Providing Nourishment for Bodies and Souls
“…For I was hungry, and you gave me food…”
For more than 10 years, the people of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Burlington, North Carolina, have responded to the words of Jesus with a monthly distribution from the Little Portion Food Pantry. Originally, they served around 150 families each month. But the numbers climbed steadily over the years, and since the economic upheaval from the pandemic, the number of families served has soared, now averaging more than 900 each month.
“When Covid hit, the Food Pantry exploded,” said Friar Vincent Rubino, pastor of Blessed Sacrament. “There was grant money available that Friar Paul Lininger was able to access, and we received other contributions of money and food. It’s grown to a level that is on par with Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Raleigh.
The parish’s Knights of Columbus came up with an idea to Stuff-A-Truck, in which they take donations from parishioners and others in the community. There is also a place inside the church where donations can be left. This is in addition to the financial contributions from the parish.
The donated and purchased items are placed in boxes and bags for distribution. Basic cooking staples are the first ingredient.
The need hasn’t diminished.
“The lines aren’t getting any shorter,” Friar Vincent said. “The boxes are for either families of four or six. It’s only a supplement – certainly not enough to live on. But it provides a way of getting through the month. And it’s not only those who are obviously poor. You can’t tell someone’s status from the car they drive. There are those who are construction workers or others who may be struggling with full-time employment. Different economic statuses, different times – people need help.”
Franciscans have staffed Blessed Sacrament since the 1980s. There are five Masses on the weekends, three in English and two in Spanish, and all are very well attended. Friar Vincent sees a link between the parish’s commitment to the poor and its Franciscan heritage.
“There’s a great fit between the parishioners and the spirit of St. Francis and it shows in their outreach,” he said. “They’re working with people in their own backyard, having fun while helping those in need. We have people from other churches helping, and students from Elon University. This work feeds the volunteers as well. It’s just part of our charism to reach out to the poor and anyone else who needs help.”
The above is an excerpt from an article originally published in the Messenger of St. Anthony magazine.