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All News Is Local – and So Is Charity – Thanks to a New Catholic Charities/Parish Partnership

Posted on September 14, 2018 by Alice Kenny  |  Share

Collaboration Targets Services Where They Are Needed Most

Bunk beds for impoverished families, a baby center for new moms and food deliveries for the homebound represent a few of the innovative projects parishes are now using to address local need thanks to a new collaboration between parishes and Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New York.  Initiated by Cardinal Dolan, this three-year antipoverty initiative was formally announced at New York churches last year at the special Sunday-before- Thanksgiving collection typically taken to help fund U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) charitable work nationwide.  But this time a portion was set aside, enabling local parishes and community organizations to draw on Catholic Charities’ expertise as they brainstormed how to best target charitable funds to serve their own neighbor’s needs.  At St. Charles Borromeo church in Harlem on last Friday, September 7, parish representatives celebrated with Catholic Charities as the agency distributed grants to serve these needs.

Together parishes collected nearly $413,000, almost 10-percent more than collected the prior year.  Those involved attribute this increase to positive response to outreach educating parishoners about the change, encouragement parishes received to apply for grants and the realization that donations could be used to help those in need in their own communities. 

“Parishes do a lot to help needy folks but, unless there was a Catholic Charities office in the parish neighborhood, there was sometimes a disconnect between their work and ours,” says Richard Espinal who, as Catholic Charities Associate Director for Parish and Community Engagement, oversaw the project.  “This gives us an opportunity to collaborate on the work we each already do and think of ways to do more.”

In the past, Mr. Espinal adds, charitable grants tended to target low-income communities in New York City while missing some struggling communities upstate.  Thanks to this initiative, the 27 parish grants Catholic Charities gave out last week cover every county in the archdiocese, from Staten Island all the way up to Sullivan County.  Catholic Charities also distributed grants to eight community-based organizations in including Pax Cristi Metro New York, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, Altagracia Faith and Justice Works in Inwood and Don Bosco Workers Center in Port Chester.

The most pressing needs identified by each parish and organization were different, as reflected in the different grants they requested and received.  In addition to the bunk beds, baby center and homebound food deliveries, some other examples include:

  • St. Cecelia’s parish, East Harlem:  Outreach teams to check on neighbors in need in housing developments
  • Holy Cross parish, Soundview:  Help pay for Con Edison, groceries and other bills
  • Our Lady of Lourdes, Hamilton Heights:  Young adult mentoring for its large Eritrean immigrant community
  • St. Francis, Rockland County:  Care packages for the incarcerated

“This is about living out the gospels,” Mr. Espinal adds.  “It’s what Jesus asked us to do in Matthew 25.”

To expand Catholic Charities NY’s partnership with parishes further, the agency added funding opportunities from its Feeding Our Neighbors program, a Catholic Charities partnership that feeds over 6.5 million hungry New Yorkers each year.  This enabled additional parishes to feed their hungry neighbors.  Four more parishes in the Bronx now participate in  the Catholic Charities Food Hub distribution center and four Staten Island parishes now offer a variety of new services for their neighbors in need including gift cards to local supermarkets, a renovated food pantry and winter clothing distribution through a food pantry.

The next parish collection to fund this pilot program will once again be held the last Sunday before Thanksgiving, this time November 18, 2018, at church services throughout the Archdiocese of New York.

 “When I go to mass on Sunday I don’t just experience Jesus in the eucharist and in my prayers but on the street,” says Mr. Espinal.  “When we encounter the hungry, the needy, the sick, those in prison we encounter Jesus.”