While I know we all love our own parishes, have you ever been to one that’s nowhere near your home and thought “wow, this parish has something.” Whether it’s a passionate homilist, a Priest who knows everyone’s name, or a beautifully diverse community there are those parishes that well, make us want to move. Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Indialantic Florida is one such parish. This 4,500 family church is literally bursting at the seems with activity, family and community.
In 2014, after taking part in meal packaging at Steubenville Atlanta, one of HNJ’s youth, then highschooler, Tatiana Martin, was inspired. She was so inspired that she knew she had to bring CRS Helping Hands meal packaging to her community. It isn’t often a parish of this size gets behind the volunteer ideas of one of their youth but with the help of Margie Weir, Director of Youth Ministry, the entire community got behind Tatiana with gusto. That first year, Holy Name of Jesus packaged 50,000 meals; in their second they packaged over 100,000 meals. To date, they are responsible for nearly 300,000 meals! A truly amazing feat.
How do they do it? First, this community is already very dynamic. From twice yearly trips to Haiti (including doing Vacation Bible School there), to Lifeteen camps and their yearly parish mission, this church has a vibrant ministry. They believe their ministries allow parishioners to live their faith, to have a shared mission of “I” instead of “we”. Margie continues to run the meal packaging events and had much to share as to what Helping Hands means to their community.
The first year that they took part in Helping Hands Margie says she was “blown away” by how intergenerational the event was. (we hear this from everyone) While they are a very lively community, this event allowed them to be together in a new and exciting way. Grandfathers, grandmothers, babies, youth, adult faith formation, you name it, year after year people in their community continue to meet one another and make bonds that allow them continuous growth as a family.
The parish always has their event during the Lenten season, a time which Margie says is “powerful and meaningful” to all. They also raise their funds entirely with what they call the parish “big board.” Each year, they put together a board with donation amounts all over it (the board has a specific monetary goal) and invite parishioners to donate what they can and sign their name. From $5, $10, $20 to $100 the donations are manageable and even five years in the community still enjoys giving this way. (Margie has contemplated changing it up but finds that the board inspires recognition and gratitude from people who can’t pack but still get to donate to the meaningful work)
Holy Name of Jesus does a few unique things at their event. First, they invite their volunteers to register guests from other communities; they ask that this event be one of encounter and include others from their greater area. Second, they always do pre-education for the event, ensuring that their community knows where Burkina Faso is and why these meals go there. Margie shows our short video before their events: Embody Christ’s Love.
When I asked Margie what being a part of 7 million meals means to her and Holy Name of Jesus she told me that this event, “gives their community a complete sense of the universal church and how necessary it is that we all play a role in being the body of Christ.” The people of Burkina share this sentiment and are grateful for the many hands from this parish that have served them throughout the years!