St. Clement parishioners celebrate service with daylong event

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Wednesday, May 1, 2024

St. Clement parishioners celebrate service with daylong event

Members of St. Clement Parish, 642 W Deming Place, Chicago, gathered for their 19th annual Service Day on April 27, 2024. Parishioners joined their pastor Father Peter Wojcik for a prayer service to kick-off the day then broke into groups and headed to various sites throughout the city to participate. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Parishioners take part in the pray service before they go out to volunteer. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Martina Ricca gives out directions to parishioners getting ready to leave to work sites. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Group leaders pray over participants during a prayer service before heading out to various sites to work. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Ciro Poza works in the garden at Mission of Our Lady of the Angels in West Humboldt Park. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Ally Sheehy and Dana Herman work around the flower garden at Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Gonzalo Azcarate, Christopher Pillay, Ainhoa Garcia, Ciro Poza, Franciscan Sister Alicia Torres weed in one of the gardens at Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Marnie McHale and Cindy Vanina sort food items at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Jennifer Herd, Chiar Delpero and Jeannine Cleary sort through diapers at Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

On the sunny afternoon of April 27, over 200 parishioners from St. Clement Parish fanned out across the city’s North and West sides volunteering their time at 13 sites as part of the parish’s annual service day.

This was the 19th year for the event. Some of the service sites included Mission of Our Lady of the Angels, Well of Mercy, Lincoln Park Community Services, Above and Beyond Family Recovery Center and Marillac St. Vincent Family Services.

The day began with a prayer service at the church and then teams carpooled to the different sites. Everyone returned to the church for 5 p.m. Mass followed by pizza and a discussion about the day.

“I think that St. Clement has always been service-forward and outward-facing,” said Martina Ricci, director of young adult ministry and community outreach at the Lincoln Park parish. “We talk the talk and this is our way to walk the walk too.”

People of all ages took part in the service day.

“I think one of the fruits is learning about these different communities and recognizing how fortunate we are to be at such a vibrant and active and well-resourced parish and space,” Ricci said. “It’s also an opportunity to grow deeper in community together.”

Helen Wargel has taken part in every service day since it began.

“People are hungry to volunteer, and they don’t always know an easy way and this is super easy as long as you’re available on the day that we’re doing it,” she said. “It’s a joyful thing — all these people coming together to work and help others. And the agencies really appreciate it.”

For Emily McCoy, volunteering during service day is affirming.

“Especially in our community, we are so, so blessed, especially with the demographic that comes to St. Clement, and I think it’s really important that we recognize that and take every opportunity we can to share it back with the city of Chicago,” she said. “I think we try and do as many opportunities as we can at St. Clement to do that. I think it’s really affirming to have people take time out of their day-to-day life to do that, but when it’s a big day like this when the whole community comes together, I think it’s really affirming to people’s faith.”

Aylice Toohey served as a co-captain of the team that volunteered at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels. The volunteers weeded gardens in three lots and helped pack and organize items for the food pantry.

Toohey and her son have taken part in the service day for the past five years. The number of parishioners who took part this year was exciting, she said.

“People are working together who don’t know each other but are forging bonds today while helping another community,” Toohey said. “The vibrancy of St. Clement is pretty special.”

That vibrancy has been there as long as she has been a parishioner, she said, but it was renewed following the pandemic.

“This is a great way to bring our whole community together,” Toohey said.

Serving others reminds her how fortunate she and her family are. And serving through her parish helps her also connect with her faith, she said.

“But it also connects me to people that I don’t meet in the other spaces in my life,” she said. “I meet so many people who remind me, sometimes when I’m most down, how much good there is in the world and how much people want to do good.”

This was Cyndy Vanina’s first service day, and she helped fill bags with food for distribution at the mission’s food pantry.

She teaches healthy cooking in after school programs, so it was fitting she volunteered in the food pantry. She has supported the mission over the years through donations, but had never visited.

The service day is a natural thing for a parish to do, she said.

“I think it’s really what we’re here for as Catholics,” Vanina said. “It’s reaching out and helping people and getting out into the community and just not your own little group.”


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