Fundraising, fellowship, and fun came together on a beautiful fall afternoon at the 6th Annual Friends of the Poor Walk/Run on Oct. 2. This national event raises funds for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, a worldwide organization of lay Catholics who have been following Christ’s call to serve the poor, suffering, and deprived since its founding in 1833.
This year’s local Friends of the Poor Walk/Run began at Parkview Field in downtown Fort Wayne, where members of many Society of St. Vincent de Paul Parish Councils and other supporters and volunteers gathered for the event.
It was the third time walking in the event for Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades. He commented, “It’s great to see so many people who are committed to serving the poor and to this important mission of the Church. I love to walk with the people and show my support.” He added, “And I need the exercise!”
Laura Schreck, Executive Director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Fort Wayne said, “I love having all our parish conferences have an opportunity to be all together in one place.”
No stranger to Catholic events around the Diocese, Nicholas Ferreri, WANE 15’s Chief Meteorologist, was emcee for the event. He said, “The people here are just so excited and happy to be participating. Not everybody may be the fastest walker or runner, but that’s not what today is about. It’s about all the good work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and at this event, when people are walking through downtown, with the signs of their parishes and the St. Vincent de Paul T-shirts, they get to tell everybody about it.”
Ferreri formally kicked off the event, announcing several awards. The pastor who raised the most funds was also last year’s winner, Father Tom Shoemaker, Pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish. St. Francis of Assisi Council in Angola had the highest percentage of member participation, and St. Charles Borromeo Parish raised the most funds, more than $21,000. There were also 54 sponsors of the event, including title sponsor, Don Hall’s Restaurants.
The event raised nearly $50,000 to support the Society’s mission in the Fort Wayne district, which served more than 50,000 people in 2021. Vincentians, as its members are called, provide a wide variety of assistance including food, rent, utility payments, transportation, clothing, household repairs, and more. The Society’s hallmarks are accessibility, person-to-person service, and the ability to act quickly without time-consuming paperwork, which gives hope and encourages the people they serve to be more self-sufficient.
Bishop Rhoades noted that the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Vincent de Paul the previous Tuesday and that 400 years after his death, good works are still being done in the great saint’s name in service to the Lord. He affirmed that, “When I see a need in our community, I can always turn to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and its parish conference for assistance, and they always find a way to help.”
He gave the example of the many refugees from Afghanistan who arrived in the diocese this past year. “The wood shop of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul built bunk beds for the many Afghan children. These refugee families had their first exposure to Christianity through the support of Catholic Charities and the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, showing the face of Jesus to those who are most in need.”
After a blessing by Bishop Rhoades, the walk/run event officially kicked off behind home plate at the stadium. Walkers and runners of all ages and from many parishes throughout the diocese participated in the event, with smiles seen and lively conversations heard throughout.
The event began with a lap around the stadium, led by Bishop Rhoades, and continued into the heart of downtown Fort Wayne. On the three-mile route, participants passed by the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, and St. Patrick Parish before returning to the stadium. The participants were guided along the route by volunteers holding signs and offering words of encouragement, and they were greeted with snacks and water at the finish, where many stayed to chat and enjoy the beautiful day.
“It’s great to see the Catholic community come together to support the people of Fort Wayne, especially those that are under-served,” said first-time walkers Brandon and Aubrey Baccari. “It shows that it’s very important that we can get together in solidarity to show that our lives are in service to one another.”
Gary and Betty from St. Francis of Assisi Council in Angola noted, “Everyone really has high energy, and we not only feel camaraderie with our own council who are here with us, but with the councils of all the other parishes.”
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