March 29, 2013

Unique Easter outreach brings parishes together

Mary Sowinski, left, Lillian Henninger and Maggie McHugh pose for a photo after filling grocery bags with food items for families in need. The girls were part of the North Side Easter Basket Project at St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis on March 24. A day later, 600 families received the ingredients to help them have an Easter feast. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Mary Sowinski, left, Lillian Henninger and Maggie McHugh pose for a photo after filling grocery bags with food items for families in need. The girls were part of the North Side Easter Basket Project at St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis on March 24. A day later, 600 families received the ingredients to help them have an Easter feast. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

As the executive director of the PeyBack Foundation, Elizabeth Ellis admires Peyton Manning’s commitment to provide support for organizations that help economically-disadvantaged youths in Indiana, Tennessee, Louisiana and Colorado.

As a member of St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, Ellis is also thrilled with the dedication and cooperation that several north side Indianapolis parishes have shown in wanting to help families in need during the Easter season.

On March 25, 600 families in need received all the ingredients for an Easter feast—a ham, rolls, desserts, vegetables and even Easter candy—because of the combined efforts of volunteers from the parishes of Christ the King, Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Andrew the Apostle, St. Lawrence, St. Matthew and St. Pius X.

“It’s been amazing to see all the outpouring of help from all the parishes,” said Ellis, a committee member of the North Side Easter Basket Project. “Most organizations do food drives during Thanksgiving time and Christmas time. A couple of our parishioners feel Easter is just as special so they wanted to do something to help needy families now.”

The Easter giveaway was inspired by a similar food drive that takes place at Holy Cross Parish in Indianapolis at Thanksgiving and Christmas, according to Deanna Lustig, youth minister at St. Matthew Parish and co-chairperson of the Easter Basket Project.

“We also thought that with this being the Year of Faith, it was a good time to start it,” said Lustig, citing the call by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for Catholics to try to deepen their faith that began in October of 2012. “It also fit nicely because the North Deanery youth ministers do a Lenten series every year of speakers, prayer experiences and service projects.”

In the two months before Easter, volunteers at the six parishes collected non-perishable items that included corn, green beans, macaroni and cheese, cornbread mix, fruit cocktail and pudding. Donations were also collected at the parish churches and schools to pay for hams and rolls.

Vouchers for the food were given to 600 families in need through the parishes, Catholic Charities Indianapolis, Miracle Place, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and Boulevard Place Food Pantry. And the Easter food was distributed during a drive-thru at St. Matthew Parish during the late afternoon and early evening of March 25.

“I’ve just been bowled over by the generosity of the parishioners on the north side,” Lustig said. “This has been a very faith-filled experience. To see everything fall into place and all the generosity has been very amazing. It allowed people an opportunity to give back for a great cause.”

She especially cited the efforts of Ellis and co-chairperson Dean Burger in making the Easter Basket Project a success.

“I really wanted to try to devote more time to my faith this Lent, through prayer and this project,” said Burger, a member of St. Matthew Parish. “Rather than talk about it or think about it, I wanted to do it.”

Ellis appreciated the project so much that she found time in her schedule, a schedule that includes her work for the PeyBack Foundation and her role as the mother of three children who are age 5 and younger.

“I’m very fortunate in my life, my surroundings and my faith,” Ellis said. “I know there are people out there struggling. If I can make the Easter season better for someone else, that’s what I want to do.” †

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