An Interview With Bishop William Wack of the Diocese of Tallahassee-Pensacola

Bishop William Wack attended the food packing event for the Diocese of Tallahassee-Pensacola to offer prayers and encouragement to all who gathered in service to the poor. During that time, we spoke to him about the importance of these events in the lives of the faithful. 

Cross Catholic Outreach: Why was it important for you to be here today?

Bishop Wack: It’s important for me as the bishop to be here today to encourage people, pray with them, and be in solidarity with them and show them this is important. 

Cross Catholic Outreach: The poor who struggle to feed their families will be greatly blessed by this food packing. What about the Catholics here today who have come together to participate, what blessings will they receive?

Bishop Wack: The blessing for family and individuals … when someone comes here, they wonder how are we going to pack 50,000 meals. I’m just one person, it’s impossible. But when they get together and look around and see all the tables, they realize it can be done when we come together. You can see it in their faces … I saw a young person and told him this is so important what we are doing, and he said “Yes, and it’s fun too.” 

Cross Catholic Outreach: People might not believe the donations they can give are enough, but every bit helps.

Bishop Wack: Everything helps. We are just one person, one family. But when we come together, many hands make light work. We’re not just preparing food today, but we helped pay for it too. Every contribution helps to do great things, however big, and small. 

Cross Catholic Outreach: The saints often talk about the poor. Which saints inspire you?

Bishop Wack: There are a lot of saints that inspire me. St. Martin de Porres. He called himself the slave to the slaves and put his life on the line. Mother Teresa is a great example of someone who worked for the poor [who were] dying in the streets — she would bring them in to let them know they were loved. 

Cross Catholic Outreach: Are we in danger of not hearing the cry of the poor?

Bishop Wack: It’s important that we do things like this (food packing), and that we serve others, especially those who are in great need. It’s a two-way relationship. We need the poor. We need to pay attention to those beyond our household. Beyond my desires and wants. We need to open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts to the poor. 

Cross Catholic Outreach: Pope Francis talks a lot about “accompaniment” when helping the poor. Can you speak about this?

Bishop Wack: Projects like this food packing are important to help others in far-off lands. But we also would do well to have an encounter with people in our own community. After Mother Teresa became famous, people streamed to Calcutta. She told them, “What are you doing? Go home and help the poor in your own communities.” I think if we encounter the poor as Pope Francis talks about, we are growing in holiness. 

Cross Catholic Outreach: How is your diocese helping the poor right here at home?

Bishop Wack: We have several initiatives, including a house for men who are homeless, a house for women who are homeless and pregnant, and a home for felons who’ve served their time. We help them get back on their feet to re-enter society.