Vera Proctor was appointed director of the Twin Cities center of FOCUS – North America in 2010. Her educational and professional background is in communications, marketing, and broadcasting and has worked in the fields of advertising, television, arts management and public broadcasting. Vera grew up in Chicago, and attended the University of Illinois, the Sorbonne in Paris France, and attended St. Vladimir's Seminary with an emphasis in Liturgical Music from 1985-1988. She is married to Fr. Jonathan Proctor and they serve a parish, Holy Trinity (OCA), in St. Paul, MN. They are the parents of two children and have been part of the Orthodox community in the Twin Cities for 23 years.

The “Caress” of Mercy, Given and Received
[In being called to a life wherein we serve]

On Lake Street, in the south-metro area of Minneapolis, the work and mission of FOCUS Minnesota, an Orthodox Christian outreach to the urban poor and needy, is confronted daily with the fundamental directives and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

In the Gospel of Luke, 10:25-37 we hear the story of the Good Samaritan, a parable that Jesus used to answer a question posed to Him by a young man well versed in Jewish law.

The Spark Notes version:

* What must I do to inherit eternal life?

* The Law says: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself

* Who is my neighbor?

* Go and do likewise

Mercy suggests a gift of kindness, often unmerited and sometimes unexpected. It is not simply kindness; it is kindness in face of an opportunity to do otherwise. The reason why the Samaritan is called “good” and is described as “showing mercy” is that, as a stranger among the Jews, the Samaritan acted outside of his comfort zone and against his own history and community interest. He showed mercy when in fact he would have been justified to walk on by. Yet he didn’t, and we shouldn’t either. But the Gospel turns the ‘neighbor’ equation around.

All of us tend to identify with the Good Samaritan. And we start to believe that in being like him ourselves ,we come from a point of strength. That is, we model his goodness to bestow mercy. Yet Jesus Christ nudges us towards the understanding that the only way to implement the tenderheartedness of mercy is feel its caress.  Before we can go out and save the world with our expansive and sometimes self-satisfying “mercy,” we must first understand in our humility that the one who proved neighbor was the one who showed mercy…. upon us. And then we realize we are just as needy and vulnerable as anyone we might serve. If we understand ourselves as being in need of mercy in order to give, only then we can “go and do likewise.”


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