By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Father David Harris beamed as he walked around the crowded gym on the campus of St. Therese Church where 170 parishioners of the Pax Christi Collaborative — St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Our Mother of Sorrows and St. Therese churches — gathered on Jan. 24 to package 22,000 meals to send to Burkina Faso.
As a mixture of pop and rock music filled the gym, little kids scurried back and forth carrying containers filled with packets of rice and grains; groups of young adults and older adults laughing and carrying on lively conversations scooped, poured and weighed the staples destined to ease the pangs of hunger of women and children in the West African nation.
Each food package they created — which contains rice, soybeans, dehydrated vegetables and a vitamin supplement — feeds five people.
Burkina Faso — which means land of the people of integrity — is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, according to information from Catholic Relief Services, the United States bishops’ overseas aid group which helped organize the Jan. 24 event.
Prolonged droughts and severe flooding in the country of more than 18 million people has left Burkinabes, as natives of Burkina Faso are known, vulnerable to chronic food shortages.
Father Harris — administrator of all three churches in the Pax Christi Collaborative — said when he and his parishioners heard of the opportunity to help the people of Burkina Faso, there was no hesitation.
“Helping people is inherent in our makeup. When we help others we feel fulfilled,” said Father Harris.
The project was led locally by the Pax Christi Young Catholics — young adults from the three parishes. It was their job to raise money for the project, which they did by holding a trivia night. The goal, said Klaus Schlimm who co-founded the group, was to raise $10,000 for 20,000 meals. They ended up raising $11,000 for 22,000 meals.
CRS coordinated and organized everything else, according to Father Harris. Trucks from Indianapolis brought in the products that were packaged at St. Therese. And the trucks carried the boxes of packaged food back for shipping. CRS will monitor the shipment, which takes about two months to arrive, Father Harris said.
“All we had to do was raise the money and the enthusiasm,” he said.
Schlimm noted that many in the young-adult group weren’t aware of Burkina Faso, so their project was a way of spreading awareness of the country and the need there.
“Having the opportunity to spread awareness and to help so many people feels amazing,” said Schlimm. “It’s our goal as Catholics to help as many people as we can and that’s what this event did today.”
Deacon Scott Haner — who serves at St. Patrick Church and is a CRS “global fellow” — told those gathered at St. Therese that their efforts are “a great example of faith in action.”
“It’s a great example of leveraging the resources of CRS and Stop Hunger Now to help a parish put their faith out on the street,” he said.
According to CRS’ website, the food they packaged will go to a variety of organizations and institutions, including homes for elderly women, homes for young girls and orphanages in Burkina Faso.
Knowing this made Patti Schneider happy.
“I am here to give back and it feels wonderful,” said Schneider, a member of St. Elizabeth. “I will do anything I can to help, because I believe no child should go hungry,” she said.