The annual Christmas-baskets project at Peace of Christ Parish never seems to grow old for many participants.
Karen Francati, for one, is an organizer for the initiative and has been involved in it since 1991. She said many parishioners, as well, assist with Christmas baskets year after year — even folks who did it with their parents when they were children and still take part as young adults.
The big draw, Francati said, is the response that volunteers get when they deliver baskets to families in need.
“They come back saying how wonderful it was — that they showed up at the doors with all this food and these gifts, and recipients were overjoyed, crying tears of joy,” Francati remarked. “It really is a moving experience.”
The Christmas-baskets initiative receives funding from Catholic Family Center through a Hunger Relief Grants from Catholic Family Center; this past year’s allotment was $500. The grants are funded in part by the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal. The parish received a $500 grant fro the project this year.
The grant money was used to purchase such perishable foods as meat and dairy products. Parishioners, meanwhile, donated such nonperishable goods as paper products, food items and cleaning products. These items were collected during November and early December at each of the parish’s worship sites — St. Ambrose, St. John the Evangelist and St. James — located in northeast Rochester and southeast Irondequoit, respectively.
“It’s really a nice thing to do at Christmas,” Francati said of the basket ministry, which she oversees along with fellow Peace of Christ parishioners Sally Krowl, Lisa Dwyer and Kathy Gefell. Francati noted that the effort was conducted concurrently with the parish’s Angel Tag project headed up by Vicki Iannetone. That project strives to provide a wrapped gift for each family receiving a food basket.
On the morning of Dec. 12, after all the items were sorted and packed, volunteers gathered at the parish offices, where Father Robert Schrader, pastor, blessed the baskets and gifts. Volunteers went out from there and delivered them to recipients’ homes. This year more than 60 families were served, some of whom are Peace of Christ parishioners and others who were suggested by Community Place of Greater Rochester.
Father Schrader observed that the Christmas-baskets effort falls in line with the Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis that began Dec. 8, as well as a parish focus during Advent and Christmas on the corporal works of mercy — one of which is feeding the hungry.
Peace of Christ parishioners, according to Father Schrader, “are very much in close solidarity with the poor themselves as we alleviate hunger firsthand, especially in this holy, but cold, time of year.”
Hunger is a priority all year long at the parish, as evidenced by its Hunger & Harvest Ministry, a wide-ranging initiative to raise awareness about hunger and assist those in need of food. In addition to providing Christmas baskets, this ministry includes supporting area soup kitchens, emergency food cupboards and other agencies.
“We do a lot. We’re a very active parish,” Francati said.