Jean Dwyer


I began volunteering at Loaves and Fishes in August 2022 as part of the Christ Episcopal Church team from Woodbury. Our meal site is a Catholic church in St. Paul, Saint Matthew’s. I began working in the kitchen, helping box up meals-to-go for over 300 recipients. Last year, we started to invite folks to eat inside as well as just taking meals and leaving. I quickly realized the meals were just being handed out—no conversations with guests, no getting to know who we were cooking for.

I knew that this service was needed, but I felt called to do more. I no longer wanted to be a “Martha”—I was hungry to be “Mary” to everyone who came in for meals, even the to-go folks who didn’t stay and eat. I had felt for months that I wanted to “jump the counter” from the kitchen and work among the guests in the dining room.

It was February 2024 when I asked if I could help out in the dining room and leave the kitchen. I really wanted and felt an urgency to be with the folks who were walking through the doors to get food. I wanted to help feed them spiritually, I wanted them to know we loved them, respected them, and see them. I saw more in February than I had expected. I actually met Jesus, and her name was Claudia.

We serve for one hour and during that time I had the honor to meet Claudia who shared with me her life story. She was driving for Door Dash and had only been in St. Paul for a few years. She had moved to the Midwest from the South after having a falling out with her daughter. She liked doing food delivery for Door Dash, but tonight she stopped in for a meal for herself. Initially, she said she was in a hurry and didn’t want to sit, but in time, she sat with me, shared with me and enjoyed her meal. She shared one of her favorite songs from YouTube and played it for me. As we listened to a rendition of Halleluia, sung acapella by two sisters, we cried, we held hands, and felt a peaceful bond develop between us. I had not heard the Pascal Mystery version of Halleluiah until that evening, even though the song was released in 2022. We had just entered into the Lenten season the week before, so how appropriate for Claudia to want to share that song with someone, and fortunately, that someone was me.

When it was time for Claudia to go, we hugged and wished each other well. She thanked me for taking time to talk with her and pray through music with her. I told her I had received so much more from her than what I could ever possibly give to her in our brief encounter and hoped that our paths would cross again the next month.

I returned to church and shared that encounter and the song Halleluia at our evening Songs and Conversation gathering the next week. I cried as I retold the story of meeting Claudia and her sharing the song with me and how much it had landed on my heart.

In March I was so excited to again be in the dining room at Loaves and Fishes, getting to know the folks coming to share a meal or pick up their meals. I looked for Claudia that night and every month since. She hasn’t come back, but I came to realize that Claudia was Jesus that night and I see Him in everyone I talk with at Loaves and Fishes. My encounter with Claudia changed me – it made me even more determined to serve Jesus, to see Jesus in others and to do as He did.