Thanksgiving was a little more joy-filled for many seniors in Matawan despite the coronavirus, thanks to the efforts of St. Clement Parish and community volunteers.
Matawan parish delivers Thanksgiving meals, encouragement to area seniors
”[Hopefully] they feel that love and presence of God through the actions of our parishioners here, and that strengthens the bond of love in our community,” said Father Thomas Vala, pastor of the Matawan parish.
Photo Gallery: St. Clement Parish delivers meals to seniors in community
Residents of the nearby Minnisink Village Senior Housing received a complete homemade Thanksgiving meal the morning of Nov. 26 prepared by The Reception Center by Mayer Catering – a business owned by St. Clement parishioner Brian Mayer, which makes use of the church’s kitchen and reception hall on parish property.
“We were happy to help St. Clement’s provide the seniors with Thanksgiving meals,” said Mary Beth Reid, wedding coordinator of The Reception Center by Mayer Catering. “Most of them won’t be able to be with their families due to the COVID situation.”
The catering business has moved to curbside pickups for both individual and group meals, as well as holiday meal offerings, as the months of the pandemic have had customers taking a step back from weddings and large parties.
The 49 meals delivered to Minnisink Village were a cooperation between Mayer’s business and a generous anonymous donor. They consisted of salad, turkey, gravy, roasted vegetables, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin nut roll dessert.
“Many of [the seniors] are living by themselves,” said Susan Quinn, a parishioner who volunteered to deliver the Thanksgiving meals. “Many of them are parishioners … those who are unable to participate in Mass. We [extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist], visit them and bring them prayer and Holy Communion. During COVID, we’ve been unable to meet with them in that way – and that really saddens us a lot.”
Quinn hoped that by reaching out with a Thanksgiving meal delivery, “a time when families get together and are supposed to be rejoicing,” they could provide that much-needed human touch even though socially distant. “I think they’re going to be happy to see a familiar face or a new face.”
In addition to the meal, each delivery included a handmade Thanksgiving card from one of the children enrolled in St. Clement’s religious education program.
An important component of the outreach, Father Vala pointed out, was the connection to the teachings of Jesus – particularly that of Matthew 25, the Gospel reading for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe on Nov. 22.
“Jesus said when you minister to the poor and needy, you are ministering to Jesus himself – that’s what I think this means to me,” he said. “We are bringing that love of God to the poor and the needy, and making that love and presence of God felt … I think about Thanksgiving, being thankful to God for what we have … and Thanksgiving [means] extending that love of God to those in need.”
As a service and evangelization tool, Father Vala explained the parish’s meal deliveries were important because “especially in these times, people are struggling – financially, emotionally, spiritually – and the emotional toll it’s taking … the isolation at times, maybe feeling incapable of responding to the coronavirus.”
He noted that despite the negative aspects of the pandemic, “people are still willing to step out of themselves … This virus doesn’t hold us back from giving that love of God to others; it doesn’t defeat [our] spiritual selves. We can still love and conquer difficulties in our lives.”
Sydney Kennedy, a journalism student who accompanied her aunt to volunteer delivering meals, was eager to help. “I wanted to be part of the experience of giving back to your community,” she said, “and doing service on Thanksgiving during COVID. The residents of Minnisink Village do probably feel lonely; they can’t be with their family.”
Added Father Vala, “I’m grateful to have parishioners who are willing to step up and make this program work. When we’re willing to give of ourselves to make sacrifices for others, we’re doing it for Christ. … We’re living our vocation, we’re living a ministry, to bring the love of God to others.”
The Monitor freelance photographer Hal Brown contributed to this story.