Seminarians Help Feed the Hungry in Canby

by Michael Khong

In September, St. Patrick Catholic Church in Canby welcomed five new seminarians as volunteer workers for the food bank.  They are Peter Lawongkerd, Emmanuelle del Castillo, Jamie Cuevas, Fernando Capetillo, and Brother Marius Kim.

At the beginning of the new academic year, each seminarian is assigned by Ms. Linda Showman, the associate director of pastoral formation, to different ministries that are part of pastoral formation.  Pastoral formation, one of the four pillars of the Program of Priestly Formation, is designed to allow seminarians to work with lay people.

Every Wednesday, these seminarians gather in the parking lot and leave Mount Angel Seminary at 4 p.m. for pastoral ministry.  After they arrive at the food bank at 4:45 p.m., they report to Mary Ann Schram, their supervisor, and begin to help people who are in need. 

Their duties include welcoming the clients and helping them select the food that they want.  According to Bill Piller, the head of the food bank, the food bank at St. Patrick has been serving the poor for more than thirty years.  It is also a place for seminarians to have the opportunity to work with the laity and to have an experience working with people who are in need.

Working at the food bank is a new experience for all five seminarians.  Peter Lawongkerd, a seminarian from the Diocese of Oakland, said that when he received his pastoral formation assignment, he had no clue what the food bank was all about.  He said, "I was nervous and had no idea about this assignment."

After a couple of weeks, we began to fall in love with this ministry and recognized that it has been a blessing for him.  He also said, "I can help people who don't have a place to stay and food to eat.  Whey they come here every Wednesday to get groceries, I can see their happy faces."  Most importantly, he learned that he is blessed, and he is grateful for everything God has given to him.

Unlike Peter, Jamie Cuevas, a seminarian from the Diocese of Orange, felt comfortable working with other staff and clients since his first day at the food bank.  He said, "Working at St. Patrick's Food Bank as a volunteer - it's a blessing for me because it enriches my knowledge and strengthens my faith as I continue to discern my calling."  He also mentioned that his ministry helps him learn how to work with the laity and how to serve God's people, especially the poor.

St. Patrick's Food Bank is open only on Wednesdays.  Numerous people wait to receive food, but it seems that there aren't any conversations between clients and the volunteer staff because the workers are extremely busy assisting the customers.  Jamie said, "I wish that I have more time to talk to people about God, faith, and life experiences."  However, he is very happy with the work at the food bank because it helps him recognize Christ in other people. 

Mr. Piller also said, "St. Patrick's Food Bank has a total of 68 active volunteer staff and no paid staff."  The volunteer staff is not just from St. Patrick Catholic Church but from different churches in town.  St. Patrick's Food Bank serves 200 to 300 families per week and allows people to come every week instead of once every month to select their food.