By David Sedeño
The Texas Catholic
Michael Jimenez, clipboard in hand, stood in the parking lot of his parish, St Francis of Assisi in Frisco, on Saturday, March 28, ushering cars forward and looking at the line of dozens of others snaking around the parking lot.
Twice a month, a mobile food pantry from Catholic Charities Dallas and the North Texas Food Bank goes to St. Francis to distribute meals to about 30 families.
On March 28, that number was at least three times higher, given the number of cars in the parking lot. Connolly Irwin, who drove the Catholic Charities Dallas food truck to Frisco, said he had brought approximately 3,500 pounds of food.
“Pickup truck, right here! Two adults, two kids,” Jimenez shouted to other St. Francis volunteers who were assembling bags and boxes of food.
“Do they want potatoes, apples, split peas?” Chris Moen shouted.
“¿Querien papas, manzanas y guisantes?” he asked those in the car, to which a resounded “sí” was heard.
“I’ve been doing this for the last two months and this is the most that I have seen,” Jimenez said. “I just hope that we have enough for everybody.”
Across the Diocese of Dallas during this pandemic and stay at home order, parish and school communities continue their outreach to the neighbors around them, even at times when some parish and school workers and volunteers themselves also face their own economic hardships and worries.
“What you are seeing here is the real way in which Catholics, people of faith, are continuing in the instruction of Jesus: to feed those who are hungry and satiate the thirst of those who need help,” said Father Rudy Garcia, the pastor at St. Francis, who watched from a distance as the volunteers were doing their work.
“What a wonderful way that the church comes together to help people while respecting social distancing and all of the precautions that are necessary so that the gospel continues to be not only heard, but lived,” he said.
Earlier on March 28 at All Saints Catholic Church in North Dallas, several volunteers, including parents and children, distributed bags to neighbors in need and to other volunteers who would be delivering the grocery items and supplies to dozens of other people.
The ministry, Vision Food Share, collects funds on the third Sunday of the month and distributes food to the needy on the fourth Saturday of the month. On this March 28, several volunteers braved a steady rain and wind to keep groceries as dry as possible and relay them to waiting cars.
“We do this to feed the families that are in need who need that little pick-me-up to get them through the end of the month,” said Randy Smith, whose son and daughter also were volunteering. “It’s important to show that helping hand, to show that this is a great parish to be in.”
Robin and Larry Moloney usually coordinate the monthly effort, but because of the limit on volunteers to comply with social distancing, they ended up delivering food.
“We are serving people some of whom are disabled, some of them are under-employed. Our parish is very blessed with resources and we want to share what we have,” Robin Moloney said. “It’s working out great. We have the best volunteers.”
On March 25, at the campus of Cristo Rey Dallas Preparatory School, President Kelby Woodard led a group of volunteers loading more than 150 boxes of non-perishable items into 65 cars, including dozens of bags of school supplies and perishable food into some of them.
The school has been partnering with Catholic Charities Dallas and the North Texas Food Bank to provide food for the surrounding neighborhood in Pleasant Grove in southeast Dallas.
Woodard said that the campus is used as an asset for the community, such as the food distribution, for the benefit of everyone.
“Many people are in a different situation this week than they were two weeks ago with their jobs,” Woodard said. “Most of our families are in situations where they’re in jobs that are going to be harder than some others—people who can actually work from home, do conference calls, those sorts of things.
“Our families typically need to be somewhere, doing something as part of their livelihood,” he said. “All you have to do is turn on the TV, look at the news and understand that our community will be hit harder in the blowback from all of this than most will.”
Yasmine Soto, Class of 2021, drove up with her mom in a van to get food and supplies.
“It’s more dangerous for us to go outside as my parents are older and since we are a family of five we needed supplies to sustain ourselves,” she said.
“I love the school because of the community that we have,” she said. “We’re all so close to each other and when it comes to crises like we have right now we always help each other out if we need anything.”
Back at All Saints, Father Alfsone Nazarro, pastoral administrator, talked about looking at the opportunities to serve others during an extraordinary time when parents and children not only are spending lots of time together at home, but also volunteering and carrying out acts of kindness together.
“To keep your heart in the right place during this Lent, the Lord truly has given us tremendous opportunities to spend time with loved ones and families,” Father Nazarro said. “To be able to really reconnect with them, even though we have to do the social distancing I think it’s going to have just the opposite effect and that’s going to be reaching out to people in ways that we have never done before or that we kind of forgot how to do.”