It is always a humbling, yet exhilarating experience to visit the St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy campus in the heart of Buffalo’s East Side. Having been a volunteer since Amy Betros and the late Norm Paolini opened the mission to serve our most vulnerable neighbors 25 years ago it is wonderful to see so many people come together to help our neighbors in need.
Thursday, March 19 was the feast of St. Joseph, the father of Jesus and the patron saint of fathers and workers. Many, many years ago he answered the prayers of farmers in Sicily who were suffering from a drought. They prayed that if the rain came they would throw a huge party of Italian delicacies with their harvest in the town square. The tradition continues today with what we call St. Joseph’s Tables on his feast day.
St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy’s annual St. Joseph’s Table fund raiser at the Lake Erie Italian Club is an amazing feast of donated food from local restaurants that is served for lunch and dinner with all of the proceeds helping the Mission purchase food for the free meals it serves everyday. I have been part of an army of volunteers who assist St. Luke’s at that wonderful event for years.
This year, the St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy’s St. Joseph’s Table was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. When I spoke with Amy the following day she put it all in perspective by saying “God is in charge of everything and this is all part of his plan. Sure, we have to be concerned about Covid-19 but there is a big difference between concerned and fear. Read Romans 8.”
Rather than agonize over the loss of a major fund raiser to pay for much needed food which the Mission knew they would need more because of the pandemic, the Mission continues to serve the poor while adhering to the new rules of wearing gloves, face masks, being at least six feet away from someone and cleaning the entire facility. Rather than worry about purchasing food, the Mission was more concerned about obtaining disinfectant sprays and wipes.
The Mission’s most pressing need today is for financial donations so it can continue to care for the most vulnerable in Buffalo. Donations can be made at stlukesmissionofmercy.org. It is also in need of cleaning supplies, paper towels and disinfectants. Please call 716.894.4476 to coordinate the donation of those items.
I visited St. Luke’s this past Saturday to see how they were operating without being able to serve meals in their dining room. What I saw was truly a spiritual moment of God’s work being done as St. Luke’s team of volunteers continued to serve those in need during this Covid-19 pandemic. Some 900 meals were distributed from outside the door to the dining room, providing each person with food for two meals on Saturday and two meals on Sunday.
St. Luke’s is following the directives from the Erie County Department of Health and some of its ministries have been suspended or altered to protect its missionaries, volunteers and the men, women and children whom they care for.
The following services are now open as “Grab and Go”:
Lunch and dinner meals, with some extra items, are distributed to the public Monday-Friday at noon and at 4 p.m. from outside the Mission’s kitchen door. On Saturday at noon, the distribution will include food for Saturday and Sunday meals.
Sandwich ministry: Provided from the Good Shepherd residence from 8 a.m. to noon and 5 p.m.- 8 p.m. Monday – Friday for those who cannot come for lunch or dinner.
Our Lady of Hope Homeschool is closed; daily mass is suspended; all Voices of Mercy ministries including the Stations of the Cross are cancelled; and St. Luke’s has suspended the acceptance of clothing and household goods donations at this time.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy is an independent Mission in the Roman Catholic tradition in the inner city that strives to live the Gospel message of God’s great love and mercy for all of His children through service to His poor and broken. St. Luke’s does not receive money from the government and diocese but trusting in God’s Divine Providence, it depends on financial and product donations from the public, area companies, organizations and schools.
I encourage everyone during this time to make an extra effort to pray more and to offer sacrifices, especially for all those affected by this virus.
“I encourage everyone during this time to make an extra effort to pray more and to offer sacrifices, especially for all those affected by this virus. Many people are suffering physically and financially,” Ms. Betros said. “Please also pray for us as we continue God’s work here at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy.”
Lead image: Volunteer Shontay Rose distributes food for the weekend to those in need | Photos courtesy of Billoni Associates