, having worked with the poor in the inner city. But the article left him stunned. As a kid, he could still recall the stench of the local town dump. Nothing, he thought, could be worse than living next to a mountain of garbage, but to be buried by…
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