Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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Feeding the Hungry in the Year of Mercy

From the teachings of Jesus, we derived the corporal works of mercy, which are concerned primarily with meeting the needs of others. 


When the Sisters of St. Joseph arrived in Toronto in the 1850s, they were committed to feeding the hungry and serving the many Irish immigrants in the city who were sick, poor and in need of care.
In 1857, they opened the House of Providence, a place where people in need would receive food and shelter. In this photograph from the 1930s (shown right), Sister St. Osmund Gebauer offers food as part of the Providence Outdoor Relief Program. In 1983, Sister Marie Tremblay founded the Daily Bread Food Bank which is still running today. 
This tradition continues even now as the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto make nourishment a central point of their ministries and a vital part of their hospitality and love for the dear neighbour. 

Today, Sisters feed the hungry in a variety of ways:

Village Mosaic Feeding Body and Soul: At Village Mosaic, a gathering place for seniors in Etobicoke, every event offers visitors coffee, tea, cake, cookies and more. "It's how the Sisters extend hospitality," says Ursula Matthews, a volunteer who loves preparing drinks, laying out dishes and seeing visitors bring treats as well. "Food tells people that they're welcome and that they're each other's dear neighbour." She speaks warmly of the results. "I see so often how friendships form over coffee and sausage rolls."

Starting the Daily Bread Food BankDuring the 1982 recession, Sister Marie Tremblay saw the need to feed the hungry. "People have a right to food," said Sister Marie. She founded the Daily Bread Food Bank in 1983 which was instrumental in convincing food companies to donate unsold goods rather than dispose of them. "If there is such a thing as surplus food that's edible, it should be distributed rather than destroyed." The Daily Bread Food Bank continues today as Toronto's largest network of food relief programs.

The Heart of Mustard SeedAt Mustard Seed, all the community programs offer food. "The kitchen is the heart of Mustard Seed," says Vickie McNally, Development and Communications. From Nifty Knitters to Community Kitchen, each includes a snack and some provide a meal. Vickie highlights the Saturday Drop-In and the many guests that come for community and lunch. "When we offer something to eat, we offer hospitality, welcoming and warmth," says Vickie. "The Sisters know you can't feed souls without feeding stomachs."

Feeding Hungry Children: For 16 years, Sister Margaret Feeley helped to feed the hungry, working at the Children's Breakfast Club and Food Room of St. Paul's Basilica. "The people we served lived under difficult circumstances but made every effort to live life fully," says Sister Margaret, who prepared meals for children and gathered items for people in need. 

After Sister Margaret's retirement, Sister Margie McGurk has continued as a volunteer in the same programs. She describes one moment in the Food Room where a lady receiving some items began crying, saying she was ashamed. "I said, 'It's alright, think of this as shopping,'" says Sister Margie. "I told her she didn't need to be ashamed because everybody needs food."


How do you participate in feeding the hungry in your community? Send us your thoughts at info@csj-to.ca.


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