Sacred Heart parishioners pack love in a brown bag

by Jenara Kocks Burgess

North Texas Catholic

March 20, 2020

Sacred Heart staff gives brown bag to manSacred Heart staff gives brown bag to man
Volunteer Margaret Rogers, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Parish, passes out sack lunches. (NTC/Jenara Kocks Burgess)

 

EDITOR'S NOTE: Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Sacred Heart Parish continues its mission to care for the poor and vulnerable, just using some precautions to minimize the spread of the virus. 

WICHITA FALLS  ̶  After John Vaughn wrote down his name on a sign-in sheet and received a lunch sack at Sacred Heart Church in Wichita Falls, he asked volunteer Margaret Rogers if she wanted to hear a joke.

“You know rabbits are called hares, right? There are 50 rabbits all in a line. They all start walking backwards at the same time. What’s it called? A receding hare line,” Vaughn said. “Want to hear another one?” 

“Sure,” said Rogers with a smile.

“Did you hear about the giant pickle? It’s a big dill. Have a good day,” Vaughn said as he walked out the door. 

Vaughn is one of more than 100 people who stop by the Sacred Heart Pastoral Office weekly to pick up a sack lunch. The program is called the St. Andrew’s Lunch Sack Ministry and started in 2010. Sacred Heart Pastoral Assistant David Bindel said he, parishioner Cary Likins, who worked in the parish office at the time, and Father Hoa Nguyen, who was Sacred Heart’s pastor then, came up with the idea for the program after they had a number of people coming in and asking for food or drink.

St. Andrew is the patron saint of the ministry because at the Sermon on the Mount, he told Jesus about the small boy with the barley loaves and fishes. Jesus then performed a miracle by multiplying the bread and fish to feed thousands.

Sacred Heart parishioners donate the food for the sack lunches. Food items packed in the sacks, by staff and volunteers, include Vienna sausages or ready-to-eat tuna packages, fruit or pudding cups, peanut butter or cheese crackers, fiber bars or Pop Tarts, boxes or packets of juice, and water bottles. Any items must be non-perishable and individually wrapped. 

During certain times of the year, Sacred Heart will host “pack the pantry” events providing special red canvas bags for the parishioners to fill with donations. 

“When we have the parishioners bring in food, we can sometimes go three to four months without having to purchase anything for them, except maybe water,” Bindel said. “We can fill up four to six big shelves that will last us for weeks with the generosity of our parishioners.

“Since we’ve begun, we’ve given out over 45,000 lunch sacks.”

man and dog get lunch at Sacred Heart
William “Willy” Williams often stops by the parish office for a sack lunch with his dog, Nyla. (NTC/Jenara Kocks Burgess) 

Anyone can come into the parish office to pick up a lunch sack between 10 a.m. and noon on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Some recipients, like Vaughn, are homeless.  

Sacred Heart Church is in downtown Wichita Falls at the junction of four U.S. highways and Interstate 44. Motorists in the area often see homeless people sitting under the overpasses for shelter or panhandling for food. 

“It is so important for a parish to have some direct outreach to the local community,” said Sacred Heart Parochial Administrator Father Jonathan Demma. “It allows us to work together in witness to our faith in God’s providence by providing for the needs of our neighbor. I am grateful to the parishioners of Sacred Heart who are always so generous in sharing their gifts with those who need it.”

Volunteer Margaret Rogers, who has been a parishioner of Sacred Heart for 30 years, said many of the people who receive lunch sacks are cheerful. 

“It reminds me that everybody deals with life differently. Their positive attitude helps me with my attitude,” she said. 

Rogers said there’s a diversity to the people who come into the office for a lunch sack. Some walk and some drive. Some have homes, and others do not. 

William “Willy” Williams often stops by the parish office for a sack lunch with his small dog, Nyla, who wears a little coat on cold days.

“She gets her exercise. She gets part [of the lunch],” Williams said.  “A lot of people who are homeless really appreciate this program. I’m not homeless. I hear a lot of guys say they don’t have enough to eat anywhere else unless they can go to the [Faith] Mission [homeless shelter].”

Mary Ann Perez, who has been a Sacred Heart parishioner for seven years with her husband Reuben, said she started volunteering with the St. Andrew’s Lunch Sack ministry three years ago. 

“My mother big at giving her time to volunteering, especially to Interfaith Ministries and the Food Bank. She was a very devout Catholic and always believed in feeding the poor. When mother died three years ago, I told St. Jude, my mother’s saint, ‘I will continue this for my mother,’” Perez said with emotion in her voice.

Perez also remembers her grandmother feeding poor people who would come to her back door at home.

“I feel that sometimes we need that spiritual recharge, and I feel that every time I go and do this, I get an extra boost of God helping me to help other people,” she said. “It also allows me to connect to the community and you also get to meet new friends. Some of the people come in every week so you get to know them, and they get to know you. It just makes me feel like I’m helping them, and I appreciate what I have because I know they have less.” 

Sacred Heart staff passes out sack lunch to man

WICHITA FALLS  ̶  After John Vaughn wrote down his name on a sign-in sheet and received a lunch sack at Sacred Heart Church in Wichita Falls, he asked volunteer Margaret Rogers if she wanted to hear a joke.

Published (until 3/20/2035)
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