PEWAUKEE — As parishioners at St. Anthony on the Lake worked on their annual project to feed the hungry for Thanksgiving, Capuchin Fr. Perry McDonald shared a story.
It was the story of Tony and Maria, parents forced by unexpected circumstances to seek help at the House of Peace in inner-city Milwaukee, where Fr. Perry is pastoral director. “It’s an embarrassment to come (to the House of Peace) because you’re admitting you can’t make it on your own,” Fr. Perry told his audience, participants in St. Anthony’s Christian Formation Family Program. But House of Peace staffers realize they themselves “are only about three paychecks away from” their guests’ situation. Many of today’s poor have not made bad decisions, the Capuchin said, but “are simply people who have had bad luck.”
People like Tony and Maria.
Not so long ago, Tony had a good job working construction, but he had a heart attack in middle age and eventually lost his job. Maria, cleaning office buildings and “bringing in pretty good money,” got laid off as well, forcing the couple to rely on food stamps and disability insurance. To complicate matters, Maria’s sister, a single mother, is an alcoholic. This prompted the couple to take in the woman’s daughter, who “came to their house with nothing but the clothes on her back.”
If you want to help:
The pantry at the House of Peace, 1702 W. Walnut St. in Milwaukee, is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Food and toy donors – parishes and other groups, as well as individuals – are still being sought. Lists of needed items can be found online.
For information, contact Jim Van Hoven at (414) 374-8841, ext. 26, or by email.
Like approximately 1,000 others, Tony, Maria, their 6- and 8-year-old sons and their 9-year-old niece have been coming monthly for food to 1702 W. Walnut St., Milwaukee, where the House of Peace also maintains medical and legal clinics and distributes used clothing to about 600 people per month.
“We’re really there to help the poor in Milwaukee,” Fr. Perry said.
“You’re going to give Tony and Maria and their two sons and Maria’s niece a box of food,” Fr. Perry reminded his listeners, enabling the family to “have a wonderful Thanksgiving” – especially since the box would be supplemented at the House of Peace by a voucher for a holiday turkey. “You’re doing a wonderful thing. It’s really part of our faith.”
In a telephone interview with your Catholic Herald, Jim Van Hoven, development administrator for the local Capuchin province, sounded a similar note. Participation in the food box project provides “a chance to see the corporal works of mercy in action,” Van Hoven said.
According to a brochure provided by Kathie Amidei, St. Anthony pastoral associate for lifelong faith formation, the Christian Formation “Family Program consists of fellowship, community building, religious education for children and adult sessions and a family activity where (participants) work together to communicate as a family.” The program is geared to grade- and high-school pupils not enrolled in Catholic schools and their parents, although “Catholic school families are welcome to participate as well.”
When Fr. Perry addressed them, Family Program participants had experienced fellowship by eating supper together and would soon, as the evening’s family activity, fill 44-pound boxes with items they’d brought from home. House of Peace staffers had provided “specific shopping lists,” according to Van Hoven, and St. Anthony families had supplied cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, corn, cake mix and the like.
Other packers had worked the previous day; biweekly Family Program sessions are offered Sunday mornings as well as Monday nights at the parish and, all told, some 350 families participate.
House of Peace food, toy drives are ongoing
PEWAUKEE — St. Anthony on the Lake Parish’s Thanksgiving involvement in assembling food boxes for House of Peace guests is part of a much wider effort. The House of Peace Holiday food box and toy drives began on Oct. 4, the feast of Capuchin patron St. Francis of Assisi, and will run through Christmas.
More than 3,000 food boxes, containing more than 1,000 pounds of food, had been donated by November’s end. More than 100 organizations, including approximately 70 Milwaukee archdiocesan parishes and schools in six counties, have contributed to the effort. Among those parishes and schools: St. Alphonsus, Greendale; St. Gabriel, Hubertus; Lumen Christi, Mequon; Blessed Sacrament and St. Margaret Mary, Milwaukee; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, New Berlin; and Divine Savior Holy Angels, Dominican and Messmer high schools in Milwaukee County.
If food should be left over after upcoming Christmas box distributions, it will be given to the House of Peace emergency food pantry, according to local Capuchin province development administrator Jim Van Hoven.
On Tuesday, Nov. 22, the day after Fr. Perry’s visit, members of St. Anthony journeyed to the House of Peace to hand out the 225 boxes their fellow parishioners had packed. Joining in the distribution was Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki.
“These linked events,” Van Hoven noted of the food packing and distribution, “demonstrate our Catholic commitment to caring for the poor, religious education that is experiential and the archbishop’s role as role model and teacher.”
Several parishioners commented to your Catholic Herald on the St. Anthony Christian Formation Family Program in general and the food box event in particular.
Clint Metz of Waukesha, accompanied Monday night by his sixth grader Colton and boxes of cranberry sauce and Jell-O, said he’s in the program “for my son, to teach him the faith.”
Said Cindy Hinca, also of Waukesha, “I love donating my time to whatever I can. I know what it’s like to be one of the less fortunate. (The food box project) is a great teaching for my daughter (Lauren).”
Carrie and Bob Dempsey of Pewaukee, who came with sons Andrew, 11, and Alex, 8, enjoy the blend of family bonding and practical faith Family Program offers.
Kelly Parker of Waukesha, attending with husband Jim and eighth-grade son Conor, said of the evening’s events, “You feel like you’re contributing to someone’s Thanksgiving dinner – a better Thanksgiving for them.”
Clare Peiffer who, as St. Anthony service learning coordinator, sets up volunteer opportunities for teens and adults at Repairers of the Breach and other community venues, pointed out that the parish’s intergenerational approach to faith formation is a benchmark for the archdiocese. It was pioneered by Amidei with about 20 families some 15 years ago. St. Anthony, which has approximately 6,000 parishioners among 1,800 families, offers a second faith formation program, La Petite, for 3-year-olds through third graders and their parents.