Stating that we are at our best as human beings when we “give ourselves away in selfless love” Cardinal-designate Dolan joined the theme of the annual Respect Life Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Jan. 22 with the launch of the archdiocese’s ambitious Feeding Our Neighbor campaign, which runs through Sunday, Jan. 29, in the 10 counties of the archdiocese.
“In cherishing and protecting the most fragile of human life, the baby in the womb, the baby born into poverty, the sick, the refugee and immigrant, our elders and our dying, the hungry we serve today in our feeding our neighbor campaign, we obey what Blessed John Paul II termed the law of the gift, that we are at our best when we give ourselves away in love,” he told the packed cathedral, which included large delegations from the pro-life movement from across the state.
In opening remarks the archbishop welcomed members of the pro-life community to St. Patrick’s, calling them “apostles of life.” Many were on their way to Washington, D.C, for Monday’s 39th annual March for Life to demand protection under the law for human life at all stages.
“Today is a somber occasion; the 39th anniversary of the sad Supreme Court decision taking legal protection away from the baby in the womb,” Cardinal-designate Dolan reminded the congregation. “So I am particularly happy to welcome to the Mass this morning the devoted leaders in our pro-life movement. We have members of our archdiocesan pro-life commission. We have state leaders of our beloved Knights of Columbus, the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre, our Sisters of Life and so many other apostles of life.
“And since the solicitude of the culture of life extends to wherever and whenever the sanctity of human life is threatened, it’s really appropriate that our weeklong Feeding Our Neighbors campaign, sponsored by Catholic Charities, will kick off today at all 400 parishes throughout the Archdiocese,” he said. “Thousands and thousands of our people will bring food and resources to replenish our strained soup pantries, our soup kitchens and our shelters.”
During the offertory presentation, members of Catholic Charities staff, Carlos Rodriguez, Luz Tavarez-Salazar and her daughter Camille Sanchez, brought forth three large boxes of donated foods, which were symbolically placed before the altar.
After Mass volunteers carried the boxes out to the Fifth Avenue steps of the cathedral where Rusty Staub’s mobile food pantry truck awaited. Cardinal-designate Dolan greeted the legendary New York Mets slugger and handed him one of the large boxes. The archbishop then blessed the food, the van and mobile food pantry volunteers.
“Our lines have gotten longer and it’s tougher to raise the money,” Staub explained. “It’s hard to believe that in a great city like this we have so many people that are hungry.”
All parishes are taking part in the campaign, as well as all archdiocesan schools and other archdiocesan institutions where large “Feeding Our Neighbors” donation boxes have been located. People are invited to drop off nonperishable packaged foods or make a donation to the Feeding Our Neighbors campaign by visiting www.catholiccharitiesny.org and clicking on Feeding Our Neighbors. Another way to get involved is to volunteer at a nearby food kitchen or pantry. A list is available on the Catholic Charities Web site.
At St. Rita’s School on Staten Island, principal Adele Kosinski was rooting particularly hard for a New York Giants victory in the NFC championship game Sunday night, not just because she’s a Giants fan, but because she had organized a “Souper Bowl Day” tie-in asking students to bring cans of soup into the school for the Feeding Our Neighbors campaign.
In return students got a “dress-down day” Monday in which they could wear their favorite New York Giants t-shirts, Eli Manning jerseys or other G-Men paraphernalia to class. She admitted it wouldn’t have been the same if the 49ers had won.
“I wanted to do something that would interest the kids,” she explained. “Soup is nutritious, so we asked every kid to bring in a can of soup and we connected it to the Giants. The kids are very excited and very serious about it. We’ll also pray next week for the hungry.” She said there might even be a few prayers for the Giants as they prepare to take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI Feb. 5.
Dr. Timothy McNiff, superintendent of schools, said that similar drives would be going on at schools across the archdiocese.
“We are confident we will be able to report to Cardinal-designate Dolan that 100 percent of our schools participated in Feeding Our Neighbors,” he stated. “I know that with the prayers and support of our Catholic schools family we will succeed in fighting hunger in the Archdiocese of New York.”
Standing beside Rusty Staub’s food van Sunday morning Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, was also optimistic.
“We’re hoping to do 500,000 additional meals and I think we’re going to do that,” he predicted.
“That is in addition to the 6.1 million we do now,” interjected a proudly beaming Cardinal-designate Dolan.