Ecumenical effort furnishes
apartment for Afghan family

Elaine Hulsman, parishioner of St. John Paul II who led the donation collection efforts, kept track of items the family will need that weren’t donated. “We had very generous donors. People gave grocery cards and cash to buy what we need,” she said. (Record Photos by Kayla Boyd)

Parishioners from five Hikes Point churches are taking seriously the lyrics of the popular Christmas carol “Joy to the World.”

On Dec. 21, members of St. John Paul II Church, St. Paul Episcopal Church, St. Andrew United Church of Christ, Buechel Park Baptist Church and St. Martha Church “let every heart prepare him room” by setting up an apartment for an Afghan family arriving in Louisville Thursday night, just two days before Christmas.

The churches have worked together in the past through the Francis Center, an outreach ministry at St. John Paul II Church, according to Elaine Hulsman, the parishioner who spearheaded the effort at St. John Paul.

Kathy Leichty reached the top shelf of a cabinet to put away dishes donated to an incoming Afghan family. The family will arrive late Dec. 23.

Hulsman and Ursuline Sister Ruth Ann Haunz attended an information session that Catholic Charities hosted in early September and decided to start a collection for items to furnish an apartment for an arriving family.

“It’s very personal for me because I have two brothers who are retired from the Air National Guard who have been to Afghanistan,” Hulsman said. “This is something I have to do, to reach out and help.”

Sister Haunz said the needs of evacuated families were something that the Hikes Point churches could respond to.

Joe Ford, St. John Paul II parishioner, fixed a kitchen drawer that was filled with donated cooking utensils.

“It reminds me of the Gospel story of the Good Samaritan,” she said while standing in the apartment that will soon house the Afghan family. “People help people because it’s the right thing to do.”

Margo Borders, a parishioner of St. Martha, said, “We’re all aware of what’s going on in the world and we all relate to needing a home.”

Buechel Park Baptist member Kathy Leichty unpacked kitchen items and found homes for them in the cabinets. Nearby, Hulsman made a list of additional items the family would need, such as a toilet paper roll holder and pencils.

“Jesus was an immigrant,” Leichty said.

“He was also a refugee when he went to Egypt,” Sister Haunz added.

Elaine Hulsman fit burners into their slots on the stovetop while Lauren Goldener of Catholic Charities looked on.

Lauren Goldener, Catholic Charities Migration and Refugee Services community engagement specialist, helped set up the apartment, too.

“It’s really cool to see a bunch of denominations together,” she said. “It’s a neat picture of the church.”

Hulsman echoed Goldener’s sentiment.

“That’s part of what Pope Francis wants us to do, reach out ecumenically,” she said.

“And follow the Gospel,” added Sister Haunz.

Lauren Goldener, left, Kathy Leichty, center, and Jackie Shahroudie, right, unpacked kitchen and cleaning supplies in the apartment being set up for an Afghan evacuee family Dec. 21.

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