At St. Joseph’s parish in Bronxville, members of the archdiocesan Ladies of Charity gathered in the rectory basement to prepare 20 gift packages, each including a handmade lap robe, a box of tissues, stamps, ChapStick, a deck of cards and a book of word puzzles.
These “gifts of comfort” were made for the homebound and residents of local nursing homes. The Ladies of Charity were delighted, and their primary reward was the warm feeling that accompanies the joy of giving.
The Nov. 15 gathering was the latest “Gifts of Comfort” workshop. So far, the Ladies of Charity have prepared and given away nearly 80 gifts of comfort packages in the archdiocese. The charitable endeavor actually began in March at St. Rita’s Church on Staten Island, where the chapter president is Joann Pastore.
Organizers say the ministry seeks to make a difference by providing practical and spiritual support to people facing illness, isolation and other challenges.
Each sponsored gift package, with items packed in clear zippered bags, includes a card informing recipients that the packet was prepared to honor or in memory of a particular person, asking the recipients to remember the person in their prayers. Recipients are informed that they also are in the prayers of the Ladies of Charity and their sponsors.
“It’s important that they know there are people out there thinking about them and praying for them,” Barbara Duffy, executive director of the archdiocesan Ladies of Charity, told CNY last week. “This provides spiritual and practical support for those in need; what we really like is the tradition of including a handmade item, like a scarf or a lap robe, so that they feel the love and tradition.”
The program allows us to target another particular group in need,” Ms. Duffy noted.
“We want to make sure that we members are not just delivering the items but also spending time with the recipients, so that the recipients know that someone is praying for them. And it is spiritual growth for our members, too.”
Sponsors also receive cards that they in turn give to the honored person, or the family of the deceased—cards letting the family or person know the recipients are praying for them. In recent weeks, those cards have had Christmas themes.
Kay Ryan, who coordinated the Nov. 15 workshop in Bronxville, said 17 ministry members took part in that gathering, preparing the 20 gift packages in about an hour. “It cost $35 to put together each gift of comfort. We invited people to sponsor the Gifts of Comfort; there is a great need,” said Mrs. Ryan, the chairwoman of the Westchester chapter of the Ladies of Charity.
Local recipients were identified with help from Sister Florence Mallon, S.C., a pastoral associate for special ministries at St. Joseph’s parish. She regularly visits homebound parishioners and residents of area nursing homes.
The Ladies of Charity is part of archdiocesan Catholic Charities; Mary Buckley Teatum serves as president.
Ms. Duffy said the Gifts of Comfort program was inspired by the Layette Ministry, which provides gift packages with practical items and a handmade gift for new mothers—for the most part young, single moms in need. “That has been the signature project of the Ladies of Charity for many decades—year-round, not just seasonal,” she said.
Ms. Duffy noted that the Ladies of Charity began in 1617 in Lyon, France, when St. Vincent de Paul asked the ladies of his parish to start charitable projects. The ministry started in the United States in the late 1800s, and in New York in 1902.
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