Spirit of Giving Thrives Throughout Province

Mary Best In the Headlines


From left to right: Fr. Harry Kaufman, Mary Ann Ponti, and Thomas Conway, director of St. Anthony Shrine, with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. (Photo courtesy of John Aherne)

The spirit of St. Francis is alive and well throughout the Province this holiday season, even more so than is evident year-round, thanks to the generous nature of Franciscan-hearted people reaching out to those in need. Parishes and other ministries are using this time to further extend a helping hand to their communities, whether it be a donation of time, clothing or food.

The HNP Development Office’s “Gather 4 Good, Give 5 for Food” campaign is continuing through the holiday season. People around the world are encouraged to donate at least five dollars to The Friars Challenge and share their support on social media using the hashtag #Give5forFood. Donations will assist the friars in serving more than two million people on the East Coast by providing food, shelter and medical assistance, as well as financial assistance with tuition, funerals, rent and other personal needs.

New England
In Boston, the Franciscan Food Center at St. Anthony Shrine held a special Thanksgiving grocery distribution on Nov. 23. Mayor Marty Walsh helped distribute turkeys and traditional fixings to the 500 families and individuals who attended. “Friars and volunteers looked forward to making it a great day of giving, providing not only nourishment but hope and love for the holiday season,” said Mary Ann Ponti, director of outreach programs.

In Harford, Conn., St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish organized a Hunger Banquet on Nov. 18 to benefit House of Bread, which offers food, education, housing, and medical, psychological and legal services to those in need. The parish also held its seventh annual turkey drive, sponsored by the Men’s Fellowship Group on Nov. 21 and 22, where it collected frozen turkeys, bags and boxes of stuffing mix and canned vegetables, also to benefit the House of Bread.

New York
In Buffalo, the St. Patrick Food Pantry distributed a bounty of food last week.

“This year, we were able to give our pantry clients a happy Thanksgiving due to the generosity of people who are unknown to us by name. We purchased turkeys and turkey breasts that will be given to all of our pantry clients along with all the trimmings that we receive from the Food Bank and also donations of food that we received recently from a parish that supports us yearly,” said Monica Kwiatkowski, director of the pantry. “Our clients will have not only a bountiful, but also a healthy, nutritional meal to share with their family or friends.”

Roughly an hour south of Buffalo, 70 families from St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany donated the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal for 70 area families, according to pastor James Vacco, OFM. When the families pick up their Thanksgiving boxes, they will be able to go to the parish thrift store and select children’s coats that have been donated by children in the religious education program. During the Advent season, a weekly special collection called the Swaddling Clothes Drive is being held to gather designated items, such as underwear and basic toiletries, for the area shelters and halfway houses.

In Loudonville, N.Y., Siena College hosted a Stomp Out Homelessness event on Nov. 15 that raised funds and awareness for Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless. The event was planned around the Siena women’s basketball game against Northeastern University at Siena’s Alumni Recreation Center. Albany’s News Channel 13 covered the event.


Members of the youth ministry of St. Anthony Parish in Butler, N.J., assisted in sorting and distributing food donated by parishioners. (Photo courtesy of Robert Norton)

New Jersey
In northern New Jersey, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Butler passed out to every family that comes to church shopping bags on Nov. 7 and 8 with suggested needs. The parishioners later returned their offering to the sanctuary so that their “bread” could be connected to the offerings of their neighbors, according to pastor Robert Norton, OFM. The Youth Ministry sorted and distributed the donations last weekend. In addition to Thanksgiving, Robert said the parish sees that families have enough food for Christmas and the upcoming winter.

“Thanksgiving is a very special time of year for us,” Robert said. “It is perhaps the closest thing that we have as a ‘National Spiritual Holiday’ in these United States. We recall a time in our history when our pilgrim forefathers might have perished through starvation had it not been for the Native Americans who not only provided food for their larder, but also taught our forefathers the art of planting and sowing and reaping the fruits of the earth.”

In nearby Pompton Lakes, the outreach ministry of St. Mary’s Parish began collecting turkey donations from parishioners earlier this month so the church’s food pantry could provide food baskets for Thanksgiving dinner for the 219 families the pantry serves on a monthly basis. This year, the ministry hosted its 40th Annual Thanksgiving Dinner for area nursing home residents on Nov. 21, a joint effort of many longtime volunteers. Entertainment was provided and the children from St. Mary’s Grammar School and the Hispanic ministry entertained the guests with music and dance. “The event was a parish-wide celebration which involves many of its ministries,” said Jacqueline Rose, outreach director.

In Wood-Ridge, the Church of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady’s Secular Franciscan Fraternity feeds the poor through the food bank that is open every Wednesday, according to pastor Richard Mucowski, OFM. Some parishioners also continue to bring supplies to St Francis Inn in Philadelphia, which has fed hundreds of people every day since 1976.

Maryland and Virginia
In Silver Spring, Md., the food pantry of St. Camillus Parish will be giving out turkeys to close to 100 families and 250 chickens to the rest. The turkeys are gifts from a nearby parish, while the chickens were purchased with grant money, according to Joan Conway, a volunteer at the food pantry.

In Triangle, Va., St. Francis of Assisi Parish is distributing food through its food pantry, St. Francis House, as well as participating in a community-wide Operation Turkey food drive. The school is participating in a variety of service activities including visiting and performing programs for local retirement homes and providing dessert for residents, conducting a prayer service in conjunction with a food drive for the food pantry, sending greetings to active-duty military families serving overseas, creating food baskets the food pantry, sending spiritual bouquets to parishioners who are sick or homebound, and raking leaves for elderly parishioners, said Rob Goraieb, coordinator of Franciscan action and advocacy.

The Carolinas
In Raleigh, N.C., St. Francis of Assisi Parish completed two successful food drives, one for Catholic Parish Outreach and the other for a rural parish in Louisburg, according to pastor Steven Patti, OFM. More than 9,000 pounds of food were donated to Catholic Parish Outreach.

Further south, St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Anderson, S.C., will spend the day before Thanksgiving helping serve dinner at Anderson Soup Kitchen. On Thanksgiving day, the parish will hold a bilingual Mass at 10 a.m. and an English Mass at St. Joseph’s Church at 11 a.m., to which parishioners are invited to bring food for a blessing. After the Masses, friars will go to Travelers Rest to have Thanksgiving dinner with their Poor Clare Sisters.

In Macon, where the friars recently settled, St. Peter Claver Church and St. Vincent de Paul Food Bank prepared and distributed Thanksgiving meals for 100 families in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood on Nov. 11. Guests were invited to coffee and cake as volunteers gave them food items for their Thanksgiving meal, according to pastor William McIntyre, OFM.

On Thanksgiving morning, St. Peter Claver Parish also celebrate a bilingual Thanksgiving Day Mass. Families are encouraged to bring a food donation to the parish St. Vincent de Paul food pantry, which feeds 160 families from the church’s neighborhood every month.

St. Peter Claver School and Mount de Sales Academy students are collecting Thanksgiving food for 12 families. Frank Critch, OFM, is the chaplain at both schools. The families in need are chosen from the St. Peter Claver Parish and School communities.

The generous nature of so many is sure to continue throughout the holiday season into Christmas and the New Year to spread the spirit of St. Francis.

Mary Best is a St. Bonaventure University graduate who lives in Western New York.

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