MILWAUKEE -- Pope Francis challenged America Thursday to embrace millions of undocumented immigrants and join a global campaign against climate change and poverty, wading undaunted into the nation's volatile politics in a historic address to Congress. Following that address, Pope Francis passed on lunch with lawmakers, and opted instead to help serve lunch to some of Washington, D.C.'s homeless. This act of compassion and service inspired some in Wisconsin to follow in the same path.
It was a normal routine for some Marquette University students as they prepared meals and then loaded them up. Students have been preparing meals for Milwaukee's homeless for about 27 years -- when "Midnight Run" was created.
"Some students took a van and started driving around with sandwiches and blankets and they were just looking for people who might be in need," Gerry Fischer, associated director of campus ministry at MU said.
It evolved from a night event to a noon-time event -- first outside the Milwaukee Public Library. Students brought sandwiches and soup for Milwaukee's homeless.
Eventually, they began serving food from a variety of sites throughout Milwaukee -- serving from vans.
"About four years ago, one of the parishioners here at Redeemer saw the students serving outside in the cold and thought 'we have this space inside. Maybe we could invite them in,'" Fischer said.
And Redeemer Lutheran Church is where they were serving food on Thursday, September 24th.
For Pope Francis to seek out the homeless and feed them sort of puts his stamp of approval on what these Marquette students have been doing.
"For me and a lot of others, it just re-enforces kinda what we're doing, which kinda aligns with what he's saying. Kinda just adds more encouragement to keep going," Emily Harrington, MU senior said.
Harrington has been a part of "Midnight Run" for four years.
"I always feel like I get a lot more than I can give them -- which sometimes is hard to take, but I think it's really an experience," Harrington said.
Vollie Nolen says it's truly reciprocal.
"They're showing me some things too that I need to know," Nolen said.
Organizers say "Midnight Run" is not a service program but a movement of compassion for the poor.
Student volunteers are told they are never off duty, and anytime they see somebody on the street, they are to treat them with dignity.