By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Sharing a meal with the homebound, homeless and others in need took on a new twist at St. Anthony Parish in downtown Davenport this year.
Traditionally the parish delivers about 500 food baskets at Easter. But this year, the parish council and social action commission decided to offer a meal in the newly completed parish hall, said Sister Judy Herold, SSND, the parish’s pastoral associate.
Dianna Paustian of the social action commission said patrons of McAnthony’s Window were informed about the April 17 dinner by signs posted at the window. Those who usually receive baskets were informed about the change via a telephone hotline number they called to register for baskets. An invitation also was extended to the parish’s homebound members.
Paustian said 158 people signed up for the meal. More were expected to show up without reservations.
Guests were seated at 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. Volunteers, more than 120, were on hand to assist with a variety of tasks. Hy-Vee catered the dinner of ham, scalloped potatoes, green beans and rolls. Pumpkin and apple pie were served for dessert. Religious education students designed placemats with Easter and spring themes for guests.
Ralph Cook, a social action commission member, worked in the kitchen putting food on plates. The parish was able to serve people individually by hosting the dinner in the hall. “They can see that there are many in the parish who are there to help them,” he said. With food basket deliveries, the recipient sees just one person. “They don’t get to see all the people behind the scenes,” Cook added.
Parish Council President Bill Lucas said St. Anthony’s continues its mission to feed the needy. “This is a big, first adventure.”
One of the guests, Robert, said the food and company were good. Another guest, Casey, said, “I’m not used to people being this nice to me and being catered to. I’m used to hearing cussing at meals. This is a clean environment and it reminds me of the way I grew up.”
And another guest, Martin, told volunteers he felt that the late Father James Conroy (founder of McAnthony’s Window) would have liked this event. “He’s looking down at us now … I had a good time and the food was great. You have a nice building here.”
St. Anthony parishioner Marie Denahey, who is homebound, came to dinner with her daughters Mary Ann Hahn of Ss. James & Philip Parish in Grand Mound and Katherine Doherty of Florida. Father Jack Gallagher, pastor, announced that Denahey will celebrate her 101st birthday next month. He led the guests and volunteers in singing “Happy Birthday” to her.
She said the food was good and it was nice to see so many volunteers who were very friendly. “This is a beautiful place.”
Paustian appreciated the support of volunteers, which was overwhelming. From this first dinner, she added, “we will learn and grow.”