It’s the week before Christmas and St Canice’s Kitchen has been abuzz with festive cheer.
Each day up to 200 guests have been welcomed into the small soup kitchen at Elizabeth Bay and treated with a festive meal and gifts all prepared lovingly by dozens of volunteers in the parish and schools and parishes around Sydney.
Seven days a week volunteers cook and serve lunch to thousands of people who are homeless or struggling to keep up with the ever-rising cost of living.
Shortly before Christmas Brigidine Sr Sheelah Mogan led her regular team of Wednesday lunchtime volunteers to serve up the kitchen’s official Christmas party, with a baked dinner, carols singing, gift giving, and a paraliturgy.
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Senior students from Brigidine College, Randwick, helped to distribute treats in 200 generously-sized gift bags the junior students had hand-decorated.
Parish manager Lynelle Lembryk said that the kitchen, which is part of St Canice’s parish, is the scene of a daily miracle throughout the year and is especially busy in the lead-up to Christmas.
“People don’t realise much we do in the parish, and the kitchen also provides a great opportunity for other parishes to be involved in outreach to people on the margins of society,” she said.
“St Canice’s Kitchen evolved from serving one lunch a week to people who were lonely, to a seven days a week service all run by volunteers and involving hundreds of people from all over Sydney.
“It’s a very cool place. There is a lovely attitude of just trying to walk with people and be with them, and give them a nice meal.
“Unlike other services our guests usually come into contact with, we’re not trying to solve their problems or see them as a number.”
Sr Sheela said the 12 December Christmas party “was bigger than Ben Hur”.
“When I started we served bangers and mash and we all thought that was terrific, but as time has gone on it’s now a marvellous baked dinner and you wouldn’t find a better one in the whole world,” she said.
“The volunteer team is wonderful, they love being there and I will keep it going for as long as I can. I will never give it up.”