NORWALK—On February 24, St. Philip Parish hosted a Catholic Relief Services FoodFast, a hunger awareness experience for Catholic youth. The theme of the event was “Be the Change,” and young people fasted from food throughout the day while participating in activities including prayer, reflection, educational games and service projects before concluding the day with Mass.
More than 65 middle school and high school students attended the FoodFast, representing fifteen schools, nine parishes, and several towns including Norwalk, Stamford, Greenwich, Trumbull and Milford. About 40 adult volunteers helped during the event.
The St. Philip parish community is passionate about the issue of world hunger, and they have worked to alleviate hunger throughout the world by raising $350,000 over the past fifteen years for World Vision International before partnering with Catholic Relief Services for this year’s event.
Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States, and many Catholics are familiar with their work because of the CRS Rice Bowl Lenten almsgiving program. Two weeks before the FoodFast, a representative from CRS named Thomas Awiapo visited St. Philip and other parishes and schools in the diocese to speak about his personal experience receiving food and education from a CRS program funded by Rice Bowl donations when he was a child growing up in Ghana.
Father Sudhir D’Souza, St. Philip’s pastor, spearheaded the planning of the FoodFast along with the FoodFast team, Jessica Nayden from Catholic Service Corps and many dedicated volunteers. Father Sudhir explained, “Hunger is not just far away in third world countries, its right here in our neighborhoods.”
The team noted that the presentation given by Tina Kramer, a New Canaan resident who founded the non-profit “Filling in the Blanks,” was important for many of the participants, who discovered that hunger could be affecting the student sitting next to them.
“It opened their eyes to a new reality,” shared Paul Sullivan, a team member.
The young people had the opportunity to spend several hours volunteering during the afternoon of the FoodFast. A group went to New Covenant Center in Stamford to work in the food pantry, while other groups conducted food drives outside of local businesses and visited retirement homes. The team noted that the service opportunities were an essential part of the day because it’s important to “make the teens aware of the different opportunities they have to serve and to reach out” beyond the one day event.
Father D’Souza encouraged the FoodFast participants, and all young people, to continue serving others and growing in their Catholic faith beyond the one-day event. He directed the students to check out the Catholic Service Corps, a ministry which provides opportunities for all the faithful, especially young people, to serve others and grow in their Catholic faith. Service opportunities as well as prayer and reflection resources can be found at www.catholicservicecorps.org.
St. Philip’s will continue to collect donations for CRS throughout the month of March, and donations can be made by visiting their parish website at www.stphilipnorwalk.org. The parish hopes that even more young people from parishes and schools throughout the diocese will join for next year’s FoodFast.
(If any parish or school is interested in learning more about hosting a FoodFast, contact Jessica Nayden: JNayden@diobpt.org, or Father Sudhir: email@example.com.)