Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Whyte-Recpt005Father Michael Whyte, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in West Simsbury, joins, from left, Eileen Morse, coordinator of the St. Joseph Cathedral Food Pantry; and volunteers from St. Catherine of Siena Church: Kim Blanchard, Pat Walsh, Michelle Rice, project chair Karen Carew and Paula Tweed.

HARTFORD – Members of St. Catherine of Siena Parish in West Simsbury have given the St. Joseph Cathedral Food Pantry the largest single donation the pantry has ever received.

At a Mass celebrated at the cathedral on April 10, Monsignor John J. McCarthy expressed gratitude and appreciation to representatives of the parish and to the food pantry’s volunteers, who serve the needy in Hartford’s Asylum Hill neighborhood.

The $8,888 check, presented to Eileen Morse, food pantry coordinator, was one of three significant donations made to local charities from funds raised through St. Catherine’s 2010 Advent Giving Tree Project.

The Giving Tree Project, which raised over $30,000 last year, was initiated by parishioners three years ago.

"I was originally opposed to [the idea]," said Father Michael G. Whyte, Pastor of St. Catherine of Siena. "I had recently been assigned to the parish and the economy was in shambles when I met with the committee, who told me they wanted to raise $30,000 during the busiest time of the year.

"I drove home that night to the rectory and I thought to myself, these people [on the committee] work full-time jobs, they have families, they are very blessed, that’s true; but they are themselves a great blessing," he said.

"They showed me, their priest, what it is to live the Gospel message," he said. "They have children to raise, families to feed, jobs to go to. Yet amidst all that, they still attend to the needs of others."

That year, and in each succeeding year, the committee has successfully raised approximately $30,000 through the Giving Tree Project.

Karen Carew, who chairs the committee, had, for several years, been collecting donations in her neighborhood to provide Advent food and gift baskets for a few families of Sacred Heart Church in Hartford. She and her husband decided to take their neighborhood project to a higher level when they approached their new pastor, Father Whyte.

Mrs. Carew and members of the small committee try to make it easy for parishioners to participate and give them options for directing their donations. Two Christmas trees at St. Catherine of Siena are decorated with envelopes that parishioners use to make their donations. The envelopes allow donors to specify which of three local charities will benefit from their generosity, she said.

This year, parishioners selected from among Sacred Heart Parish in Hartford, the cathedral food pantry, and the Angel Food Ministry that assists senior citizens and families in the Simsbury area.

Sacred Heart Parish received over $11,000; St. Joseph Food Pantry received nearly $9,000; and the Angel Food Ministry received $10,000.

Mrs. Morse was very grateful for the generous donation.

"We are a very active group and stay true to our mission statement," she said. "We feed, clothe and assist the poor of the Asylum Hill neighborhood."

Currently, the St. Joseph Food Pantry is assisting refugee families from Myanmar and Somalia. It will use some of the money it received to assist preschool children in learning English to prepare them for school, Mrs. Morse said.

She praised the parishioners and committee members of St. Catherine of Siena, who were presented with a plaque commemorating their generosity and benevolence.

"They are wonderful people. I’m so impressed with what they do," she said. "They are young and so full of faith."

Father Whyte also took the opportunity to express gratitude to parishioners of both his parish and the cathedral parish.

He said that he thought St. Catherine would not only be quite proud of the St. Catherine parishioners, but would also be proud of the cathedral parish "for all it does for the community and for what a wonderful diverse community it is."