Community Outreach Initiatives

Dear Parish Family….

Despite the challenges of Coronavirus, our parishes have continued to reach out to respond to the needs of our community in these unpredictable months. I thought you would appreciate an update on the main outreach initiatives going on at each parish.

St. Mary’s: “CC MOVE” Program

Catholic Charities applied for and received a grant to purchase and outfit a mobile outreach vehicle, called the “CC MOVE” RV. Imagine it as a clinic / social service agency / outreach office on wheels. Since the Diocese of Albany encompasses 14 counties, (many of which are completely rural) covering 10,000 square miles, CC MOVE brings the compassion and services of the Church out of bricks and mortar and right to where people are suffering. It’s the closest modern version of living out the way Jesus lived I can think of. It inspired all of us so much, we decided to tithe St. Mary’s collections from the five Sundays of Lent this year and donate it to
the program. On March 15 (the last day of public Masses in NYS) the CC Move RV parked in front of St. Mary’s so everyone at Mass could see exactly what our donations were going to support.

Naturally, since Coronavirus prevented us from gathering for the last weeks of Lent, we assumed with disappointment that our collections would be way down, thus reducing our contribution to CC MOVE. But when we totaled all the e-giving, together with the envelopes people mailed in or delivered to the rectory, we were delighted to find that the people of St. Mary’s had donated $2,645 to CC MOVE!

On July 9, CC MOVE was parked at Cairo-Durham High School, offering a Mass food distribution of thousands of donated food items to anyone in need. I was honored to be able to be on site there and present them with our sacrificial donation.

St. Patrick’s: CARE PORTAL for Local Foster Children

Ravena is home to a grassroots organization called Justice for Orphans (JFO), which began as a desire to help children whose parents had died and to advocate for adoption as an alternative to terminating an unexpected pregnancy. In time JFO realized that there is a tremendous need in our area to support the sagging foster care system, in which a lot of the children JFO aims to help are being cared for. In researching how they could help, JFO learned some stunning facts.

In 2018, there were over 3,300 calls to Child Protective Services in Albany County alone. Most of those calls came from a family in hardship. For example, there were repeated instances of mothers who had been living in a domestic violence shelter who were now rebuilding their life without their abusive spouse and who wanted their kids back from foster care, but lacked much of what they needed to rebuild a household from scratch. They discovered that the #1 item parents in that kind of situation needed were kids’ beds, since kids can’t leave foster care without a bed to sleep in. Many kids in underprivileged homes sleep on air mattresses on the floor. Other poor mothers were not able to bring their babies home from the maternity ward of the hospital because they lacked a car seat, so the child had to be brought to a foster family instead. One family’s home had been vandalized and they had garbage bags where their windows were broken. The kids’ mom slept on couch downstairs so she could leap to defend her children in case of home invasion. Their social worker saw the situation and knew that the house needed replacement windows in order for the kids to live there safely.

So JFO worked to get linked up with an online tool called the CARE PORTAL to
connect donors with situations like these and began gathering individuals and churches to come together to meet the needs of some of these families. In the first year, JFO supporters served over 530 Capital Region children!

Up until earlier this year, JFO had only been operating within Protestant churches. But in the winter, JFO began a relationship with Catholic Charities. That opening allowed St. Patrick’s to become the first Catholic parish to begin supporting the Care Portal families! We as a parish donate $100 a month to the Care Portal and now have a parish coordinator, Sherry Wells, who is leading our parish ministry to find specific family situations on the Care Portal that seem to be suited to our ability to help. Just by using Facebook, Sherry has already been able to gather support from St. Patrick’s parishioners to meet the needs of a poor area family who, with no notice, had to begin fostering three children of another member of their family in a temporary crisis and faced a real lack of resources. This ministry is in its infant stages, and COVID-19 has prevented us from yet unveiling it in a formal way, but if you are interested, please check St. Patrick’s Facebook page for Care Portal requests. We will also gladly accept gift cards at the rectory (marked for Care Portal).

Our parishes continue to make a difference in the community despite our limitations. Thanks be to God for the abundance of our blessings and the goodness of our people.

Father Scott