On Thanksgiving Day, over 250 people, many of whom are without stable housing, came to Catholic Charities, 720 N. LaSalle St., to celebrate the holiday with a meal and fellowship. Cardinal Cupich and Sally Blount, president and CEO of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of Chicago, helped serve the meal and greet guests. While this was the first in-person holiday meal since the pandemic began, Catholic Charities has been serving dinner to guests each weeknight for several months. To help keep people safe, volunteers served the meals to guests at tables instead of having them go through a buffet line, and tables were sanitized between groups. Last year the agency distributed packaged meals instead of hosting the sit-down event. “This is an opportunity for the entire human family to come together from all parts of society,” Cardinal Cupich told news media during the event. “We want to make sure everybody has a place at the table of life. That’s why we’re at this table here today.” He thanked the volunteers and staff of Catholic Charities for providing the meal. “The pandemic, of course, has separated all of us and so this is an opportunity to remember that one of the great gifts we have in life is connecting with other people,” he said. “You know, Catholic Charities offers a meal five days a week here, not just on Thanksgiving.” Whenever Catholic Charities volunteers or staff provide meals or any other service to people, they ask about other needs the guests may have and provide wraparound services, the cardinal noted. “For instance, a lot of people, through Catholic Charities, have become vaccinated who otherwise might have been missed,” Cardinal Cupich said. “We try to have an integrated approach to what we’re doing, helping people to make sure they’re not forgotten, but also allow them to realize that there are other people who care about them out there.” The wider community needs to hear the same message, he said. “The word ‘thanksgiving’ reminds us that, in fact, we are all blessed. ... The blessings that we have ... come from God’s bounty,” the cardinal said. “We have to make sure we imitate God in that sense of being generous to people who are in need, so nobody falls through the cracks.” The day before Thanksgiving, Cardinal Cupich helped distribute turkeys, other food and clothing at the weekly food pantry at St. Moses the Black Parish in the city’s Park Manor neighborhood. Hosting in-person meals is important to Catholic Charities, Blount said. “There’s something about connecting with the Christ in each person,” she said. “There’s something very holy about serving somebody a meal. It goes all the way back to Christ and how he brought the disciples together. I think the best way to build community is through meals and that’s been one of the hardest things in the pandemic.” The event is not just for the guests, she noted. “It’s also for the people who come and volunteer,” Blount said. “I think it’s even more joyful for the people who serve, in some ways.” Since she joined Catholic Charities Aug. 1, 2020, Blount said, she has learned that the agency serves two kinds of needs: material and spiritual. “People in spiritual need want to know they can help,” she said. “People in material need need the help. Each of them is a different kind of need and they can only be met through the reciprocal practice of mercy. Nobody is higher or lower. We each come to this with a need.” For the past five years, Eddie Tamez, a member of St. John Berchmans Parish, 2517 W. Logan Blvd., has donated the food for the meal from his restaurant and catering business, the Royale Parie. “This is our fifth Thanksgiving meal. It’s a feast for a feast,” Tamez said. “We go out of our way to do a little bit more extra for our guests because they deserve it. And not only do they deserve it, we said, ‘You know what? It’s Thanksgiving. It’s part of what we should be doing to give thanks for all of these wonderful people.’” Each guest received two plates filled with food. The menu included fruit and chef salads, turkey with dressing, tacos, stuffed shells, mashed potatoes, Greek triangles, meatballs and mostaccioli, rolls and desserts. This was Stephanie McIntyre’s 10th year volunteering at the Thanksgiving meal. Why does she keep coming? “I see Christ in everyone,” the Holy Name Cathedral parishioner said. “We were in the wilderness for like the last year and a half. We’re coming home. We see the light. It’s a new beginning.” It has been a time of transformation for everyone, she said. “I think people are more compassionate. They’re more empathetic. They’re more loving,” McIntyre said. She is very happy to be back serving the Thanksgiving meal in-person. “I’m just overjoyed. I cried when I came in and saw Eddie [Tamez] and I saw the spread and I’m like, ‘Thank you, God!’ because literally there but for the grace of God go I,” she said.