Parishes’ programs tied to pope’s visit

Staff report

BOTKINS — With Pope Francis’ arrival in the United States grabbing the headlines, many may wonder how the local Catholic Church is responding to this occasion. One group of local parishes has used the opportunity to further the pope’s emphasis on a church that “is poor and for the poor.”

The local Petersburg Parishes of Botkins Immaculate Conception, Fryburg St. John, Rhine St. Lawrence and Wapakoneta St. Joseph have participated in the “Food for All: Be Multiplied” campaign organized by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“Food for All: Be Multiplied” is a collaborative effort to respond faithfully to hunger, with local, national and worldwide components. Inspired by Pope Francis’ call to action to end hunger by 2025 and in conjunction with his visit to Philadelphia in September. “Food for All: Be Multiplied” is the collective archdiocesan “spiritual bouquet” for Pope Francis. (A spiritual bouquet is prayer and/or good works by one person in honor of and as a gift to another person.)

Archdiocesan press releases note that “in the Miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000, the disciples gave Jesus the little they had and he multiplied it to feed an impossible number of people. If we are going to end this seemingly insurmountable problem of hunger in our archdiocese, faith, even the size of a mustard seed can make the impossible, possible.”

Parishes in the archdiocese had the opportunity to participate in several events as part of “Food for All,” as wide-reaching as a 5K for charity, rebuilding a home with Habitat for Humanity, hosting a parish educational session about hunger, attending a lecture by the Rev. David Beckmann (president of Bread for the World), etc. Most of the events, except for the Beckmann lecture, occurred in anticipation of the pope’s arrival this week. The Petersburg Parishes chose three projects to contribute to the spiritual bouquet:

• Dedicating the parishes’ annual 16 Campaign to Food for All. Empty plastic milk jugs and cereal boxes are placed at all Petersburg church entrances each August. Over the course of the month, church members are invited to contribute donations, which are then divided equally between God’s Storehouse, Wapakoneta, and Fish Pond Food Pantry, Jackson Center.

The 16 Campaign received its name to emphasize how organizations like Fish Pond and God’s Storehouse can often purchase food much more cheaply than individuals can, underscoring efficiently monetary donations can be used. For example, cereal is available to Fish Pond for as little as 16 cents a box from the West Ohio Food Bank, as are jars of peanut butter.

States Petersburg Social Justice Commission member Rachel Barber, “We know that people want to do the right thing and be as generous as possible. The 16 Campaign reminds us that often a monetary donation goes much father than donating a canned good.” In its third year, the 16 Campaign raised the equivalent of 20,000+ boxes of cereal.

• As the educational component of Food for All, the parishes scheduled a trip to the West Ohio Food Bank, Lima, which also occurred in August. Participants learned how the Food Bank receives and distributes donations to organizations across an 11-county area.

• The parishes also conducted a letter-writing campaign to U.S. Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown, and to U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (whose district includes the Peterburg Parishes). The letter asked that the electors protect child nutrition programs in upcoming budget discussions. The effort generated more than 1,200 letters, which have been forwarded to the archdiocese for blessing by the archbishop and subsequent distribution to the appropriate elected officials.

States Petersburg pastor, the Rev. Patrick L. Sloneker, “The people of Petersburg Parishes are joyful and hopeful for our country at the visit of the vicar of Christ! Just as Jesus’ visits changed minds and hearts, we are praying that the power of the Spirit will convert our minds and hearts to Christ all the more. “

The Petersburg Parishes of Botkins Immaculate Conception, Fryburg St. John, Rhine St. Lawrence, and Wapakoneta St. Joseph are named for the now-vanished Petersburg settlement (between Wapakoneta and Botkins on Santa Fe-New Knoxville Road) from which the parishes emerged in the 19th century. They are served by Sloneker and the assistant pastor, the Rev. Daniel Hunt.

Staff report