St. Paul VI parishioners give back during service day

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, November 15, 2023

St. Paul VI parishioners give back during service day

Parishioners from St. Paul VI Parish gathered at St. Mary Parish in Riverside for their annual service day with a variety of outreach to the community and beyond on Nov. 4, 2023. Throughout the morning, parishioners of all ages worked on projects to help those in need, the military and the environment. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Catherine Wirtas, Selene Cepeda and Sienna Marin put together snack packs as one of the outreach projects on Nov. 4, 2023. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Maria D'Amico writes greetings on cards that will be attached to stockings sent to active duty military. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
On left, Deborah Blazina, Alina Sadowski, Kim Thomas, Susie Sheehy, Courtney Arroyo and Nancy Maracich and on right, Marisa Arroyo, Piper Clennon, Robbie Ciennon, Donald Zielonka, Judith May and Beth Sadowski put together bags packed with laundry pods, dryer sheets and quarters so homeless can do their laundry. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cecilia Dadabo conquers the bottle of hard-to-squeeze glue as Maria and Sarah Lyon look on while they make Christmas stockings for military. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Finished stockings that will be sent to active duty military. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Maria Hart and her son Sebastian make stockings for active duty military. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Amy and Mary Josephine Doran decorate cards that will go to active duty military. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A large group of volunteers make stockings that will be sent to active duty military. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Close to 150 people gathered Nov. 4 at St. Paul VI Parish with the express purpose of helping their neighbors.

That the day started with breakfast casseroles, a prayer and included several  different projects, lots of opportunities to connect with fellow parishioners and have fun didn’t hurt, either.

“It gets people involved,” said Sue Jones, who leads St. Paul VI’s service outreach committee. “It gets people who wouldn’t normally do an ongoing service project. This is a one-time thing, and most of the projects are done by 11 o’clock.”

Sometimes, Jones said, the service day volunteers become regular volunteers.

“For some people it just takes that first time to get out there and do something, and it wasn’t that hard,” Jones said.

The parish action day started at St. Mary Parish in Riverside in 2012, Jones said. After St. Mary joined with the former St. Hugh and Mater Christi parishes to form St. Paul VI, the tradition continued, now with participants from all three of the original parishes gathering in the St. Mary gym.

This year, participants could choose between eight projects to be part of. While most take place entirely in the gym, one group went out with the village forester to clean up and improve natural areas. Another, including Boy Scouts and choir members, went to present a flag ceremony and concert, followed by brunch, for residents of the Bishop Goedert Residence at the Hines VA.

In the gym, groups assembled Christmas stockings and decorated cards for active duty military service members; iced, decorated and bagged up cookies for the Beds Plus organization that shelters and helps homeless people; assembled laundry kits with detergent pods, dryer sheets and quarters for people served by Beds Plus; sorted and bagged warm winter clothing for the Catholic Charities center in Cicero; assembled healthy snack packs for children who come to Catholic Charities weekly suppers; and cleaned up St. Paul VI’s two churches, St. Mary and Mater Christi in North Riverside.

It all works by having leaders who take charge of each of the projects.

Several of the agencies that benefit from service day projects are long-term beneficiaries of the parish’s efforts, Jones said.

“If we have a group that we’re working with normally, it makes it easier for us,” Jones said, noting that parish volunteers provide the Tuesday evening supper Catholic Charities offers at its Cicero office once a month and work regularly with Beds Plus.

Pat Cuevas, a member of the service outreach committee, was in charge of assembling laundry kits. That meant she prepared for the day by coordinating donations of detergent pods, dryer sheets and money to be changed into quarters.

Then, on parish action day, she had 14 volunteers signed up to assemble the materials into kits so that people who are homeless can take them to a laundromat to wash their clothes.

Some volunteers are confirmation candidates, some are parents working with their school-age children, Cuevas said. All of them are also invited to bring canned goods to help stock the food pantry.

“There are lots of opportunities to give,” Cuevas said. “And it really brings the parish together. There are so many people in need, so anything to encourage people to help.”


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