Parishes, schools reach out to others during pandemic

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Elmwood Park Chief of Police Frank Fagiano collects cleaning supplies from St. Celestine School. The school donated them to first responders in their community who were in need on April 1, 2020. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

As Illinois instituted a stay-at-home order for all residents, young people from Sts. Joseph and Francis Xavier Parish in Wilmette were gearing up to reach out.

They were talking with pastor Father Wayne Watts about forming a teen board to help Catholic Charities and while they had to postpone meeting about it because of COVID-19, and it gave Watts an idea.

“I was just thinking that we had these young people who were willing to serve and we have a community right here in Wilmette of 800 to 1,000 people who are in the vulnerable population,” Watts said.

So parish staff gave their names and phone numbers to the teens, who then called them to see if they needed any help or non-essential items the parish could deliver.

“We just got the word out. It started with about 10 kids who volunteered to help and it kept expanding and expanding,” Watts said.

As they called people to see if they could help with needs like picking up groceries, many of those who were called said they wanted to help too.

“So we have over 100 people who have raised their hand to volunteer,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting. People are really into it.”

When life returns to normal, the parish hopes to use this as a base to build a buddy system in the parish.

The effort has helped unite the parish, which was created in July from the merger of two parishes as part of Renew My Church.

“I do think in the midst of all of this, people need to feel engaged,” he said. “People need to feel wanted. I think as we are church together, it fills those needs of people.”

There are benefits on both sides.

“The kids feel like they are making a real difference and the vulnerable adults feel connected to a church that perhaps they’ve been separated from,” Watts said. “Even if they don’t do a lot of errands, if they just check in with one another once in a while it’s amazing.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic parishes and schools across the archdiocese are reaching out to help others in large and small ways.

On April 1, St. Celestine School in Elmwood Park donated cleaning wipes to their local police and fire departments.

They had some on hand because at the beginning of every school year, parents donate cleaning wipes for their children’s classrooms.

“During the first week that we were out [for the shutdown] I had a couple of parents mention, ‘We should probably donate those wipes to first responders because they don’t have them. The stores are running out of them. They really need them,’” said Sheila Klich, principal of St. Celestine School.

So maintenance staff went into the classrooms and collected 82 containers of wipes to donate.

“When I reached out to the Elmwood Park Police Department they said they could absolutely use them because they were going through them like crazy wiping everything down,” Klich said.

The school has a great sense of community and supports both the school and wider community in many ways, she said.

“A lot of our parents are first responders so they have a special sense of connection,” she said.

“This just fit in really well with the way our community operates and our response to needs.”


  • coronavirus

Related Articles