During the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic, Catholic Charities of Louisville reached out to parishes and provided funds for them to help care for individuals in need.
Deacon Lucio Caruso, who serves as director of mission for Catholic Charities, said partnerships with several parishes have blossomed during this time. “That has been the best part. We need everybody at every level working together,” said Deacon Caruso, adding this was also an opportunity to strengthen the connection with parishes outside of Jefferson county.
Earlier in the year, Catholic Charities received a $50,000 grant from the city’s One Louisville: COVID-19 Response Fund as well as a $16,000 grant from Catholic Charities USA, said Deacon Caruso.
Close to 20 parishes have received help so far. Among those parishes is the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown, Ky., where the funds were used to open a satellite location of the parish’s Bread of Life food pantry. The pantry is operated by the St. Vincent de Paul Outreach Ministries. Christine Hovan, who serves as executive director of the St. Vincent de Paul Outreach Ministries, said during the shutdown they heard from an individual in New Haven, Ky., — about 14 miles from Bardstown — who was concerned with the lack of access to food in that area. Hovan said they responded by opening another location in New Haven at the beginning of May. “The goal was to find out if the service was needed,” she said. “That area was underserved. Over 100 families should be served and only 50 were being served.”
Ninety families received food within a month of the new pantry being opened, Hovan said. Money from Catholic Charities was used to purchase food for that location which will remain open into the fall when they will determine if it’ll be a permanent location, she said.
Some of those funds were also used to build a washroom and install a toilet and sink in the space which houses the Room in the Inn — a ministry which provides a place to sleep and meals for homeless individuals, said Hovan.
The inn is located on the second floor of the St. Vincent de Paul Outreach Ministries building in Bardstown.
Those who seek shelter at night can now place the bedding into the washers before leaving. This eliminates the risk of taking the bedding to the homes of elderly volunteers who helped with laundry from the inn, noted Hovan.
Hovan said the ministry is grateful for the partnership. “Because Catholic Charities donated the money, we get to share in the important work of the archdiocese in honoring Christ in the people we see,” said Hovan.
St. Michael Church in Jeffersontown was one of the parishes that received funds from Catholic Charities too.
These funds plus donations from parishioners allowed the parish to start a ministry called Project HOPE which delivered 200 care packages called “bags of goodness” to parishioners and individuals in the community. The bags were filled with grains, proteins, snacks and spiritual resources.
Father Steven Henriksen, pastor of St. Michael, said the bags have been “well received.” The ministry started with the belief that “Hope is the intersection between faith and love. We love neighbors and have faith in God,” said Father Henriksen during a recent interview.
Father Henriksen said “charity has an awkward meaning” to some. Project HOPE is meant to redefine charity to mean “lifting people up.”
“This kind of tangible action complements the other ministries we’ve established,” said Father Henriksen. “Until we find a vaccine (for COVID-19), we have masks and social distancing. From a spiritual perspective we have an opportunity to share our hope in the resurrection with others. It’s a small thing in a big troubled world.”