For over 25 years, our penny collection has been converting your generous contributions into relief for the poor and the hungry. The idea is that by taking small donations from many individuals each month, we will be able to gather sufficient sums that can make an impact on improving the lives of the poor. Indeed, over the years more than $100,000 has been collected and distributed to SHIP to serve the poor. The Penny Collection has been a real example that our small deeds and contributions have a collective major impact on large problems that face our community.
Helping the poor is a calling and a challenge to all Christians. The Gospel constantly reminds us that Jesus has directed us to care for those people in our society who have fallen on hard times, who have psychological or medical problems that prevent them from working, or who simply do not have the wherewithal to adapt to our society. Before we ask, “Why are they not able to…?” or, “Who is deserving of our help? we should ask, “What can we do to help them?” Mother Teresa reemphasized Christ’s calling when she said:
-At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great thingswe have done.
-We will be judged by 'I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was naked and you clothed me, I was homeless and you took me in.'
-Hungry not only for bread -- but hungry for love. Naked not only for clothing -- but naked for human dignity and respect. Homeless not only for want of a room of bricks -- but homeless because of rejection.
It is not always easy for us to personally address large issues like poverty and homelessness. Many of us have been confronted by situations where we are approached by people who may be poor or homeless and asked for “spare change”. While we are sympathetic and would like to help in these situations, we know that there is a good chance that our charity could be used in a way that would only worsen the situation of the person we are trying to help.
We would like to make you aware of an opportunity to provide direct relief to the homeless in our immediate area. It is estimated that in Somerset County there are 840 people who live below the “poverty line” and many people who are considered “homeless” – people living in the streets or in sub-standard shelters. It is reasonable to assume that some of these people are part of our parish community. The Samaritan Homeless Interim Program, or SHIP, has been serving the poor and the homeless in our area for the past 25 years. Under the direction of Tom O’Leary, SHIP has provided food, shelter, alcohol/substance abuse programs, general advocacy, and other means of assistance to those in need. Immaculate Conception Parish has been a significant supporter of SHIP since its inception.
On the first Sunday of each month, large penny bowls are placed at each of the church’s entrances. 100% of these donations goes directly to fund SHIPs programs. We encourage you to keep a ‘pennies for the poor’ jar/can in your home and make this collection a family ministry. Together we can convert our individual “spare change” (and spare dollars) into an answer of Christ’s call to care for the poor.