By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
About 70 confirmation students produced 11,724 meals — enough to feed more than 70,000 people — in less than three hours.
“That’s like feeding everybody in Kinnick Stadium at a University of Iowa football game,” exclaimed Michelle Montgomery, director of youth ministry at St. Thomas More Parish, Coralville. “They were mass packers. I could not believe how well everyone just jumped in and worked together.”
Confirmation students from St. Thomas More, St. Mary Parish in Oxford and St. Mary Parish in Iowa City gathered at the Coralville parish Nov. 9 to participate in the food packaging for Stop Hunger Now, a Catholic Relief Services partner charity. Stop Hunger Now provides food to impoverished areas around the world.
St. Thomas More Parish purchased the food supplies at 28 cents per meal and the items were to be delivered via truck from the charity’s distribution site in Kansas City. The truck broke down near Des Moines — delaying the project for a few hours. When the truck finally arrived students had it unloaded in “about 20 minutes flat,” Montgomery said.
Students then put on gloves and hairnets and packaged the six-serving dehydrated rice and soy meals. Students placed the packaged meals into larger boxes for Stop Hunger Now to ship to western Africa.
Montgomery said many of the students did not know each other prior to the service initiative; she was impressed by their ability to collaborate.
Student David Jensen of the Oxford parish said, “I felt the presence of God in the camaraderie between people who didn’t even know each other.”
Beth Hahn, youth minister of the Oxford parish, said she was “full of pride and complete awe” by what she witnessed. “Obviously, it was a total team effort with each person depending on each other, just like in real life and the Church. We help each other and if we see a need we just do it! If everyone does a little, we end up doing a lot.”
The service project cost was included in St. Thomas More’s confirmation budget this year, said Montgomery. She felt the project would be a good way for students to learn about giving and working together. She hopes to open the service project to all confirmation classes in the Iowa City deanery next year.
Student Dominque Moiser of the Oxford parish said the service experience made her feel closer to God. “I never felt more connected with him than I did packaging food for people who are starving. I felt I was making God’s kingdom a better place. I felt I was making the world a better place.”