Giving HOPE

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p_8_hope_appeal_picNew McDevitt Grant program helps parishes

By Connie Berry
Sun editor

The bequest left to the diocese by Robert and Catherine McDevitt in 2008 specified funds to support HOPE Appeal goals and objectives. On June 25, 2011, 42 parishes received 54 McDevitt Grants totaling $350,000. Some parishes received more than one grant. The amount of the total grant requests was $420,000.

Christopher (Kit) Parker, diocesan director of the Office of Stewardship & Development and HOPE Appeal, said this is the first year the grants were available and subsequent year totals will depend upon how much the endowment earns.

“This is a new project of the HOPE Appeal,” Parker said. “Bishop Cunningham approved the funds to be used for evangelization and food programs in the parishes.”

McDevitt Grant applications were available through the diocese’s web site. Those applying for evangelization grants must have met or exceeded their HOPE Appeal goal for 2010 and described “creative and innovative approaches to the continuing evangelization of our young people and families,” as described in the grant applications. All parishes were eligible to apply for grants for food pantry or food bank programs. The application deadline was April 30, 2011.

Through its sandwich program, the Franciscan Church of the Assumption has fed the hungry on the north side of Syracuse since the 1800s. Sandwiches are distributed seven days a week year round. Brother Nick Spano oversees the food pantry/sandwich program there and with some interest and experience in the culinary arts, he thought a nice, hot bowl of soup would be a welcome addition to the sandwich program. Now, because of the McDevitt Grant of $7,327.50, the soup’s on.

Ken Sprague is director of mission advancement for Assumption and he said the grant will enable Brother Nick to make soup year round. The pantry distributes approximately 6,000 sandwiches a month.

“The sandwiches are great but it’s nice to be able to add some more nutrition to the program,” Sprague said. “In the winter months you have people walking here in the cold. To find hot soup here, well, that will be tremendous.”

Assumption also received an evangelization grant of $7,560 to implement programs at the Franciscan Place at Carousel Mall. Programs to bring families and young people together to explore their Catholic faith and to help them participate more fully in their faith are planned for the Francisan Place, Sprague said.

The McDevitt Grants will help Assumption sustain some of the outreach programs. Sprague said what stood out for him with the grant applications was the ease and effectiveness of the process.

“I was amazed at how efficient this was,” Sprague said. “You had all the info you needed and it all happened on the exact date they said it would.”

Mary Lou Lauchert coordinates faith formation and youth programs at St. Mary’s Church in Clinton. Her parish received an $8,000 McDevitt Grant to target programs for young people in grades six through eight. Lauchert explained the parish will hire a part-time person to implement the plans.

“Both school and faith formation programs were always well attended
but we wanted to develop a way to keep the connection going between kids and the church so that they realize it is a true community and a place they can rely on,” Lauchert said.

Lauchert said that attendance at faith formation classes is typically pretty high up until the middle school years when the young people begin to think they may have “outgrown” the church programs.

“The parishioners have always been very, very generous in supporting the youth in our parish,” Lauchert said. “We just want to rekindle that dedication to the youth.”

She said training the young people for leadership roles and offering a Vacation Bible School during the February school break is one piece of the plan for the youth of St. Mary’s.

“The grant will help us make our program more strong and vibrant,” Lauchert said.

St. Francis of Assisi Church in Bridgeport is one of those parishes not quite in the city and not quite in the country. It serves a population from the eastern suburbs of Onondaga County and the more rural areas of Madison County. With a McDevitt Grant check for $7,327.50 earmarked for the food pantry, the parish will be able to help feed the hungry in both areas.

“We’ll use the funds to buy food to stock our food pantry shelves,” said Diane Brzuszkiewicz, business administrator at St. Francis Church.

She explained the food pantry typically serves 150 families a month with 300 families receiving help during the holiday months. The needs of the community rose 26 percent in 2009-2010, Brzuszkiewicz said.

“We don’t always have the money needed to buy more food and there is less money and more need out there,” she said.

The parish also received a $3,780 McDevitt Grant to begin a faith-sharing program. A reading group will start up in the fall, she said, to encourage parishioners to learn more about their Catholic faith so that they will be more knowledgeable when they talk to others about it.

“This will be a small group discussion to increase our own awareness, educate our parishioners and hopefully improve our Mass attendance,” Brzuszkiewicz said. “We need to know and understand our faith so that we can share it with others.”

Robert and Catherine McDevitt were devout Catholics and life-long supporters of the diocese. The fulfillment of their bequest is now giving hope to people in parish communities across the diocese. In its infancy now, the McDevitt Grants will continue to provide support to programs for years to come.

For more information about the grants, go to  www.syracusediocese.org and click on the HOPE Appeal logo.

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