DRACUT — St. Theresa of Avila is credited with the words: “Christ has no body on Earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.” It’s a call to action for Christians to help those in need as Jesus Christ did during his earthly ministry.
At St. Francis Parish in Dracut this weekend, “Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus” will take place to help others in need both near and far, including a special second collection at all Masses to help provide shelter, food, water and medical care for Houston through Catholic Charities USA.
The special collection, which will be taken up at all parishes in the Boston Archdiocese, will take place at St. Francis, 115 Wheeler Road, on Saturday, at the 4 p.m. Mass and Sunday, at the Masses at 8, 10 and 11:30 a.m. For tax-deductible donations, make checks payable to St. Francis Parish, with “Houston” in the subject line, and place it in the second collection. Cash is also welcome.
Also featured is a trio of events to feed the hungry in memory of Capt. John Ogonowski, who was a member of St. Francis, a beloved Dracut farmer known for helping others, especially immigrant farmers, and the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11 that crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, the 16th anniversary of which is Monday.
For the second year, feeding the hungry locally is the parish’s way to honor the memory, kindness and generous example of Ogonowski, organizers say. A food drive, farmer’s market and farm-to-table dinner are planned to benefit three local charities.
“Our family is again deeply grateful to St. Francis and Saja Farm for stepping forward to host this in our father’s memory,” said Laura Ogonowski, John’s oldest daughter. “He would be deeply humbled. Helping to feed the hungry in this way would be very meaningful to him. He provided land for Cambodian immigrant farmers to grow fresh produce, and this annual event feeds even more people.”
On Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., all are invited to drop off nonperishable food donations at a truck at Blanchette’s Automotive, 1337 Lakeview Ave., to benefit the Dracut Food Pantry. The truck will be parked at Blanchette’s during Old Home Day, enabling community members to drop off donations to and from the highly attended event.
“It’s a match made in heaven,” said food-drive volunteer Leanne Blanchette of having the collection during Old Home Day.
Later, the truck will be parked at St. Francis Church to accept nonperishable food drop-offs from 3:30 to 5 p.m.
Saja Farm will sell corn and other vegetables after the 4 p.m. Mass on Saturday on the church plaza (or annex/trailer if it rains). The Zuk family will donate a portion of the proceeds in Capt. Ogonowski’s memory to the parish’s Homeless Ministry, which feeds the homeless in Lowell on Saturdays.
The Saja Farm Market will again take place Sunday, after all three morning Masses, while the truck for the food pantry will accept ongoing nonperishable food drop-offs Sunday in the church parking lot from 8 a.m. to noon.
Local farm-fresh dishes will be served at the Farm-to-Table Friendship Dinner for the St. Francis Parish Women’s Connection on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 6:30 p.m., in the parish hall. In memory of Ogonowski, free-will donations will help the parish’s Garden Ministry grow fresh produce to donate to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, which the ministry does daily.
Fertilizer, seed and other basic necessities for next year’s garden will be purchased along with “hopefully a few wish list items,” said Cecilia Mancini, founder of the garden.
As parish members undertake “Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus” in Dracut, they and Houston have been assured of prayers from a sacred place afar. The Rev. Seán Maher, St. Francis’ administrator, the Rev. William Sheehan, Deacon John Hunt and more than 40 members of the parish are in Israel on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land — their own feet walking in the places where Jesus walked 2,000 years ago.
One of the sites visited was the rock at Tabgha, the traditionally accepted site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. According to all four Gospels, Jesus fed a hungry crowd of thousands with five loaves of bread and two fish.
And that, say organizers, brings the feed-the-hungry mission of “Be the Hands and Feet of Jesus” right back to where it all began.