Mission possible: feeding the hungry

Whether it’s grocery store gift cards on the offering plate, home-cooked meals tucked away in the parish freezer, non-perishable food items in a cart in the narthex, or hot dogs and hot chocolate delivered to people living on the streets, the parishioners of St. George’s Brandon in the Diocese of Brandon have made it their mission to feed the hungry.

Members of St. George’s Dragon Slayers youth group
Members of St. George’s Dragon Slayers youth group

St. George’s is located in a low-income residential area in Brandon and Father Chad McCharles, Incumbent since 2012, says the neighbourhood residents, like many Canadians who are struggling financially, often find themselves a few days from payday and they just can’t make it.

But more and more, as word spreads around the community, people in need know they can turn to St. George’s and they will not be turned away.

“A family or single parent can afford to rent a house, and put food on the table,” says Father Chad, “but the hydro bill comes, or the car needs gas and there isn’t enough money to buy bread, or formula.” Because of the generosity of parishioners, the Church has a variety of options to give those in dire need some emergency supplies or to give them the resources to buy what’s most urgent.

“The Grocery Card ministry has exploded. I used to get 1 or 2 cards a week on the offering plate, now I get 6, 8, 10 and some are in $50 increments.” Even with the outpouring of generosity, the Church still doesn’t have enough cards to meet the need, so parishioners fill the grocery cart in the narthex with non-perishables and the freezer with home-cooked meals to augment much-needed outreach to the community.

When asked “How do you know what people are buying with the grocery cards?” Father Chad’s response is simple: “It is between them and God if they buy a pack of cigarettes. It’s not for me to judge.” He acknowledges that some in the parish have felt that tension, the anxiety of no-strings-attached giving, but he stresses that there are many outlets for generosity in the Church. “There are people who feel called to give to other things: baked spaghettis or shepherd’s pie. People in the frozen food ministry are not the same ones who participate in the grocery cards.”

The ways and means that different parishioners have of supporting the food ministry draws on a variety of expressions of generosity, but viewed together, Father Chad sees it as a loving portrait of a faithful partnership in mission.

As with all of the ministries at St. George’s, feeding the community is an intergenerational affair. Heart Dogs is a monthly initiative of the Dragon Slayers Youth Group, “The Church is our base camp. We use the kitchen to help us get the hot dogs and hot chocolate ready and then we pack up our stuff and head downtown to meet the folks we serve.”

At St. George’s Brandon, faith and unwavering generosity to the community at large, have made feeding the hungry Mission Possible.

Michelle Hauser
Council of the North Communications

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