A miracle of the loaves and fishes might look different today than it did in the time of Jesus, but as the local Church continues to serve people facing food insecurity with meals, generous donations express a similar sentiment.

When Father Dan Leary, pastor at St. Andrew Apostle Parish in Silver Spring, Maryland received a call about a bread donation amounting to several thousand loaves, finding mouths in need of the bread was not difficult.

“In this case the bread was a great grace for me to get out in lieu of giving the Eucharist to the people of God,” Father Leary said. “I recognize the need of the people for both, but right now, because of this experience, God is allowing us to just appreciate the food that we eat and the Eucharist that we receive.”

Toby Harkleroad, the principal of St. Francis Xavier International School in Silver Spring who is working with the community in Langley Park and at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring to distribute meals almost daily, was connected with Father Leary as he scheduled a bread drop-off for the centers he works with closely. 

“It was a feeding of the 5,000 kind-of moment,” Harkleroad said. “This bread was not going to waste.”

Having now received multiple pallets of bread, Father Leary has driven around the Archdiocese of Washington and delivered the loaves to food distribution centers or pantries.

“He is working to continue to get the bread from the people that have it and give it to the people that need it,” Harkleroad said of Father Leary.

Harkleroad added how in times of crisis, there is great grace in people gathering to live out the Gospel.

“How beautiful it is when the spirit works and creates these miracles,” Harkleroad said. “The fact that all of us (are) in our little corners, doing our own attempt to follow the Gospel and be the hands and feet of Christ brought together and amplified.”

St. Francis International School and the Catholic Community of Langley Park began distributing meals on March 17 and by the end of March had passed out more than 12,500 meals. Since then, Harkleroad said that food distribution at St. Francis International School has been suspended and efforts have been turned toward the Catholic Community of Langley Park and the St. Camillus Food Pantry.

“It is very humbling to see that this need is so great and it was there before the virus,” Harkleroad said. “We are blessed that we are able to give (care and support). It’s terrifying to think if the Church wasn’t ready to help them, where they would be.”

Father Leary commended the Franciscan community at St. Camillus, saying that they have brought to life the Franciscan charism.

“They keep the charism of St. Francis alive in their parish,” he said.

On March 17, St Francis International School in Silver Spring began meal distribution for children under the age of 18. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)