The risen Christ is depicted in stained glass. The risen Christ is depicted in a stained-glass window at St. Aloysius Church in Great Neck, N.Y. (OSV News photo by Gregory A. Shemitz)

Rochester parish distributes homemade bread in neighborhood

Residents of Rochester’s Edgerton neighborhood located between Lyell and Driving Park avenues are set to receive a special treat on Holy Saturday, March 30. 

That morning, volunteers from Holy Apostles Parish will distribute 500 loaves of home-baked bread throughout the neighborhood surrounding the church. Attached to each loaf will be an Easter card proclaiming the risen Christ and an invitation to attend Mass on Easter Sunday. 

“It’s a very simple ministry, but it can be a very powerful one,” said Betsy MacKinnon, the parish’s coordinator of outreach ministries. 

Easter bread ministry reaches out to neighbors 

The Easter bread ministry has been going strong for 15 years, MacKinnon said. It all starts on Palm Sunday, when dozens of parish volunteers picked up loaves of frozen dough from the rectory with instructions to bake the bread on Good Friday and bring the fresh loaves back to the rectory on Holy Saturday. From there, volunteers will wrap each loaf and attach an Easter card with Mass times that are written in both Spanish and English, she said. 

Another group of about 50 volunteers will go out into the neighborhood with the loaves of bread on Holy Saturday and distribute them door to door and to people they may meet along the way. MacKinnon explained that there are teams of four or five per car; a person drives and parks, and three or four others in the car go to a designated area to hand out the loaves. Those volunteers who don’t distribute bread stay behind to clean the church for Easter Masses, she added. 

MacKinnon said that parishioners enjoy baking the bread and distributing it. 

“They look forward to it every year,” she noted. 

The distribution of Easter bread is ‘a simple gesture can mean a lot’ 

Father Anthony Mugavero, pastor of Holy Apostles, said that he and MacKinnon first started the Easter bread ministry at Rochester’s St. Bridget Church and continued it after arriving at Holy Apostles. 

“People like the idea on both sides: baking the bread and receiving it,” Father Mugavero said. “It disarms people. They receive the bread as a blessing and open up a little bit. A simple gesture can mean a lot.” 

He noted that one year, a man came to him in the sacristy with a $50 cash donation as a thanksgiving offering. The man said that the year before, he had been at a low point in his life and was considering suicide when someone from Holy Apostles handed him the Easter bread. 

MacKinnon remembered the incident and that the man had said, “When you gave me that Easter bread as a sign of Jesus’ love for me, I thought, yeah my life is worth living.” 

Father Mugavero said he believes the ministry helps people feel like they belong, that someone in the neighborhood thought enough to make loaves of bread for them. 

“There is something special about the idea of food and meeting around a table, and reaching out by making something for people,” he said. 

He recalled his upbringing, during which family communicated and shared their lives around the table, and he sees the importance of helping people to connect and build relationships, especially in our current world. 

“The greatest illness in our society is loneliness,” Father Mugavero stated. “I think that in one sense, because you’re baking bread for someone else, and there’s a greater effort, that they recognize it … somehow, it reaches into that area (of loneliness).” 

Easter bread symbolizes the risen, eucharistic Christ 

MacKinnon said that the Easter bread not only symbolizes concern and care for neighbors in a very personal way, but that it also symbolizes the death and rising of Jesus. 

Father Mugavero recalled that during a eucharistic procession last year for the feast of Corpus Christi (Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ), volunteers delivered loaves of bread door to door, relating the bread to Jesus, who is the Bread of Life. 

“Our major worship involves food, as Catholics. So it’s very eucharistic,” he said. 

Holy Apostles’ neighbors look forward to the Easter bread distribution 

MacKinnon noted that people in the parish and the neighborhood look forward to the yearly tradition. She said many of them respond with, “I knew you would be coming!” 

“It’s really simple, but it’s just a really nice way to say to people we’re here, we believe in Jesus and he’s here for you, too, in his death and Resurrection,” MacKinnon said.

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