By Eileen Jevis | Staff writer

Making sandwiches for local food pantries is a volunteer project that all ages can participate in, like this young group at Christ the King Church in Liverpool.

The Lenten season, which begins in less than two weeks, is a time of spiritual preparation through reflection, enlightenment and gaining a deeper understanding of Christ. Traditionally, it is a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as we prepare to celebrate Christ’s Passion, death and Resurrection.

However, Lent is more than a time of sacrifice and abstinence. It is an opportunity to turn our hearts and minds to the service of others. “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God” (Hebrews 13:16).

As we contemplate our Lenten journey and prepare ourselves for Christ’s coming at Easter, we reached out to parishes across the diocese and found multiple opportunities for people to volunteer their time and talent.

Father James Schultz and Kristie Pauldine at St. Mary’s Parish and Shrine in Oswego offer a widespread invitation to parishioners across the Diocese to help them make scapulars and support their Brown Scapular Apostolate. Inspired by the message given by Our Blessed Mother to St. Simon Stock stating that “whosoever dies wearing this garment shall not suffer eternal fire,” they are trying to fulfill large orders and get brown scapulars to Catholic schools, parishes and individuals throughout New York and beyond. “We invite any persons or parishes interested to join one of our scapular-making parties to contact us to set up their own group visit to make scapulars and contribute to this effort to save souls,” said Pauldine. “Youth groups, prayer groups, men’s groups and others are all joyfully welcomed.” Please visit to learn more.

Father John Mikalajunas of Holy Trinity Church in Utica said the Lenten season is always right to touch the hearts of others. Parishioners are needed in many parishes to visit the sick and homebound.

At Holy Family Church in Syracuse, Liz Marrapese and Margo Dyer co-direct the parish outreach program. “We serve approximately 100-200 clients each month,” said Marrapese. “We provide each person in the family with three meals a day for five days each week.” Marrapese said they also provide food to the Samaritan Center and Fairmount Gardens, a senior living facility nearby. “Food donations, toiletry and household items and cash donations go a long way in keeping our shelves stocked,” she said.

Sister Kathy Stark, DSMP, pastoral associate at Holy Family, said there is much one can do to serve others. “We are always in need of crafters to knit or crochet prayer shawls,” she said. “Prayer shawls are given to those undergoing medical procedures as a comfort after a loss or in times of stress, during bereavement or during an illness and recovery. They are also given during celebrations and times of joy.”

For those who don’t knit, Sister Kathy echoes Father Mikalajunas’ suggestion to reach out to neighbors and family members to see if they need help. She encourages us to visit those who are homebound, lonely or ill. “That is a very powerful act of mercy,” she said. “Perhaps there is someone who can’t get out or needs their driveway or sidewalk shoveled. They just need to know someone cares and they haven’t been forgotten. Just a visit or phone call can bring them joy.” Anyone interested in learning more about the prayer shawl program can contact Sister Kathy at 315-488-3139.

Like many parishes, the Church of the Holy Trinity in Binghamton has seen a significant increase in the number of individuals who need food assistance. In 2021, the Church of Saints Cyril & Methodius provided 7,400 lunches through its sandwich ministry program. “Because of COVID and an increase in the refugee population in the area, the demand has risen significantly,” said pastoral assistant Barbara Hill. The parish needs assistance with other ministries as well. The Warm Hands, Warm Hearts Program collects scarves, hats and mittens that are donated to three different organizations in the community. The Walking with Moms in Need ministry collects baby clothes, equipment and supplies.

“There are many ways to carry out the mission of service,” she said. “Providing warm clothing, supplies for babies and children, and items to the food pantry is a way for us to remember what Jesus has done for us,” said Hill.  For more information, contact Barbara Hill at 607-724-1372.

Barb Donnelly manages the Southern Tier Outreach Ministry Program (originally St. Patrick’s Outreach Ministry Program). The food and clothing distribution program that started during the pandemic is now located at Saints Cyril & Methodius. In January alone, they provided food at no cost to 4,400 people. They are in need of volunteers. She can be reached at 607-722-1060.

This season of hope and spiritual renewal can give us a renewed purpose while bringing joy to others. Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (March 2) and ends at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday (April 14).

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