Follow Us!

NWICatholic Count your Blessings! With Thanksgiving approaching, our minds are focused on gratitude. Tell us what you are thank… https://t.co/t9JpXzJVCc
NWICatholic The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) will host a virtual rosary event today on Oct. 7, the Memorial of O… https://t.co/91lU3vcBwG
NWICatholic Bishop McClory encourages Catholics to embrace the Pope's new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti. “Our love of God, and His… https://t.co/ADpIyxwfy9
NWICatholic Do you have a faith-filled father? Tell us about him in 75 words or less, and your comment may be included in the N… https://t.co/YvaGzmSF9U
NWICatholic Friends, please set a reminder to join Bishop McClory via livestream at 12:30 p.m. this Sunday for Mother's Day Fam… https://t.co/qHqq3rqfM8
NWICatholic Bishop letter regarding the reopening of public Masses ... https://t.co/bZnNszIgSS
NWICatholic Bishop Letter to the Faithful: Current protocols for worship remain the same... https://t.co/zJpCYiPF8E

St. John the Evangelist parishioners gearing up to provide meals to those in need

 112020Thanksgiving meals

Andrew Wolfe, St. John the Evangelist pastoral associate of service and outreach and youth ministry, assembles boxes for the  parish's Thanksgiving meal delivery to about 400 families in Northwest Indiana. Between Wednesday and Thursday, some 50 parishioners will be donating their time during this annual event to pack and deliver turkey dinners for 750 people. In addition to the pile of boxes that will be assembled, Wolfe is flanked by items that will be heading to the parish's More Than Meals, known as MTM, Food Pantry. MTM, located at 11350 School Street, St. John, is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays.

 

BY LYNDA J. HEMMERLING

NWIC Correspondent

 

      ST. JOHN – Cooked turkey with all the trimmings will be served with bread rolls, pie, and a smile again this Thanksgiving by St. John the Evangelist parishioners to 750 people in Northwest Indiana.

      After morning Mass and before eating their own turkey dinners, SJE parishioners, for the third consecutive year, will be loading their vehicles with boxes of prepared meals to distribute to some 400 families from Cedar Lake and Crown Point to East Chicago and Gary whose names have been provided by Catholic Charities, other non-profit organizations, and parishes in the Diocese of Gary.

      “Catholic Charities appreciates the dinners that are being delivered to our families,” said Joanne Pivarnik, director of programs for Catholic Charities. “As hard we try to serve food items to make the holidays special for our families, there are times that we can’t give the extras. When one of our churches offers to assist us and is able to give our families something extra, it also reminds us that we are not alone in trying to ensure that all have food, especially during the holiday season. From our staff to all that have volunteered to serve these families, we say, ‘thank you and Happy Thanksgiving.’”

      Andrew Wolfe, SJE pastoral associate for service and outreach and youth ministry, said this is a wonderful time of year for grateful SJE parishioners to share with others. “The meals we provide on Thanksgiving are a phenomenal outreach opportunity because it gives many parishioners the ability to share their blessings with others,” Wolfe said. “This is a positive experience for everyone involved because it gives the opportunity to truly be the hands and feet of Christ in the world by intentionally feeding many families on a day almost everyone gives thanks for the myriad gifts God has given us.”

      Katy DeSchepper, SJE religious education director, used to run the program when she was in charge of service and outreach. She said this is the third year the parish is preparing cooked meals. “Reaching outside of our town to neighborhood communities builds relationships and lifelong friendships,” she said.

      The current program provides a fully cooked meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie. Parishioners gather on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving at St. Archangel Michael Serbian Social Center in Lansing, Ill., where they work together under the watchful eye of Andy Kaptur, caterer and SJE parishioner.

      “We have been blessed our whole life and we try to give back whenever we can,” Kaptur said of his family. “I feel honored to be able to do it.”

      In the past Kaptur has not only donated kitchen space but also covered the cost of turkey and the trimmings. Because of the stress of COVID-19 on the catering industry, SJE is underwriting much of the expense this year.

      Also due to COVID-19 concerns, Wolfe said families and friends will be following social distancing protocol as they work together for the goal of providing dinners to needy families with a spirit of love. Some 50 SJE parishioners help make this happen “by preparing the meals on the day before Thanksgiving, as well as delivering them on the day of,” Wolfe said.

      “People still need to be fed,” said Father Sammie Maletta, pastor of SJE. “We need to step up to the plate, so that is what we are doing. This way they will have a full meal for Thanksgiving.”

      DeSchepper noted that many families are faced with unsettling challenges such as no electricity, gas or transportation. “Delivering meals on Thanksgiving Day helps the clients find comfort and reassurance that they will have a hot meal for their families,” she said. “Thanksgiving is a day for families to join together and enjoy the traditional meal and company. I believe this program shows them they matter and regardless of their situation, someone loves them.”

      Father Maletta stated the parish has “always done something” at Thanksgiving for needy families but embarked on this project to “do something more ecumenical.” Therefore, when a call went out from Pathway Church in St. John, SJE responded.

      DeSchepper recalled how the St. John Chamber of Commerce had posted a request by Pathway for assistance with providing Thanksgiving meals. The two churches worked together for the first few years before SJE established its own program.

      The process is simple, Wolfe said. “We reach out to various organizations, charities, and churches for the names of people in need who may not have a meal on Thanksgiving,” he said. “Once we begin receiving the names, we announce to our parish that we will need people to help with preparing the meals and delivering them. We make routes for each driver to take meals to three or four families. Finally, we prepare the meals on the day before Thanksgiving and then have the drivers deliver them. In total, the opportunity takes many, many hours of planning of details, but it is always worth it to reflect Jesus' love for us in giving a simple gift on a day when we all give thanks together.”

      Pivarnik said the Thanksgiving dinners are a blessing to families, most of whom do not have the means to purchase the many groceries needed to make a meal and celebrate the holiday with their family. “The food stamps they receive barely support their food intake for the month and they find themselves going to food pantries to supplement their food resources for their household,” Pivarnik said. “The prices are going up, and most do not see the increase in their monthly allotment of food stamps. Some of our neighbors don’t even qualify for food stamps, after they pay their bills (which are basic living bills) they don’t seem to have a lot of money left for food. This is where food pantries come in to help them get through those hard times.

      “When someone reaches out and wants to do something for them, like a Thanksgiving or Christmas meal, it makes them feel special,” Pivarnik said. “It gives them, even for a day, the opportunity to feel like everything is good. They can sit with their family and enjoy a hearty meal and be thankful. I have had many neighbors say, ‘it feels good to have others think of us who are going through hard times or are less fortunate.’

      “I have had others tell me that someday when they can, they will pay it forward because they were so blessed to receive this kindness. Every single family has responded with such gratitude for being able to receive such kindness and to be able to have a prepared meal delivered to them,” Pivarnik added.

      “This meal is more than a dinner; it reminds people that there are people in their community that care and are willing to do something to help someone that they don’t even know and don’t expect anything in return,” she noted.

      Wolfe said SJE has “helped roughly 1,200 people in the past, but this year is less due to some restrictions with COVID-19.”

      Wolfe said he is impressed how everything is falling into place. “To a certain degree, we are able to give a very simple but nice gift to families that might otherwise have gone without a Thanksgiving meal. St. John the Evangelist parish provides the gift, but we are merely channeling a mere iota of what God has given us.”

      Noting that the parish has a food pantry at 11350 School Street, St. John, Father Maletta encouraged people to reach out to More Than Meals, known as MTM, Food Pantry for assistance with food staples and household items. MTM is open from 9 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays.

      MTM is an expanded version of the St. Vincent DePaul Society food pantry that parishioners have been operating for decades. “It is a blessing to have an opportunity to help those in need,” Father Maletta said.

See more content!

To view more articles and search our website register with NWICatholic.com.

Join The Flock

Flock Note