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Serving Food to Needy Communities During the Pandemic

Service to others as lesser brothers has always been part of the Franciscan experience. Now more than ever, friars and their partners-in-ministry throughout Holy Name Province are assisting people in many ways during this coronavirus pandemic crisis. This is the first in a new series inspired by the stories of compassion, service, outreach, and general interest that come across the desk of the HNP Communications Office. If you would like to share your story, email Communications@hnp.org.

John Neuffer hands Port worker Anthony Brown sandwiches to be distributed on Chicago’s South Side. (Photo courtesy of Jim Bernard)

Sandwiches Rolled Out for a Soup Kitchen on Wheels
Each week since March 25, members of the Franciscan community – especially the formation students – at St. Joseph Friary in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, take turns making 100 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and 100 turkey and cheese sandwiches, that feed guests of the Bread Truck – one of the many outreach programs of Port Ministries, an organization established in 1985 whose mission is inspired by St. Francis and the Franciscan charism. The name “Port” is short for Porziuncola, the early Franciscan chapel that St. Francis called, “The Little Portion.”

Volunteers from Port Ministries pick up the sandwiches, along with drinks, fruit, and snacks packed by the friars, and deliver them to the lower south side of Chicago, not far from St. Joseph’s, according to Joe Rozansky, OFM, guardian of the friary.

The simply professed friars prepare sandwiches for those struggling with the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Jim Bernard)

“Some of the guys do the shopping, and almost everyone has a hand in making the sandwiches,” said Joe, assistant director of the interprovincial-novitiate formation program, who noted that funding for the friars’ participation with the Bread Truck – known as the “soup kitchen on wheels” – is provided by the Domestic Mission of the Franciscan Missionary Union of Holy Name Province.

Photos of the programs, volunteers, and patrons of Port Ministries can be found on its Facebook page.

Postulants Distribute Food in Langley Park
The numbers are daunting – 20,000 residents in one square mile in Silver Spring, Maryland, including the Langley Park neighborhood. Most of them are immigrants from Central America who were living on the margins before the coronavirus outbreak, and who now find themselves unemployed and ineligible for state and federal economic relief. The postulants at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, along with members of the adjacent St. Camillus Parish, are trying to fill some of the voids for these struggling families.

Since mid-March, the postulants have been assisting the St. Camillus food pantry and the nutrition program of nearby St. Francis International School, by bagging grab-and-go style meals and delivering them to the Langley Park Catholic Community Center and another drop-off location near the school – where all community members having difficulty putting food on the table are welcome.

A postulant helps distribute food to Langley Park. (Photo courtesy of the St. Camillus Parish Facebook page)

The postulants have helped prepare more than 26,000 meals just for children, and thousands more for adults. In one day alone, they distributed more than 3,000 meals and hundreds of loaves of bread in Langley Park. They have also helped Jacek Orzechowski, OFM, distribute packages of food donated by area businesses.

Although these meals are meant to be supplemental assistance, “for many, these are the only meals that children have on a daily basis,” said Tyler Grudi, an HNP postulant who, like his fellow postulants, is in his first year of experiencing Franciscan life.

Juan Luis, a postulant from St. Barbara Province, said people are “beyond thankful,” when they pick up food. “They tell me they don’t know what they’d do without these meals. Providing this food is essential,” said Juan, who lives with the other postulants at the interprovincial house in Silver Spring.

The outreach work of the postulants, St. Camillus parishioners, and St. Francis International School during the pandemic has been featured by several media outlets, one of which quoted the pastor of another nearby parish, who said of the Franciscan community at St. Camillus: “They keep the charism of St. Francis alive in their parish.”

Compiled by Jim McIntosh, OFM, and Jocelyn Thomas

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