By Joanna Gardner
Recently some 150 parishioners of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Collingswood took the words of the Gospel, particularly the call to feed the hungry, to heart.
At sandwich-making events on Oct. 20 and 23, the parish made a total of more than 2,200 sandwiches, which were donated to the Cathedral Kitchen and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden to be given to the homeless.
The sandwich-makings kicked off a series of events at the parish called the Matthew 25 Project. In the five weeks leading up to Christ the King Sunday on Nov. 23, when the Matthew 25 Gospel will be read, the parish will hold an event each week to demonstrate the five actions listed by Jesus: feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the imprisoned.
The Gospel is only heard once every three years according to the liturgical readings cycle of the church. Christ the King Sunday is the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar, followed by the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of a new liturgical year.
“When we say Christ the King we’re not talking about an earthly kingdom or royalty. We’re talking about being of service to the human community. That’s what Jesus was always urging us to,” said Sister Claire McNichol, S.S.J., pastoral associate and part of the leadership of the Matthew 25 Project efforts in the parish.
Blessed Teresa is not the only parish in the diocese to take part in the Matthew 25 Project, which developed as a partnership between Blessed Teresa’s start-up social justice committee and the diocesan Office of Life and Justice Ministries.
“I was so inspired by the ideas and energy [at Blessed Teresa Parish], I thought this would be a great thing to offer to other parishes,” said Michael Jordan Laskey, director of the Office of Life and Justice ministries.
Thirteen parishes are putting on a total of 22 events in the weeks leading up to Christ the King Sunday as part of the project. St. Joseph Church in Somers Point held a Make a Difference Day on Oct. 25 where participants heard a talk on the importance of service and then dispersed to five sites within the community, working at a food pantry, visiting the elderly, and assisting parishioners with household tasks. St. Brendan the Navigator Parish in Avalon held a four-week diaper drive. The Parish Nurse Council is conducting blood screening tests at three parishes this month.
“Our parishes are the place where we live the mission of Jesus Christ in its entirety as best we can. That includes proclaiming the word, celebrating the sacraments and working together to make the world closer to how God wants it to be,” Laskey said.
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta is the only parish to have an event each of the five weeks leading up to Christ the King Sunday and synced to each of the five conditions listed in the Gospel.
On Oct. 29 the parish held a “Welcoming the Stranger” panel discussion where several immigrants and refugees to the United States shared their stories. The parish also has scheduled a visit to a homeless shelter, a communal anointing of the sick service, and a talk by diocesan Prison Ministry coordinator Sister Mary Lou Lafferty.
The first sandwich-making event was part of monthly sandwich-makings held by the parish’s St. Vincent DePaul society, but they doubled their usual attendance and output. The second night was billed as a family service night. Close to 100 people, including many children and teenagers, filled the parish school’s cafeteria.
“What we really wanted to show the kids is that as a Catholic, service is not an add-on, it’s not optional. We’re trying to give the kids that identity and teach them to be disciples, to pray and to serve,” said Patricia Lipperini, Faith Formation Director for Blessed Teresa parish.
While their parents made sandwiches, many children had the option to decorate placemats for those served at the Cathedral Kitchen.
Taylor Jentsch, 10, a member of the parish school’s Good Shepherd Girl Scout troop, held up a placemat decorated with stickers and drawings.
“It feels really good to help the ones that don’t get as much food as I do,” Jentsch said.
For a complete listing of events go to CamdenDiocese.org/Matthew25