Parishes and ministries throughout the Province are counting their blessings from God this season by reaching out to those in need.
Thanksgiving projects by friars and their partners-in-ministry include food drives, community meals, a cheesecake fundraiser and distribution of warm clothing on a breadline.
In New England
The community of the Church of St. Mary in Providence, R.I., where Frank Sevola, OFM, is the pastor, collected money, supermarket gift cards and food items for its Thanksgiving fund. All money was used to buy additional food gift cards for the needy.
The church is also gearing up for the Christmas “Giving Tree” program. The tree is being decorated with paper ornaments showing names of people in need and their desired Christmas gifts. Many parishioners also donate supermarket gift cards for Christmas.
At St. Anthony Shrine and Ministry Center in Boston, the Franciscan Food Center held a Thanksgiving Fixins Distribution on Nov. 22 that was described as an “overall success” by Joyce Longergan, the director and assistant director of the FCC. Over the course of the day, about 440 members, representing more than 1,500 people were served, according to a letter that was sent to David Convertino, OFM, director of St. Anthony Shrine. “With the blood drive as a back-drop and the kick-off of the Kids Program Christmas announcement we were able to create a community surrounding that was caring, positive and very helpful for so many people.”
In New York
St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany, N.Y., prepared roughly 50 Thanksgiving baskets for delivery to needy families.
“This year, we have worked very hard with other ministries and agencies so whatever we do is in conjunction with others,” said Richard Husted, OFM, pastor.
Staff member Kathy Russ coordinated the food program with a volunteer, and religious education students and adults delivered the baskets. The church also coordinated efforts with St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Olean, which sponsors a Thanksgiving dinner.
The St. Francis of Assisi Church community in New York City, where Jerome Massimino, OFM, is the pastor, will once again begin its “Hoodie Project” on Nov. 27 and 28. The Hoodie Project provides warm clothing, in this case a hooded sweatshirt, to patrons of its weekly breadline. As in past years, gloves, hats and handmade knitted scarves from the St. Francis Knitting group were handed out in addition to a new sweatshirt — donated by parishioners — is part of the gift bag.
Before the breadline distribution, volunteers will assemble the gift packages. “The volunteers work diligently to fold and pack the items to provide a compact, easily manageable package that can be carried off into the streets,” said Edward Trochimczuk, director of volunteer ministry.
“The generosity of the parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Church never ceases to amaze our pastoral staff. Last year we can safely say we almost tripled the amount of hoodies that we requested. Knitted scarfs and hats are almost equaled,” said Trochimczuk.
St. Stephen of Hungary Church in New York City is holding a community dinner for Thanksgiving. “Life in the city being what it is, we realize that some of us may not be able to join our families for the holiday for one reason or another,” said pastor Angelus Gambatese, OFM. Dinner is served at 1:30 p.m., and tickets are $5. The church also collected food and money for the needy.
Also at St. Stephen, the Carrefour Francophone ministry is offering a meal following a 4:30 p.m. Mass on Nov. 25.
In the Mid-Atlantic Region
St. Anthony of Padua Church in Butler, N.J., held its Annual Thanksgiving Bake Sale, which this year included homemade pies and pumpkin bread from pastor Michael Jones, OFM. Orders were picked up after Masses last weekend.
St. Francis of Assisi Parish on Long Beach Island, N.J., where Stephen Kluge, OFM, is the pastor, collected food for needy families and offered a community meal. The 14th Annual Thanksgiving Community Meal, sponsored by the parish’s youth ministry program, is being held Nov. 25 at 4 p.m. in the St. Francis Center gymnasium.
The Human Concerns Committee of the St. Francis Community Center also sponsored the Thanksgiving Project, an annual outreach that collects food for families in need so they can have a holiday meal.
St. Paul Parish in Wilmington, Del., held its annual Thanksgiving cheesecake fundraiser. More than 500 cheesecakes were purchased and sold at a profit, according to pastor Todd Carpenter, OFM. The church also participated in an Interfaith Thanksgiving Prayer Service this week that included members of several Catholic and Protestant churches as well as a local mosque. Michael Tyson, OFM, was St. Paul’s coordinator.
In the Carolinas
The youth ministry of Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, N.C., where Daniel McLellan, OFM, is pastor, prepared Thanksgiving food baskets for families in need. The parish’s young people signed up at the parish’s youth ministry to contribute two canned foods and $2. The money was used to purchase turkeys and other food.
St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville, S.C., where Patrick Tuttle, OFM, is the pastor, held its second annual free community Thanksgiving dinner, hosted by Regular Individuals Sharing Kindness — or Risk — on Nov. 23.
From New England to Florida, the Province’s ministries will continue to share their joy and their services. Whether it is to donate meals, sing songs or pray together, the communities are appreciating the holiday spirit.
— Wendy Healy, a freelance writer based in Connecticut, is a frequent contributor to this newsletter.