By Elizabeth Lowe
A line wrapped around the corner and extended down the street from St. Benedict in Baltimore Dec. 16 as people waited to enter the parish center.
About 250 families were waiting to pick up food, coats, blankets and gifts through the parish’s Christmas outreach program.
“The need is greater than ever,” said Benedictine Father Paschal A. Morlino, pastor of St. Benedict. “So many people are unemployed.”
Before the distribution began, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori stood in the vast church and blessed the food and gifts. Pews were filled with hundreds of bags of vegetables and wrapped gifts.
“I want to thank everybody for your spirit of love and your spirit of outreach,” Archbishop Lori said. “The spirit of Christmas, it’s right here. You have already brought me so much Christmas joy.”
For about two hours, volunteers ushered people through a line to pick out coats, sweaters and blankets, and pick up their gifts and food, which included canned goods, vegetables, turkeys, eggs and bread.
Those on the receiving end smiled and said “thank you” as they took the items, all of which were donated to the parish, said Mary Karpers-Burke, a St. Benedict parishioner who coordinates the parish’s food pantry and Christmas outreach program.
“The charity is there amongst the people,” Karpers-Burke said. “It makes you appreciate every little thing that you have, 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 Barbara Duvall came to the parish for food and gifts.
“It means a lot to me,” said Duvall, 50. “It takes a lot of stress off me.”
Baltimore resident Easter Jackson, who lives on a fixed income and visits the parish’s food pantry each month, said St. Benedict helps her “quite a bit.”
“I just thank God for this parish,” said Jackson, 71. “It’s a blessing to me.”
In addition to the food and gift distribution, about 20 parishioners walked through the neighborhood singing Christmas carols and handing out cookies.
Christine Basil, a 2007 graduate of Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville and a St. Benedict parishioner who caroled and helped with the food distribution, called the parish’s outreach “an opportunity to serve Christ.”
“To be a part of that, it’s so much a part of our faith,” said Basil, 23. “It’s so much an outflow of the beauty of the liturgies. It’s beautiful to see.”
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Copyright (c) Dec. 19, 2012 CatholicReview.org