Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • May
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Ready for guests

Posted By May 30, 2013 | 1:00 pm | Lead Story #1

By Tanya Connor

WORCESTER – “A mother always gives food” and St. John’s is the mother church of the diocese, says parishioner Francis R. Carroll.
His conclusion?
The St. Francis Xavier Center at 20 Temple St.
Bishop McManus is to bless the center today after a ribbon cutting. The dedication program, which begins at 10 a.m., also includes remarks, music and refreshments.
The 5,500-square-foot building is to house St. John’s Food for the Poor Program, which includes the soup kitchen that has been operating in the church basement and the food pantry formerly located in the rectory. Two years ago St. John’s bought the building at the end of the church parking lot, which now hardly resembles the former structure.
About 150 hot, nutritious meals per day, roughly the same number as now, will likely be served in the center, beginning next week, said Mr. Carroll, chairman of Friends of St. John’s Food for the Poor Program. While diners may not all come at the same time, the space can seat 150 at once, he said.
A press release says the “state-of-the-art” kitchen can serve 250 meals per day and the “spacious” food pantry can provide 10,400 “to-go” food packages per year.
Father John F. Madden, St. John’s pastor, said the present space is tight for the meal, which is served Monday through Friday year-round.
Mr. Carroll is the mover and shaker behind the center, named for the saint whose annual novena at the parish he also supports. The St. Francis Xavier statue that graced St. John’s lower church (not the one displayed for the novena) now stands in the new center beside a prayer of the 16th century apostle to the Indies and Japan.
Also displayed are the Beatitudes, icons depicting Bible stories of service, and a picture of Dorothy Day, who served the poor through the Catholic Worker movement she co-founded.
“This isn’t a case of feeding the poor by passing out a loaf of bread,” Mr. Carroll told The Catholic Free Press Wednesday during a tour of the nearly ready facility. “They all have dignity. We treat all our neighbors who come in here as guests.”
So, he said, the expectation is to serve them their meals at the 15 tables. The “Stan’s Chow Line” sign by the counter, where the guests can pick up dessert, is a joke acknowledging an “anonymous” contributor.
“The benefactor is a very private person; he doesn’t even know it’s up here,” Mr. Carroll said of the sign put up Wednesday morning. “Until I send him a picture.”
He’s not the only benefactor of the building that Mr. Carroll said is all paid for, with $1.5 million he and others raised or donated over the past couple years.
“One hundred percent support from the parish,” he said of St. John’s. “And other churches and colleges. Everybody helped. Those names up there are real.” He was referring to dozens of names on plaques beneath the words, “Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”
There’s also a plaque thanking and picturing celebrities who came from across the country to donate their time and talent at fundraising galas at The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts. Another “Thank You” plaque names Father Madden, Mr. Carroll, Michael A. Pagano, of Lamoureux Pagano Associates Architects, and John P. Lauring, president of Lauring Construction Company Inc., key contributors to the project.
“A lot of work, a lot of material, was donated,” Mr. Carroll said, estimating that the building would have cost at least $2 million without such donations.        How does Mr. Carroll feel now, having achieved this goal?
“Not finished,” he responded. “We’re only half done.” He said he made a commitment to see that there are sufficient funds to continue the program. He expects to be able to do that, as people are good, he said.
“People are generous, but you’ve got to keep going” in search of donations, said William Riley, a volunteer who picks up food from Stop and Shop and other places and delivers some to elderly housing complexes.
“People will donate; it’s like a rolling ball effect,” he said. Individuals, restaurants and groups that have food left from a function can deliver it to St. John’s rectory, 44 Temple St., or call the rectory for him to pick it up, he said. But canned goods for the pantry are especially needed, Mr. Carroll said.
He said he would now like to raise $500,000 for an endowment “because we do not know yet what the demand for food will be.”

– Jessica Valera contributed to this story.