With last week’s celebration of Thanksgiving and with the approach of the Christmas season, parishes and other Catholic groups are continuing their outreach to the poor and needy.

The Gospel Choir of St. Augustine Church celebrated its 41st anniversary on Nov. 18 with a free concert in McPherson Square Park in Washington. In conjunction with the concert, the parish’s Team Hope homeless ministry handed out warm clothing, food, and water to individuals in the area who sleep in the streets. Throughout the year, Team Hope provides direct assistance to the homeless and advocates before city leaders for affordable housing.

“Our celebration of Thanksgiving must involve both thanks and giving – thanking God and giving to our sisters and brothers in need, ” Father Patrick Smith, pastor of the parish, wrote in the St. Augustine School newsletter after the event. “While it is right and good to give thanks, it is even better to live thanks.”

On Nov. 20, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington hosted its fifth annual community Thanksgiving at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery for homeless clients and those in need in the Washington-area. More than 200 people attended the event that featured a full holiday dinner prepared by Catholic Charities Social Enterprises and served by volunteers from Catholic Charities and Pepco.

In addition, guests received winter coats and toiletry kits furnished by Pepco, as well as gift cards to purchase other daily necessities.

Earlier, to mark this year’s World Day of the Poor, Catholic Charities held a “Coat of Many Colors” distribution on Nov. 17 at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Washington. The coats were collected from collection drives throughout the archdiocese.

“Jesus tells us we must never forget the poor. Jesus had a soft spot for anyone downtrodden or forgotten or disenfranchised,” said Msgr. John Enzler, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington.

As they have done for more than 30 years, students, faculty and alumni at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington participated in that school’s annual food drive. The food was distributed the week before Thanksgiving.

“We collected about 30,000 pounds of food,” said Richard Vitale, service and pastoral care coordinator at Archbishop Carroll High School. “We not only will feed more than 250 families, but we also donate to other agencies and local food banks.”

In addition to providing needy families with a full Thanksgiving dinner, the food drive provides food staples to keep pantries stocked after the holiday. The food drive at Carroll – begun by Robert Hoderny, a longtime social justice teacher at the school who was killed in a 1997 car accident –is believed to be one of the largest student-organized food collections in the country.

Parish and school families at St. Andrew Apostle in Silver Spring filled Thanksgiving boxes and bags for needy families in Montgomery County and Washington. Each of the 265 boxes and 250 bags of Thanksgiving food – each feeding a family of four – also included $15 for families to purchase a turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner. The Thanksgiving boxes and bags were distributed to Catholic Charities of Montgomery County, the Missionaries of Charity in Washington, and Assumption Parish in Washington. 

Earlier in November, St. John’s College High School in Washington held its annual food drive. Students and their families donated more than 10,600 non-perishable food items that were then given to the Little Sisters of the Poor to feed residents at the Jeanne Jugan Residence. 

In addition, several parishes throughout the archdiocese hosted Thanksgiving dinner where they prepared and served meals to senior citizens, the poor and homeless, and people who would have otherwise been alone for the holiday.

The Gospel Choir of St. Augustine Catholic Church performs a free concert in McPherson Square Park. The parish also provided the homeless with warm clothing and food and water. (CS photo by Leslie Kossoff)