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At Presbyterian church, Catholics serve lunch to needy


Volunteers from Our Lady of Consolation's Friends in Christ Ministry serve hot dogs, chips and sweets at First Presbyterian Church in Merrillville during a Feeding the Flock free meal service on June 28. OLC is one of two Catholic churches in the city association of 12 congregations that take turns coordinating the charitable effort. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)


By Anthony D. Alonzo

Northwest Indiana Catholic  


      MERRILLVILLE – Area Catholics and Presbyterians were among those who shared their time, talents and treasure to ensure local families in need were served a complimentary meal and dessert on a recent weekend.

      Boosting the list of cooperating Merrillville churches to a dozen, Our Lady of Consolation Church volunteers manned the kitchen in the basement of First Presbyterian Church on June 28, fulfilling another shift for the Feeding the Flock program.

      OLC parishioners showed up in advance of the diners at the Presbyterian church on a sunny Saturday morning. Perhaps Catholics and Protestants generally have not worn a path to the doors of each other’s churches, but this year the OLC contingent has felt at home completing some faith-in-action at a church other than their own.

      “This came out of our ministry Friends in Christ,” OLC’s Marilyn Huber said of the former St. Vincent De Paul Society. “Myself and our chairperson were driving by (First Presbyterian) and we saw the (Feeding the Flock banner). So we decided to stop in and ask questions.”

      Members of OLC’s peace and social justice commission presented the ecumenical, service-minded idea to parishioners as something that could spark some interest. Many committed to volunteering. “I love it,” Huber said.

      Our Lady of Consolation joined St. Joan of Arc and 10 Orthodox and Protestant churches that are part of the Congregations of Merrillville ministerial group and that signed on to operate the brunch event on a rotating schedule. Feeding the Flock was started at First Presbyterian four years ago to help local residents who are affected by the slumping economy.

      The Reverend Paul Anderson stood near the main entrance of the colonial-style church on Taft Street. Having just been installed as pastor on June 15, he said he was confident the anti-hunger ministry would continue successfully. Rev. Anderson’s previous assignment was working for three years at Dyer Presbyterian Church. 

      “This is where you’ve got to start,” Rev. Anderson said of the Saturday meals ministry. “Of course, we’d like to extend that to maybe once during the week, like maybe a Wednesday night meal.”            Whatever the broader implications of the charitable work, Rev. Anderson said members of different churches may be surprised to come to find “we actually like each other.”

      “(Feeding the Flock brings together) denominations that don’t always cooperate but when it comes to it, the key to it is on Saturday afternoon for the lunch it’s (the volunteering church’s) deal,” Rev. Anderson said. “They have to prepare a meal – choosing whatever they want as long as it is filling. They have to serve and then they have to clean up.”

      Just like the dozens that would follow, the first few visitors at the FTF event may not have even noticed which church was coordinating the event. They choose from the picnic-style foods such as hot dogs, chili, chips and dessert. Handshakes and “how-are-yous” were offered by OLC hospitality coordinators.

      Elderly folks, young families and middle-aged men and women sat in the air-conditioned room and then departed gradually to be replaced by others seeking a meal. One man, who was exiting, craned his neck back and said, “thank you,” as he noticed Father Peter Muha near the stairway.

      Muha, pastor of OLC, said the meals ministry was just one way the faithful could serve others and, at the same time, connect with other Christians who are interested in service work.

      “The response from people who want to help from our parish is really great … it’s a wonderful sign,” said Father Muha, as nearby Knights of Columbus kept the grills fired up. “This is a way to get more involved in the community, with the other churches.”

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