“We need to help...”

These are the words most often heard whenever James Parsons walked into the Parish Office. James, a street minister, who operated under the name Blessed Family Street Ministry, passed away last week in his home. Over the decades, he has helped so many, touching the lives of each soul that he encountered. He will be missed by all who knew him.

James Parsons lost his father during his high school years. Angry, he turned to a life of violence and crime, becoming the leader of a motorcycle gang with heavy criminal influence in Omaha, and beyond. In 1981, his life changed, completely, as he had a chance encounter with a Catholic priest, who was about to be another victim of James' violent behavior. As James was about to attack Fr. McMahon, who was locking the doors to St. Francis Cabrini Church in Omaha, he heard the words, “Top of the morning to you.” This greeting from the Irish priest caught him off guard, causing James to stop his aggressive behavior towards the priest. With an invitation to talk over coffee, James sat down with Fr. McMahon. The conversation lasted for hours, and James was able to finally let go of the anger that had built up inside of him over the years. After Fr. McMahon gave him absolution, James became an unstoppable force of good in the city of Omaha.

After his conversion, James initially addressed the gang problem in Omaha, helping the gang members leave that violent lifestyle behind. As the years passed, James understood that helping the youth avoid a life of crime meant helping the women and children in the community who fell on hard times. By helping them, the children had a much better chance of avoiding the gangs and the detrimental lifestyle that entails. James' efforts began to shift to helping not just the gang members, but towards helping those who were struggling with financial and material needs. Blessed Family Street Ministry emerged as part of a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the needy, especially the homeless, in Omaha.

Over the past two decades, James spent all of his time and money helping those who were in need of the basics in life – food, clothing, and shelter. From teaming up with Holy Family Church to hand out hundreds of sack lunches to the hungry each weekday, to walking the backwoods of Omaha, looking for the homeless, James was there to help. When he saw a family living on the streets, he pulled together resources from area churches and other charitable organizations to help the family find a place to live, get them some food, and find a job. He was there to help homeless pregnant mothers give birth to their children, and he was there when the homeless took their last breadth and passed from this life. He took everything in stride, from saving people from drowning, breaking up fights, protecting mothers and children from human traffickers, and even being shot a number of times. As he said in a KETV interview, “It is the right thing to do.”

Over the years, James became a regular visitor to the Assumption-Guadalupe Catholic Church parish office. One of his lunch program stops was in the parking lot of the church around 11:30 AM every weekday. James was always available by phone, no matter what the time of day or night, and would not hesitate to call the Parish Office about someone in our community who was in need. The church and James worked together on countless occasions to help those in need in the South Omaha community. And for those of you who attended the Parish festival, the Fiesta, you would have met James if you visited the clowns making balloon figures and painting faces, as he was one of those clowns. We will miss you, James! May you rest in peace.

We need to help...”

If you would like to donate to the needy in memory of James Parsons, a GoFundMe page has been set up for this purpose at: gofundme.com/ymxmp-we-need-to-help