Along the East Coast, friars and ministry members spent Thanksgiving week reaching out to their communities in a variety of ways from serving meals to providing fellowship with parishioners and guests. The events, which began a week before the holiday, offered nourishment and warmth in a season that often brings worry with the chill of winter.
Outside the nation’s capital, St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Md., opened its doors to families for a dinner on Nov 18. The Friday evening pre-Thanksgiving meal was provided by Círculos de Apoyo, or Circles of Support, one of the parish’s responses to the people affected by the Aug. 11 gas explosion at the Flower Branch apartment complex in Silver Spring. The explosion killed seven people and injured more than 40, and more than 80 families were displaced.
“This group, coordinated by Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, Abel Garcia, OFM, and a group of community leaders from the parish and the Latino community at Langley Park, has emerged to offer spiritual, emotional, and communal support for individuals and entire families who have been impacted by this tragedy,” said Christian Seno, OFM, of Holy Name College in Silver Spring. “Our Thanksgiving dinner was an opportunity to solidify and express our thanks for the community of support that formed after the explosion. Approximately 60 people came for the sit-down dinner. Volunteers, including postulants Joseph Annibale, Troy Hillman, and Luis Manuel Rosado helped set up the decorations, plate food, and serve the meal.”
In Boston, St. Anthony Shrine supplied groceries to 500 families on Nov. 21, a day that despite cold temperatures, felt warm to guests and food providers.
“Everything you could imagine for a Thanksgiving feast – turkey, potatoes, squash, carrots, onions, bread, cranberry sauce, stuffing, milk, margarine, chocolates and pastry – was distributed by our Franciscan Food Center,” said executive director Thomas Conway, OFM.
Volunteers, under the supervision of Mary Ann Ponti, the Shrine’s director of outreach programs, distributed groceries and smiles to those in greater Boston who need them most. As a grateful food center member remarked, “It’s so cold out, but I’m not even going to feel it because I am so happy. Thank you so much.”
The Shrine’s FFC supplies groceries to many individuals each week. “We have seen an increase in need in our food center and our other ministries as well,” said Thomas. “The increased need is being driven, in part, by the growing number of people falling below the poverty line, as they struggle to keep up with the rising cost of living, from food to utilities. Many are not able to afford the tradition of a Thanksgiving meal.”
In addition to providing food for the needy, the Shrine took part in #GivingTuesday, the global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. The community’s goal for this year was to raise more than $150,000.
Farther south, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Raleigh, N.C., completed two successful food drives, one for Catholic Parish Outreach and the other for Our Lady of the Rosary Church, according to pastor Steven Patti, OFM. More than 8,000 pounds of food were donated to Catholic Parish Outreach.
“As one of the larger parishes in the diocese, St. Francis is one of the major providers of food donations to both Our Lady of the Rosary and CPO,” said Steven.
On the holiday itself, friars and their partners-in-ministry in Philadelphia, as well as in New York City, distributed food to the hungry through decades-old services.
The St. Francis Inn soup kitchen in Philadelphia fed close to 300 people on Thanksgiving. In addition to the meals offered at its facility in the Kensington neighborhood, the Inn distributed 195 turkeys and baskets of food to families. Many of the donations came from schools, churches and organizations such as the Philadelphia Flyers Alumni Association, which for the past 11 years has been providing the Inn with turkeys to give out to the community
Less than 100 miles north, guests of St. Francis Breadline in Midtown Manhattan were presented with turkey sandwiches loaded with stuffing and cranberry sauce.
Browns, a bagel shop across from St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street, provided fresh warm blueberry bagels to each guest of the breadline.
St. Francis Breadline is the longest running breadline in the country. For the last 86 years, friars and parishioners have been serving food to the hungry in Midtown Manhattan.
“Homelessness and hunger is on the rise and each day men, women, children – whole families – come to the friars looking for warm meals or asking for any available undergarments or clothing,” said David Convertino, OFM, executive director of the HNP Development Office, in an email sent Nov. 22 inviting everyone to visit the Franciscan Store. “Ultimately we must rely on the generosity of people who want to reach out and give a helping hand to so many who don’t have the “basic necessities of life that we have.”
Photos of the events are available on the Facebook page of each ministry.
— Johann Cuervo is communications assistant for Holy Name Province. Research was provided by Jocelyn Thomas.
- “Season of Giving” – Nov. 25, 2016, Star News Philly
- “Serving the Poor, Learning about Goodness” – Oct. 16, 2016, HNP Today
- “Spirit of Giving Thrives Throughout Province” – Nov. 24, 2015, HNP Today
- “Giving Thanks for Two Decades of Franciscan Service and Teamwork” – Nov. 24, 2010, HNP Today
- “St. Francis Breadline Marks 80th Anniversary” – Oct. 13, 2010, HNP Today