By George Al-Akiki and Marilyn Rodrigues
The Gift of Bread charity closed out 2023 with the blessing of two new vans for its impressively productive food run operations.
Bishop Terrence Brady blessed the vans and the volunteers at a Christmas party hosted by the charity’s director Marcel de Maria in Tempe in the inner west.
Along with the local Member for Heffron, Ron Hoenig, he was the special guest at the festive gathering of people from across various Sydney parishes, teams and outreach centres whose main hub is the community workshop based at Tempe’s St Peter and St Paul church.
De Maria and his team reached more than 26,500 people each day last year with more than $3.8 million worth of bread in a small room out of the Tempe office.
He said he values every single hour given by each volunteer throughout the year.
“One day somebody came to me saying they don’t feel they do much in the organisation,” he said.
“I said, ‘a Swiss watch has the smallest cogs, and if one cog is missing, that watch doesn’t work.’
“Every one of us is really important in the bigger picture of the things that we do and we all share in the same vision.”
Bishop Brady said that while the charity has been a blessing for the city it was “people like you and me who have the privilege of helping others, particularly the poorest of the poor, who are actually the ones who have been blessed.”
Hoenig said he was proud to witness first-hand the positive impact of Gift of Bread on his local community.
“It is probably one of the most profound things I have done when I have gone with the volunteers and seen the good done for those people who can’t afford at times to feed themselves,” he said.
“I don’t think there’s anything more that you can do in life than to lend a hand for those who need a hand given, so thank you.”
A number of parishes across Sydney also continued their charitable works over the Christmas period.
In Brighton Le Sands, the community of St Thomas More held its first community lunch on Christmas Day in the primary school grounds.
More than 120 participants including volunteers and local residents enjoyed a buffet lunch, entertainment and Santa laden with gifts—thanks to donations from parishioners, businesses, and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
“It has been heartening to see many parishioners decide to cancel or postpone their family Christmas celebration in order to come as a family to serve as volunteers for this event,” said Deacon Raymond Hung.
Parish priest Fr Manuel Santiago said it was an excellent opportunity for parishioners to meet new friends from a variety of backgrounds and faith traditions.
“This is all about sharing the spirit and joy of Christmas,” he said.
St Canice’s parish hosted its largest ever Christmas celebration, catering for 300 guests in its large community kitchen for the street community and other people living on the margins.
And at All Saints in Liverpool 70 guests and helpers enjoyed its second Christmas Day lunch in the parish hall as part of its thriving outreach ministry, with support from the Liverpool Catholic Club and Mercure Hotel and a small army of generous individual donors.