Appeal funds help feed families for the holidays

ROCHESTER — St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish has served hundreds of families at Thanksgiving and Christmas with help from area parishes as well as the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal.

The parish received a $3,000 Hunger Relief grant from Catholic Family Center that is funded in part with proceeds from the annual appeal, whose 46th-annual campaign runs through the end of February. Proceeds support the emergency funds of Catholic Charities offices and affiliated agencies in the diocese.

Each of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini’s worship sites received $750 to support its ministries, which include St. Regis Food Cupboard, Matthew’s Closet and St. Andrew Area Food Cupboard.

At Our Lady of the Americas, Priscilla DeJesús works with a few volunteers to provide Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets to needy families who sign up annually. At St. Michael Church, Mercedes "Mechi" Ortiz does the same.

DeJesús said that she uses the Hunger Relief grant to buy turkeys for the Thanksgiving baskets. This year, additional items for the baskets were provided through donations from St. Margaret Mary Church in Irondequoit and St. Catherine of Siena in Mendon, and a total of 87 baskets were distributed, she said.

"Even with all those (donations), I couldn’t serve all the families (in need)," noted DeJesús, who wound up referring people for assistance at Rochester’s Baden Street Settlement.

Thanks to a surprise donation from the Knights of Columbus just days before Thanksgiving, she wound up being able to provide baskets to a couple of additional families who thought they would be going without for the holiday.

"The families came immediately and were crying," DeJesús said. "Glory to God."

For Christmas, parishioners from St. Margaret Mary Church and Holy Trinity Church in Webster delivered 60 baskets for the families she serves, who are mainly Hispanic, DeJesús said.

Parishioners from Good Shepherd Church in Henrietta, Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Greece, St. Mary Church in Rochester and St. Louis Church in Pittsford also help families in the St. Michael neighborhoods, Ortiz said. They provide the food and gifts included in baskets at Thanksgiving and Christmas, she said. Those relationships began years ago with the hope of encouraging interaction between urban-suburban parishioners, Ortiz explained.

She uses the Hunger Relief funds to purchase gift certificates from nearby grocery stores to add to the holiday baskets, she said.

"We get so much help, thank the Lord," she added.

That help takes shape in a variety of ways, Ortiz said. In Greece, parishioners conduct a food drive. At. St. Louis, they collect toiletries, and St. Mary’s parishioners ask for a list of families and they buy and wrap gifts for them, she added.

At St. Michael’s, an RIT professor encourages her students to collect canned goods, and her husband, a postal carrier, sets aside donations from an annual postal service food drive to give to the church, Ortiz said.

Overseeing all the donations and connecting them with the families who need them fulfills a personal mission, she noted.

"This is my ministry," Ortiz said. "God hasn’t failed me yet."

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