St. Pat’s outreach extends beyond parish boundaries
By Theresa Ward
COLORADO SPRINGS. As daily news reports shift from mass shootings to depictions of war in Ukraine, it is easy to become desensitized to the suffering of the world. But St. Patrick Parish in Colorado Springs took the message of Pope Francis — to go to the peripheries and bring hope to the suffering — by reorienting their annual Giving Tree project to address needs beyond the boundaries of their local community.
Father Frank Quezada, pastor of St. Patrick Parish, explained how the parish’s annual Giving Tree project was redesigned to help those suffering due to war and violence.
“We wanted to get out of our own little world and go to them and remind them of the joy of Christ despite the trauma that they experienced,” he said. Last fall, when the Giving Tree committee discussed which group would be the recipient of that year’s collection, Father Frank encouraged the members to think outside of the local area.
“What encouraged me to present the idea to the parish community were the two events that got the attention of the world: the invasion of Ukraine, and, unfortunately, another mass shooting — the one in Uvalde, Texas. What struck me in a very sensitive way about that shooting was it involved children — second and third-grade children.”
These events, he believes, are evidence that people have become almost callous to violence — whether it is domestic violence, mass shootings, or war, because they appear to happen at a distance.
“The closest thing was the Club Q shooting,” said Father Quezada. “We pray, we think of them, our prayers are with them, and then we forget. So, I wanted them to know, somewhere, some Ukrainian child, running for their lives with their mom and dad, this community in Colorado Springs did not forget. Same thing with the shooting in Uvalde, Texas — we did not forget.”
Expanding the boundaries of compassion was one message the parish hoped to convey with the project.
The Catholic Church as the universal church was another message of the gifts.
“The call to holiness is universal. We become just a little holier when we clothe the naked and feed the hungry,” he said, adding that historically St. Patrick has had a reputation for generosity.
St. Patrick parishioner Andy Ziny oversaw the logistics of delivering the gifts to recipients in Ukraine and Texas.
Sending gifts to Poland for Ukrainian refugees proved to be a challenge, Ziny said.
“We started out by contacting the Diocese of Tarnow and Warsaw,” said Ziny, “but they responded that they would rather have cash donations rather than in-kind gifts. Then we thought of Kherson, Ukraine, which recently was liberated from the Russians, but it was impossible to get any direct contact with anyone there.”
“When we ran into a wall in Poland and shipping was going to cost thousands and thousands of dollars, I thought, we have one of the largest Catholic populations in the Catholic world here in the U.S. I knew we must have received some refugees from Ukraine,” Father Quezada said. He investigated and found that many Ukrainian refugees had arrived in the Los Angeles area, so he contacted his friend Archbishop José Gomez, who said that the archdiocese would welcome the donations to serve the refugees in their community.
Connectedness between communities was a part of the Uvalde portion of the project, as well. The day of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, Father Quezada called Father Eduardo Morales, or “Father Eddy” as he is more commonly known, the pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Uvalde. It is the same parish that opened their classrooms to the Robb Elementary school students.
“Uvalde is a predominantly Catholic, Hispanic area of the Archdiocese of San Antonio,” said Father Quezada. “I knew Father Eddy because I did my seminary training in San Antonio. I called the parish the day the shooting happened. It was a busy day, but I talked to Ann Marie Garza, the sacramental records clerk, and told her to tell everyone we’re praying for them.”
Two weeks later, the two pastors spoke over the phone, and Father Quezada said that St. Patrick Parish would like to do something for the Uvalde children. Father Eddy welcomed the initiative.
On Dec. 5, the load for Uvalde was shipped, and the load for the Ukrainian refugees was shipped on Dec. 7 to Los Angeles.
When they went out of their comfort zone, St. Patrick parishioners learned that they were more connected than they thought to two communities who had experienced unimaginable disaster.
“The generosity of the response was immense,” said Father Quezada.