By Elizabeth Lowe and Maria Wiering
A line extended down the street from St. Benedict in Baltimore Dec. 16, where 250 families picked up food, coats, blankets and gifts through the parish’s Christmas outreach.
“The need is greater than ever,” said Benedictine Father Paschal A. Morlino, pastor. “So many are unemployed.”
Archbishop William E. Lori blessed food and gifts in the vast church, where hundreds of bags of vegetables and wrapped gifts filled pews.
“The spirit of Christmas, it’s right here,” Archbishop Lori said. “You have already brought me so much Christmas joy.”
Mary Karpers-Burke coordinates St. Benedict’s food pantry and Christmas outreach.
“It makes you appreciate every little thing that you have,” she said, “but you walk away with a good feeling that you’ve helped somebody. You’ve given them a hand up rather than a hand out.”
Baltimore resident Easter Jackson, who lives on a fixed income, visits the parish’s food pantry each month.
“I just thank God for this parish,” said Jackson, 71. “It’s a blessing to me.”
About 20 parishioners walked through the neighborhood singing Christmas carols and handing out cookies. Christine Basil, 23, called the outreach “an opportunity to serve Christ. To be a part of that, it’s so much a part of our faith. It’s so much an outflow of the beauty of the liturgies. It’s beautiful to see.”
Other Catholic parishes, schools and institutions across the archdiocese opened their hearts to make a better Christmas for others. A sampling of their examples follows.
Archbishop Spalding High
The school in Severn continued its involvement with Adopt-A-Family, sponsoring 53 families. Homerooms and school clubs filled cardboard boxes with food gift cards, nonperishable food items, undergarments, sweaters, mittens, gloves, hats and cleaning supplies.
Calvert Hall College High School in Towson joined with Vehicles for Change to provide a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix to a single mother with three children. She will use the car to travel to her new job, as the director of a Baltimore daycare center.
Charlestown and Oak Crest
At Charlestown in Catonsville, the resident-led woodshop constructed and decorated handmade toys that were donated to the U.S. Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots. Fourteen residents volunteered more than 275 hours making 63 toys, from planes to puzzles and pull toys.
Fifty residents from Oak Crest in Parkville, another Erickson continuing care retirement community, filled 400 Christmas stockings with toys and other items, which went to the Salvation Army.
Oak Crest employees participated in a day of giving Dec. 13, adopting various charities.
St. Casimir School
Last month, the school community in Canton donated blankets, batteries, flashlights, diapers, children’s clothing and paper products to families in Toms River, N.J., affected by Superstorm Sandy.
Clare Glenn, development director, said the student council spearheaded the collection. Eric Knobloch, a member of the school’s technology committee and a pilot, flew the items to New Jersey.
Then came a Christmas toy drive, led by 5-year-old Sadie Mirjafary, a pre-K student and first-grader Tyler Hiebler-Martin. Hundreds of toys and money donations were collected. Their families delivered the toys to a parish in Point Pleasant, N.J. Dec. 15.
St. John, Westminster
The Knights of Columbus council No. 1393 hosted a holiday party Dec. 17 for more than 65 Carroll County families participating in Catholic Charities of Baltimore’s Head Start and Early Head Start programs. The party included a ham and potluck meal, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and small gifts.
Children received hats, gloves and mittens, donated by the council.
Richard Nestor, a Knight and the program’s coordinator, said the council has thrown the evening party for about 10 years.
“We want to let the kids have fun for the one night at least, because they may not have it at Christmastime, given the financial situation of a lot of the Head Start families,” he said. “You see the faces and all the fun they have. It put us all into the Christmas spirit.”
St Mark School
Abbey Regan, a first-grader at St. Mark School in Catonsville, rolled and cut cookie dough Dec. 13. With help from parents and grandparents, 35 first-graders at the Catonsville school baked and decorated 136 dozen cookies that were delivered to Our Daily Bread in Baltimore. The tradition spans more than 25 years.
St. Mary, Petersville
St. Francis of Assisi, Brunswick
To honor the St. Nicholas tradition of putting gifts in shoes, the twinned parishes St. Francis of Assisi, Brunswick, and St. Mary, Petersville, accepted donations of new and gently used shoes. Organizers gathered about 38 pairs, which were donated to the Salvation Army and Goodwill.
Rose Marie Burkey coordinated the outreach, a parish tradition. They do it “just to help people that don’t have as much as we would have at Christmas,” Burkey said. “We do it for the people who can’t do it for themselves.”
St. Michael, Poplar Springs
Parishioners added Christmas cookies and handmade Christmas tree ornaments to more than 700 lunches for people in need Dec. 15.
“It’s touching to me that so many people at this time of year can put aside all of their craziness and help others,” said Tricia Buckman, who coordinates the cookie donation. “It’s a way of saying you’re not alone, and God’s watching over you. It’s the message of the season. It’s the reason we celebrate.”
Monthly, the parish contributes lunches with hearty sandwiches and snacks to Beacon House in Frederick and Our Daily Bread and Beans and Bread in Baltimore. This is the fifth year St. Michael parishioners added Christmas cookies to the lunches.
St. Peter, Oakland
The church participated in the local Rotary Club’s charitable program by hanging tags with the wish list of local children on Christmas trees at both of its parish sites. The parish supported 73 families this year.
“It’s something they can do and feel like they are helping the children of our area,” said Donna Cook, parish secretary.
Funding was low for the Helping Hands program in Emmitsburg in December, and the charity sent out a plea for extra donations. Businesses and individuals contributed more than $4,700, which more than funded the resource gap. Helping Hands served 128 families this year.
Daughter of Charity and Seton Center Director Sister Salvatrice Murphy called the response “amazing” and “unbelievable.”
“This community takes care of each other,” she said.
Christmas related articles: After nine months in a shelter, family gets a home for the holidays
Copyright (c) Dec. 25, 2012 CatholicReview.org