Catholic Charities kicked off the 40 Cans for Lent and 40 Days of Service initiatives with a press conference at the Guadalupe Community Center March 7 to raise awareness and engage the community in a non-denominational effort to address food insecurity and strengthen the most vulnerable during Lent, from March 7to April 20.
40 Cans for Lent aims to collect 100,000 pounds of food to feed the hungry, the homeless, and those in crisis regardless of race, religion, or national origin through Catholic Charities Food Pantries and the Mobile Food Pantry.
40 Days of Service plans to engage the community to serve others by preparing for crisis response, providing humanitarian aid, mentoring and tutoring youth, visiting isolated seniors, and much more.
The kickoff event featured 300 community leaders, partners, university, elementary, and high school students, Catholic clergy and parishioners, businesses, and others as the community united to fight hunger and encounter those in need. Bill Taylor from KENS 5 emceed the event with remarks from Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller MSpS, Auxiliary Bishop Michael Joseph Boulette, and Catholic Charities President/CEO, J. Antonio Fernandez, with additional comments by partners H-E-B and RK Group.
Archbishop Gustavo shared that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the three traditional ways that Christians observe this season so that we may be more deeply united with Christ, and more closely conformed to his self-sacrifice for the salvation of the world, but that they are not meant to be simply a private affair. “No! The prayer, fasting, and almsgiving of Lent are meant to have a real impact not only for ourselves, but more importantly, for others!” the archbishop stressed. “Christ’s sacrifice was made for the salvation of the world, and the Church’s sacrifices today must be joined to the purpose of Christ’s own sacrifice! That is, our sacrifice is also for the life of the world!”
The San Antonio prelate advised that one of the best ways we can have impact is by sharing needed food and sustenance with others, saying that 40 Cans for Lent is a very practical and very needed way of offering sacrifices for the good of those in need. He cited the statistic that in San Antonio, one out of every five of our neighbors is food distressed. “It is shocking, but true,” he said sadly. Archbishop Gustavo shared that the hungry in our community include not simply the homeless — though there are many homeless — but also the working poor, of whom there are thousands and thousands in San Antonio. “These brothers and sisters need the small sacrifices we can make for their wellbeing,” he emphasized.
The Missionary of the Holy Spirit referred to the Holy Father, Pope Francis, who has called for us to go to the very edges of the world where the children of God stand in need. “In San Antonio we need not go too far to find ourselves among those living at the edges,” he told listeners.
The archbishop called upon all who are able to join in the 40 Cans for Lent campaign, asking that one can of food for each Lenten day be given to Catholic Charities or your local parish Church. “This food can then be given directly to those who are in need in our own neighborhoods, our own city, our own communities,” he declared. “It is a very practical way to live out our Lenten call, and to be present to those at the edges!”
At his general audience on March 5, Pope Francis called upon all Christians to “open their hearts.” “Let us open our hearts to those in need by sharing in this great campaign, ‘40 Cans for Lent,”’ concluded the Alamo city ordinary.
Individuals and organizations interested in participating in 40 Cans for Lent by hosting a food drive can contact Tom Hoog at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a collection bin. Individuals and organizations interested in participating in 40 Days of Service by volunteering can visit the webpage www.ccaosa.org/40daysofservice.
Photo: Veronica Markland for Today’s Catholic Newspaper