Immigrants And Refugees

Catholic Charities Serves 250 Families at St. Cecilia Pantry in Manhattan

Monsignor Kevin Sullivan adds groceries to the cart of a visitor to the distribution. Credit: Catholic Charities New York

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The food distribution occurred Feb. 22, Ash Wednesday

Angie Castillo, 25, waited on line with her baby daughter, Zoe, outside the St. Cecilia Pantry in East Harlem. It was Ash Wednesday morning and Ms. Castillo was among many thankful recipients at the food distribution event sponsored by Catholic Charities New York (CCNY).

“This is a great sacrifice that they make, all these excellent services they have to offer food to many people,” she told The Good Newsroom in a brief interview before the food distribution began. “It is very gratifying, all of the (social) services that they provide.” She added that the Catholic Charities staff and volunteers treat program recipients with kindness and respect.

Ms. Castillo is Colombian-born and a parishioner of St. Cecilia and Holy Agony parish, which is on East 106th Street. The pantry is on East 105th Street in the rectory building. Ms. Castillo plans to have her baby baptized at the parish soon.

Also on the pantry line was Kwok Yiu Kam, 72, a native of Hong Kong, who said he was grateful for the efforts of Catholic Charities and all Archdiocese of New York programs designed to help struggling families. “I am thankful, very thankful,” Kam told The Good Newsroom, noting the dedicated work of volunteers.

Organizers said about 250 families, including many immigrants, benefited from the food distribution gathering at the St. Cecilia Pantry. The bagged items included canned foods, rice, milk, and fruits.

“We receive all immigrants in the name of Jesus, in the name of God…Today (Ash Wednesday) we need to remember that our service to the community throughout the year have their basis in our  Catholic faith. Our faith inspires us. This day is a very solemn day, but we should not only pray to God, and we should not only receive the ashes, we need to also serve the community. That is the importance of this day; we invite all to serve their neighbor in need,” Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of CCNY, told reporters at the site.

Msgr. Sullivan went on to note that the Church, through its many programs, not only seeks to help needy families with their financial struggles, but also looks into ways “to advance opportunities.” He also spoke of the importance of hope, dignity, and respect. “That is what Catholic Charities does, respect each person because they are made in the image of God,” he noted, adding that Pope Francis, the bishops, and priests do not speak their own message: “We all speak the message of Jesus.” And he also noted the importance of advocating for immigration policies that are more “just, fair, and humane.”

“My hope is for New York, because these new immigrants are going to make us an even greater city that we are, because of their aspirations, their industriousness. Having suffered a lot, they come here and they will make our city much better. So we need to give them a helping hand, but in a relatively short period of time, they are going to be part of the strength of New York,” he told The Good Newsroom.

“In the coming years, we are going to have a vibrant community; they’re going to integrate, they will become part of New York City – and they will lift up the city. The immigrant population helps us achieve and move forward,” Beatriz Diaz Taveras, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities Community Services, told The Good Newsroom.

CCNY has been responding to the migrant crisis by providing emergency meals through its network of food pantries throughout the city. Coordinators noted that many parishes have established welcome centers for immigrants.

CCNY supports a network of 40 food pantries in the New York area with more than 200 volunteers. Organizers said the pantries provide five to six million meals to needy families each year. During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, they stepped up efforts and provided more than 11 million meals.

For more information, visit the website of your local parish. To donate, volunteer or seek assistance, visit for more information.

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See also:   Food