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Walking the Path of Doubting Thomas: A Story of Faith, Community, and Journalism

Updated: Feb 29

Written by Andrew Nelson, GSV 1993-1994


What I’ve learned in the three decades since closing the door at Brooklyn’s 1101 Carroll St. apartment is found in the story of Doubting Thomas. Influenced by the Good Shepherd Volunteers, my spirituality centers on the ‘show, don’t tell’ principle and how community profoundly shapes belief.

 

A Journalist’s Creed

This ethos of ‘show, don’t tell’ ingrained in me by my year of service with the young people and women at PS 15 Red Hook Community Center transitioned into my career in journalism, where stories carry the power to transform.

 

I’ve been fortunate for years to work as a writer - first at New England newspapers and now as a religion writer at the Atlanta Catholic newspaper. Thomas is not the patron of journalists (that goes to prolific writer St. Francis de Sales). But his no-nonsense response in the Gospel of St. John to this unbelievable news of a risen Jesus from his fellow Apostles would put him in good standing among the ink-stained. He echoed a writer’s mantra: show, don’t tell.

 

Don’t tell me about this risen Jesus. Show me him, Thomas declares.

Show. Don’t tell.

  • Show me how you believe in the Real Presence by caring for the women and men on the street; do not tell me about transubstantiation.

  • Show me how you care for youngsters to break the cycle of poverty by giving their families a variety of educational opportunities; do not tell me you support schools.

  • Show me how you wrap women and men facing a crisis pregnancy with access to health care, education, food assistance; do not tell me you support pro-life legislation. 

 

Questioning to Believe

Community, like in the GSV, is pivotal in the narrative and spiritual journey.

 

For three years, Thomas ate, slept, put his life on the line with this crew.

At this point in John’s gospel, Jesus’ followers hid, unsure and scared. They watched their friend die as a criminal, and now they were witness to a too-good-to-be-true event: Jesus’ appearance.

 

But not Thomas. He had already left the locked room, maybe to do something practical - find dinner, perhaps - and mourn the death of his friend.

 

Yet he returns to that locked room. Thomas is met by his clamoring community. He was not out in Jerusalem alone, wrestling with this life-changing news. But instead of blind faith, he insisted to his community members the practical: show me, don’t tell me.

 

“Unless I see the mark of the nails on his hands and put my finger into the place where the nails pierced and insert my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

 

Being together, sharing experiences, and receiving both support and challenge from a faith community can nurture belief. No matter how small, this flame of belief may whisper on my best days, “My Lord and My God.”

 

Community as Catalyst

Now, these are aspirations. I strive - and fail - to live by my highest goals. But as Thomas Merton reminds us in his famous prayer: “the fact that I think I am following your will / does not mean that I am actually doing so. / But I believe that the desire to please you / does in fact please you.”

 

Thirty years on, just as Thomas found reassurance in his community, I continue to be strengthened by the GSV community and the memories in my heart. I learn of young people at service. I see reunions rekindle the bonds of love. I observe the lived faith of the Good Shepherd Sisters passed on.

 

Brooklyn and the GSV live rent-free in my head. My spirituality formed by the GSV, my Brooklyn community and Red Hook Community Center demands evidence, making the invisible visible and relying on a community to clarify and strengthen.



A headshot of a man with glasses in an orange shirt. The background is an orange circle with white polka dots.

Andrew was in the second group of GSV, 1993-1994. He is proud he was the first man to serve with GSV. In Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood, he lived with Karen Allen and Sophia Maier. Andrew recently celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary and is learning what it means to be a father of a ‘tween. He has enjoyed being a reporter, writing about communities in Vermont, New Hampshire and Georgia. Now, he works at the Georgia Bulletin, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.


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