Poor children who live in St. Peter Claver Parish in Macon, Ga., will be attending summer camp this year thanks to the generosity of strangers who live more than 600 miles away in Triangle, Va.
Holy Name Province’s newest parish is located in an impoverished and run-down neighborhood in Macon. Many of the small, single-family houses that surround the church have been abandoned and boarded-up.
Because the neighborhood is not safe enough for the children to play outside, the parish began a summer camp last year for four-year-olds to rising fifth grade students to give them a safe place to have fun. As staff members began to plan for this year’s camp, Frank Critch, OFM, discovered that many children who wanted to attend last year couldn’t because their parents were unable to afford the $125 per week fee.
“The summer camp is needed for children, both in the school and in the community, who would otherwise not be involved in any program,” said Frank, who moved to Macon when Holy Name Province began caring for the parish last fall. “This camp helps them keep up skills learned throughout the year so they won’t be behind when the new school year begins. It also gives one-parent families added income, as they won’t have to spend their limited wages on childcare.”
Feeling concerned, Frank contacted out to Kevin Downey, OFM, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish, where Frank was stationed from 2012 to 2014. Together, the friars planned a pasta dinner at the Triangle parish to raise money for summer camp scholarships. The food would be purchased by Kevin and prepared by Frank, who had operated a restaurant before becoming a friar.
The event was announced to parishioners one week before it took place on March 5. Volunteers were invited to make sauce or bring dessert. The cost of the dinner was a free-will offering.
Frank hoped the dinner would raise three or four thousand dollars. The amount of money gathered by the fundraiser wildly exceeded his expectations.
“When the final total hit more than $19,000, his eyes filled up and he was speechless — a moment that I enjoyed!” Kevin said with a smile. “Our parish is unbelievably generous, for which both Frank and I are very grateful.”
The event was well attended — so well attended, that Kevin was initially concerned that the organizers would run out of food.
“How Frank performed the ‘miracle of the multiplication of the pasta’ that night, I will never know,” he remarked. “When I saw the line of people going into the parish center after the 5:30 p.m. Mass, I panicked. I went in through the kitchen door expecting to find mayhem, but there was Frank and a group of volunteers busy stirring the pasta, making salads, and putting out desserts. Everything was calm. When I asked him if he wanted me to order pizzas, he threw me out of the kitchen!”
Both friars expressed their gratitude for the parishioners’ generosity.
“Thank you to everyone who financially contributed, who worked with Frank in the kitchen, and who donated food for the evening,” said Kevin. “The evening was a great success — everyone was fed, everyone had a great time, and because of this, a lot of kids in Macon, Ga., are going to have a great and safe summer.”
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “Georgia Parish Welcomes Franciscans” — Sept. 30, 2015, HNP Today
- “Province Announces New Ministry, Fraternity in Georgia” — Aug. 10, 2015, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Friars Now Serving Macon” — Sept. 26, 2015, The Telegraph