Co-Cathedral promotes service through Caritas Day
March 24, 2015
HOUSTON — Be a "Fashionista" organizing clothing donations for runaway youth, or be "Chef for a Day" helping to assemble nutritious meals for children struggling with food insecurities — these are just a couple of the activities volunteers will be doing on Saturday, March 28, when they participate in the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart's fourth annual day of service known as Caritas Day.
The day begins at 8 a.m. with a special Caritas Mass. After which more than 500 volunteers will disperse to either the Cathedral Centre, 1701 San Jacinto, in downtown Houston, or to nearby service agencies to work one of more than 30 projects, many of which are family friendly.
Other projects include decorating and filling hygiene handbags for women rescued from human-trafficking, making no-slip socks for hospitalized children, building wooden ramps at a home for a person, helping with a "Beeping Egg Hunt" for visually impaired children, and assembling and wrapping special birthday boxes for children in foster care.
"Caritas Day is quite interesting as it brings together people from all ages, cultures and backgrounds to serve our communities in need," said Wendy Garaghty, the Co-Cathedral's outreach coordinator. "Every year we have volunteers from 50 to 60 parishes, plus we have scout troops, schools, youth groups, business and sports teams — they all come to serve together on Caritas Day."
"All are invited... it is open to everyone," she added. "You do not have to be Catholic to participate — many participants register their friends and each year we have people from many different faith communities join us. All cultures are represented and many languages spoken (English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, French and German). That is the uniqueness of Caritas Day — the unity created when sharing God's love with others."
For the third year, volunteers will be helping with "Bingo and Brunch" during which they serve a morning brunch and play bingo with 100 homeless veterans residing at the DeGeorge at Union Station.
"We are proud and honored to be a part of Caritas Day once again," said Lynda Greene, the agency's community director. "The friendship shown by volunteers re-establishes our residents' faith in others and their belief in humanity. Volunteers also gain a deeper understanding for those less fortunate and a feeling of appreciation for the many blessings God has given to them. It's a win-win situation."
Caritas Day initially began as a way for parishioners at the Co-Cathedral to reach out to others in service during Lent and to introduce them to local agencies who continually need volunteers. The hope was that Caritas Day volunteers would continue volunteering on a regular basis.
Garaghty said she discovered that the event not only made a huge impact on those served and built lasting relationships with the participating agencies, but it also created a unity among different cultures and communities, a unity in which volunteers served side-by-side and became one.
Monica Martin will be participating in Caritas Day for the third time. She recalled the first year having approximately 20 volunteer projects.
"Now it's grown to an incredible 37! Last year I looked around the Co-Cathedral and saw the church was full of volunteers eager and smiling — it was amazing."
Jeff and Mary Ann Rice will spend the morning of Caritas Day scraping and painting at Magnificat House's Opus Maria Home. This too will be their third time participating in the event.
Mary Ann said the most rewarding thing about Caritas Day is "that you're getting to know people and you're getting the job done." Jeff adds that "What 500 people get done in three hours creates such camaraderie of spirit and cooperation that it's simply amazing."
Martin said the reason she comes back every year is because "It's so rewarding and fulfilling. I feel so much joy when I am helping others, especially people in need. The amazing thing is, we come together to help all charities regardless of their denomination. The bonus... its right in the middle of Lent! Giving charity is a great way to participate during Lent."
After the Caritas Day projects conclude, the volunteers will gather at the Cathedral Centre for a lunch provided by the Knights of Columbus. "Our Caritas Day lunch has turned into an email swap among the group volunteers. Many stay in touch with each other. Some have commented on how nice it is to go to Mass the following weeks and recognize fellow Caritas Day volunteers — our parish community has grown stronger," said Garaghty. After the lunch, volunteers are invited to stay and judge the Knights of Columbus' Annual Chili Cook-Off.
By participating in the event, the hope is that volunteers will realize we are all called to be instruments of God's Love. "When you reach out to help someone your own life is enriched and your relationship with God grows," Garaghty said. "My prayer is that each person we serve walks away from us better people having met us. Caritas, meaning a selfless love for each other, can do that. We all become better people when God's Love is shared. And you never know — it may be another volunteer in your Caritas Project that needs that love."
To volunteer or find out more about Caritas Day, visit www.sacredhearthouston.org or email email@example.com.
Saturday, March 28
8 a.m. - Caritas Day Mass at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Pkwy., Houston
9 a.m. to Noon - Volunteer projects at Cathedral Centre, 1701 San Jacinto, Houston or at nearby agencies
Noon - Caritas Day Lunch at Cathedral Centre, 1701 San Jacinto, Houston, followed by Knights of Columbus Annual Chili Cook-Off