“I’m all about human dignity and freedom,” explains Vettese, “and I like to think that what I believe is evident in the way I live.”
Thompson believes it is: “Father Vettese brings it to the streets—and lots of so-called holy people don’t. Faith is great, but action is as or more important, and his actions show his compassion. I remember learning about liberation theology at St. John’s, about going to minister to the poorest people in the world, and I think Father Vettese lives up to that ideal.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vettese isn’t especially interested in converting people who live in garbage dumps to Catholicism. “Most of the people don’t have any formal religion, and they don’t have to join ours,” says the Jesuit. “Our idea is to meet their basic needs and worry about their spiritual needs later.
“I don’t know about you, but I always find it’s hard to talk to someone about God when they’re fighting a vulture for a piece of chicken.”
[Originally published in October, 2008.]