Healing of the Second Wound Feeding Those in Need Who Come to My Brother’s Keeper of Irvington, Maryland

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A Friday mid-morning ritual has developed in St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish Rectory. Parish volunteers have linked with My Brother’s Keeper on Frederick Ave to prepare brown bag lunches so as to feed the local poor of the neighborhood on Saturday and Sunday when that outreach site is not open. My Brother’s Keeper is an outreach center operated by the concert of local religious organizations, which includes St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish. Father Rick Frechette, C.P. was a person instrumental in the founding of this community outreach. Baltimore was his first assignment after ordination in 1979.

Fourteen-year parish staff member Gail Fischer leads Carolyn and Joe Garbo, Dorothy McSwain, Georgia DiLella, Mary Bochese, Kevin Travers, Father Alban Harmon, C.P. and others through the following steps. The group has developed a production line to make sandwiches that are able to feed 50 people on the weekend. This means making 100 sandwiches. Each brown bag includes two sandwiches, which are made from processed meats such as bologna, ham, and local favorite braunschweiger. Condiments often are included with the sandwiches. Each bag also comes with a fruit juice drink or fruit, dessert or cookies, and salad if it is available.

Gail Fischer works closely with local food banks to make this parish outreach effective. From her computer, she checks the daily menu issued at the website of the Maryland Food Bank on Halethorpe Farm Road. Being that St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish is a non-profit, it is a registered participant. Dues are $50 a year. Some of the items purchased cost between 14 cents and 18 cents per pound. Produce is free. Depending on need and price, she decides whether to order items from the Food Bank or a local market. Many times Fischer goes to the Food Bank on Tuesday because that is when she is able to get fresh bread and produce. These items go quick! Most of the time she brings the items back to the parish rectory where they are stored on site in two freezers that have been donated to the parish. Meat products are frozen for later use, as the food bank does not get meat on a weekly basis.

While the parish has tried other outreach programs, such as one for local neighborhood kids after school, Gail Fischer came to be aware that the food preparation in conjunction with My Brother’s Keeper was a sensible option when she visited the organization with the parish confirmation class. This visit led her to experience the first hand thanks and excitement of the local people in need of the food. Now when she drops off the sandwiches made each Friday, she gets to see in person those who benefit from the outreach. This ritual has strengthened her resolve for a wish list to keep this outreach going and heal the wound of local hunger. Regularly, she would like to include personal care items such as toothbrushes and soap. It costs about $75 per month to get the food. To this point the money has come from the parish. Of course, outside donations are always accepted to keep costs down. Also welcome would be healthy snacks-granola bars or fruit-on a regular basis so they do not spoil. She thinks it is just important “to take care of the needy and feed the hungry.” Even though almost everyone in this program is not a regular parishioner who shows up each week in church, she and the volunteers who make the lunches believe the outreach is important. After all, it is the people from parish neighborhood.