Longstanding parish ‘diner’ offers hot meals and friendship

By Steve Euvino | Contributor
Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Longstanding parish ‘diner’ offers hot meals and friendship

Volunteers at Our Lady of Kibeho Parish prepare dinners each Wednesday afternoon as part of the parish "diner." Carryout only since 2020, the diner has been serving the Morgan Park community since 2005. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Shannette Rooks, Julia Ward and J.C. Jefferson prepare carryout orders in the kitchen at Our Lady of Kibeho Parish on March 1, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Julia Ward prepares carryout orders at Our Lady of Kibeho Parish's "diner" on March 1, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Baked chicken was on the menu for the Our Lady of Kibeho parish diner on March 1, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Catherine Hart, near the door, runs the welcome and order desk while Renée Allen packs up dinners at Our Lady of Kibeho Parish on March 1, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Laurann Bibbs packs carryout dinners at Our Lady of Kibeho Parish on March 1, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Alfred Coleman II, director of Zacchaeus House, gathers dinners to take to the men staying at the transitional home on March 1, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Catherine Hart greets guests at the welcome and order desk at Our Lady of Kibeho Parish's "diner" on March 1, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

How does a hot, home-cooked meal at no charge on Wednesday evenings sound?

For Morgan Park residents, that’s available in the diner in the OSP Community Room at Our Lady of Kibeho Parish.

Since 2005, when it was Holy Name of Mary Parish, volunteers have spent Wednesdays preparing, packaging, and serving meals to the community, along with shopping and stocking shelves. Over the years, these volunteers, many in their 70s and 80s, have come to know their guests.

Just ask Delores Hausey, who turned 87 in February. Upon learning of the date, diner volunteers sang “Happy Birthday” to the octogenarian.

“It feels good when someone does something special for you,” Hausey said. “The food is always good, and I’m too old to be cooking.”

The OSP Diner takes its name from the Oblate Sisters of Providence, who served the parish and its school for 60 years.

Catherine Hart, who has coordinated the diner since 2014, said meals are planned monthly. The diner averaged 150 guests in February; it saw those numbers grow to nearly 180 by early March.

Hart said that the diner is a ministry of the parish, adding, “I like that we are able to help the community, the people who need food. We’re serving a lot of seniors.”

She continued, “A lot of seniors are alone. Here they have a chance to be greeted and know they’re getting a healthy meal, and that we care about them.”  

Hart said one of the diner’s guests gives each volunteer a small present for Christmas.

“She took the time to do that,” Hart said, “and that says a lot.”

When guests enter the Community Center, they register with their names and the number of meals desired. The diner also has guests’ phone numbers, and volunteers call to remind them of the meals.

Hart recalled another guest who told her, “I’m so appreciative of you guys. Thank you so much.” Such comments, Hart said, “make us feel good.”

Prior to the pandemic, the diner served sit-down meals. Today all meals are carry-outs, and are served from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.  Food preparation starts Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and clean-up concludes at 5:45 p.m.

Food orders have tripled in recent months, Hart said. Prior to the pandemic, the diner served 40-50 meals.

“To me, that says, oh my gosh, what were these people doing before [the pandemic]?” Hart said. “They were relying on what they had at home. Now we’re able to send food home with them.”

Food also goes across the street to Heritage Academy for after-school students and to Zacchaeus House, a transitional facility for men run by the archdiocese.

“The diner is a real benefit for the men,” said Deacon Alfred Coleman II, who works at the transitional home.

Laurann Bibbs, a volunteer, prepares meals for distribution. “I enjoy helping in the kitchen and giving out meals,” she said. “When they say thank you, that’s what really makes me feel good.”

Kitchen volunteer Julia Ward explained, “I enjoy feeding individuals, especially those in the community who need food. That’s very rewarding.”

Ward added that diner volunteers work well together and help each other. That includes J.C. Jefferson, who was slicing ham on a recent Wednesday.

“I like the people I work with,” he said. “It makes for a wonderful day.”

Father Bob Gilbert was pastor at Holy Name of Mary from 2018 to 2022, when that parish, Sts. Peter and Paul, and St. John De LaSalle merged into Our Lady of Kibeho. Now the pastor of Our Lady of Kibeho, Gilbert said the diner’s popularity shows two things.

“There’s an obvious need for this in the community,” the pastor said, “and we have a very giving, caring group of volunteers.”

Food and funding for the diner come from the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the parish, grants, and other donors.

Volunteer Renée Allen, who has been with the diner since its opening 18 years ago, said the ministry was started by the Ladies Auxiliary of St. Peter Claver and the first chair was Hortense Harris. The diner opened with one guest, but it slowly grew.

In addition to meals, the diner occasionally makes available grocery items and clothing.

Angela Ware, originally from St. John De LaSalle Parish, picked up two meals. “This is really a great idea,” she said, “and it’s so much needed.” 

Volunteer Julia Cartwright picked up three meals for relatives. “I love this ministry,” she said. “It’s one thing to help someone out, but if they can get a meal, it means a lot.”

Celia Johnson picked up two meals, including one for a grandson home from college.

“This [diner] means everything,” Johnson said. “It’s fun, relaxing and everyone is friendly.”


  • hunger
  • parishes

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