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Catherine Connection is a bridge during time of need

Answer to prayer honors Sisters of Mercy, helps 11 groups

Sister Marie Orf, CPPS, talked with 3-year-old McKenzie Malone while her grandmother shopped at the St. Anthony of Padua food pantry in St. Louis on June 18. After an appeal to members of a small faith community, The Catherine Connection formed and began collecting food and other items at Mercy Conference and Retreat Center to provide to various agencies in St. Louis, including the St. Anthony food pantry.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
Sister Marie Orf, a Sister of the Most Precious Blood, asked her small faith community to pray for safety as the St. Anthony of Padua Parish food pantry reopened, and that pantries would have enough food, personal care and household items to fill the need created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fruit of this petition is The Catherine Connection, which accepts and distributes donations for 11 St. Louis area charitable organizations that perform charitable work matching the five critical concerns of the Sisters of Mercy.

Sandy Meyer is in the small faith community with Sister Marie, who helps operate the food pantry established by the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at St. Anthony Parish. After Meyer read Sister Marie’s petition, she devised a plan.

Meyer works at Mercy Conference and Retreat Center in west St. Louis County. Since the center suspended hosting groups in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Meyer launched The Catherine Connection there to serve as a bridge between those who want to help and those who need help. The Catherine Connection formed in the spirit of Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, who went out into the streets of Dublin to help those most in need.

“We realized we could continue to minister by creating a bridge to get much-needed food, diapers and other supplies to the community,” said Meyer, a Partner in Mission with the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, a group of women and men who share in the mission of the sisters and the Church. She was motivated by what she called the devastating physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic and how many community resources are stretched beyond their limits.

Meyer proposed her idea to the center director May 1 and donations were accepted starting May 8. The Mercy Center reached out to supporters and friends for submissions of organizations to assist. Donations provided to The Catherine Connection are sent to ALIVE, Boys Hope Girls Hope STL, Join Hands ESL, Open Door Animal Sanctuary, Room at the Inn, St. Anthony of Padua food pantry, St. Pius V food pantry, St. Louis Arc, St. Louis Area Diaper Bank, The Child Center and Welcome Neighbor STL.

The organizations’ missions relate to the Sisters of Mercy critical concerns: immigration, nonviolence, racism, women and earth. “Many of these organizations are serving the poor, just as Catherine McAuley did,” Meyer said. “Lots of these organizations are directly involved in helping women and

Sister Marie Orf, CPPS, filled a bag with soap at the St. Anthony of Padua food pantry in St. Louis. With help from the Catherine Connection, she was able to purchase personal items not covered in the food stamps program for distribution to clients of the pantry.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
children, and we are pleased with the variety of people we are able to help.”

As of mid-June, The Catherine Connection received 877 general items; 1,063 cleaners, medications and personal care items; 2,402 diapers, formula, feminine hygiene products and baby and child care items; 2,494 food and drink items, 34 pet supplies; and 984 markers, crayons and similar items. They also received $7,715 in financial contributions.

Sister Marie said The Catherine Connection asked for a list of specific items needed by the pantry, which provided a list of such things as diapers and personal care items that people can’t purchase with food stamps. “They even delivered the products,” Sister Marie said.

At the St. Anthony of Padua food pantry, Patricia Malone visited to get diapers for her granddaughter and help with utility bills. Malone lived in a shelter after being unable to pay rent at her apartment and some other difficulties. She got new housing with the help of St. Patrick Center and BJC Healthcare. In the past, she’s been helped by St. Joan of Arc Parish and its former pastor. It’s where she entered the Church, and she now attends St. Cronan Parish.

The pantry, and especially the diapers, “are a godsend,” Malone said.

>> The Catherine Connection

WHAT: Collects food and personal care items that can be easily stored for short periods of time and easily transported; they are not able to take clothing, furniture or other heavy items. The website lists specific needs for each of the 11 organizations. Visit bit.ly/2Ncse9Z and download the wish list.

HOW TO DONATE: The Mercy Conference and Retreat Center, 2039 N. Geyer Road in Creve Coeur, is open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. To schedule an alternate time, contact Sandy Meyer, program coordinator, at (314) 909-4672 or email her at [email protected]. Donate funds via the online donation feature and designate the funds to the organization of your choice. The program will either purchase the items on your behalf or direct those funds to the organization according to the organization’s preference.

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