Crisis provides opportunity for works of mercy

Volunteers from Saints John & Paul Parish in Franklin Park prepare a meal for homeless veterans at Shepherd’s Heart in Pittsburgh. (file photo)

Deacon Tom Berna is following Jesus’ call to feed the hungry as the need grows across the Pittsburgh region due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We treat everyone as if they’re Jesus Christ,” said Deacon Berna, who leads the Fishes & Loaves Cooperative Ministries at St. Stephen Parish in Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood neighborhood. Volunteers deliver Meals on Wheels and prepare takeout lunches at the pastoral center five days a week. They provide emergency food on Mondays and Thursdays.

“We can’t walk away from those who depend on this food,” Deacon Berna said.

Free sandwiches will be handed out this Sat. March 28, 9 a.m.- noon at St. Basil church in Carrick, part of the Catholic Community of South Pittsburgh. The Ladies of Charity are providing ham and bologna to go with buns left from cancelled parish fish fries.

“We will have curbside pickup,” said Father Steve Kresak, “and we will deliver sandwiches to the porches of anyone in need, especially the elderly.”

St. Mary Magdalene Parish in Pittsburgh’s East End operates two food pantries—at St. James church in Wilkinsburg and Holy Rosary rectory in Homewood.

“We reply on our parishioners for food donations,” said Father Burke, the pastor. “But with our churches closed we are asking that canned goods and packaged items be dropped off at the St. James ministry center.”

St. Paul Cathedral’s food pantry, which normally is open on Tuesdays, is closed to help prevent spread of the virus. Coordinator Bev Rossiter said they are sending clients to Community Human Services Food Pantry at 370 Lawn Street in South Oakland and plan to reopen April 7.
Catholics across the region can help, Deacon Berna said.

“If you know an elderly neighbor, make sure they’ve got food, or offer to go shopping,” he said. “For people out of work, call the PA 211 hotline.”