Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Soup kitchen benefits hungry and helpers

Elizabeth Lynch writes in the latest issue of The Evangelist:
Feeding the hungry is a pillar of Christian ministry. However, since opening a soup kitchen at the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Watervliet, volunteers are not only serving hot meals to guests but also, they say, sharing reconciliation and faith among a growing circle of parishioners and neighbors.

“Mary’s Kitchen,” explained Sharon Kowalski, director of faith formation and youth ministry at the parish, “has the goal of providing the same kind of welcome as [to those] people who gathered around the Blessed Mother’s table — Jesus and the disciples.”

Mary’s Kitchen serves soup and sandwiches every Monday from 3:30-5:50 p.m.
Since it just opened in February, the number of guests is still small. But those served are grateful and those ready to serve are growing in number.

Though the project began among the youth of the parish, it has also drawn in many retirees and older volunteers looking to help and make productive use of their days. “About 50 people signed up to volunteer,” said Mrs. Kowalski.

The workers range in age from 16 to 70-plus. Many are not even parishioners or even Catholic, she said, adding: “It’s such a joy working together, laughing. It has been a wonderful community-builder for the parish.”

Frank Garceau, catechist and volunteer, sees it as a part of the healing process.
“I’m seeing the parish come together,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot with Called to be Church.”

In 2005, six parishes merged to create Immaculate Heart of Mary. “The process didn’t set well with some,” Mr. Garceau reported. “People said, ‘I’ll do this and that’s all. This is what I’ve always done.’ The soup kitchen has knocked down those barriers.”

Donations for the kitchen come from volunteers, parishioners and the Knights of Columbus. Mr. Garceau solicits donations from community businesses as well.

“I want to get corporate America involved,” he said. “But it’s tough times. Corporations say, ‘I can’t help you,’ or, ‘I can help, but it’s just a one-time deal.’”

Hard times are what sparked the soup kitchen idea.

“I was alone in the office,” explained Mrs. Kowalski, “when a young man came to the door asking for a meal. It was freezing out and the snow was whirling. I didn’t have anything to give him.”

She told him he could sign up for a food basket.

“He looked at me and said, ‘I don’t have anywhere to cook it. I need something to eat now.’ Watching him turn and walk out into the snow and the darkness, I thought of the Gospel, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and not give you to eat?’”
We recommend you read the rest of the article here.