Murphy church fits weekend meals into bags for needy students
MURPHY — During Lent, Catholic Social Services invites parishes to take part in Operation Rice Bowl, a program that collects donations to help fund development programs that promote human dignity and encourage self-reliance. Twenty-five percent of the donations support efforts to alleviate poverty within the Diocese of Charlotte.
St. William Church in Murphy runs one of the programs supported by these local Operation Rice Bowl donations.
The Backpacks Ministry began when it was discovered that 3- and 4-year-olds at a local pre-kindergarten school were not eating their snacks during snack-time. Instead, they were saving them so they would have food to eat over the weekend when they were at home. The publicly-funded school is for children who are not prepared for kindergarten. Being from low-income households, many of them risk going without food when they are not in school.
St. William's parishioners partnered with an area Baptist church to provide weekend meals for the children. When the other church ran out of money, St. William members kept it going with the support of other parishioners and the diocese.
Each week parishioners from the confirmation preparation class gather to pack meals into bags for the students to take home with them. Last year, they filled bags for 30 children, but this year there has been a huge increase. They now fill 51 bags with six meals every week. Because it is likely that the young children will be left to fend for themselves at meal-time, the bagged meals consist of food that is easy to prepare, such as Pop-Tarts, applesauce and peanut butter crackers.
Michelle Calascione, the parish's catechetical leader, reflects on the fact that these children rely on food that can fit into a small bag: "How many people can fit all the food they eat for a whole weekend into a single brown bag?"
Calascione says the ministry also serves an educational purpose for the young parishioners who pack the brown bags.
"They all know why they're doing it, they know what the purpose is," she says.
One of the confirmation class leaders, Sylvia Servin, says the students volunteer their time to do this because "we are called to make a difference in the world. These young children are preparing to receive a sacrament that confirms the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives; this ministry offers them the opportunity to share the fruits of the spirit with those less fortunate."
With the ongoing support of the diocese and parishioners, the ministry has had no problem providing more than 300 meals each week. "It's amazing," Calascione says. "The generosity has been unreal."
— Christopher Lux, correspondent
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