OFFICE FOR SOCIAL MINISTRY
“Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’” (Matthew: 19:14)
In the Gospel, Jesus recognized the special blessing of vulnerable children among us. This summer, some of our Hawaii parishes have been attending to the blessing of our keiki through food programs aimed at ending childhood hunger. Here are some inspirational stories from our summer montage of memories of how parishioners have been encountering Christ with some of the most vulnerable among us.
Annunciation Parish, Waimea, Big Island
Hunger-Free Keiki is Annunciation Parish’s way of providing blessings in a backpack for hungry children. Since April 2015, parishioners have worked in partnership with school administrators to organize food bags for homeless children at four local elementary schools in Honokaa, Waimea and Waikoloa. When a homeless child is identified, they send a bag with “kid-friendly” food to him or her every week — even during school breaks! The ministry serves between seven and 20 homeless children at any given time.
Parishioners have also mobilized to gather donations for hundreds of personal care kits that will be distributed this month at the Annunciation food pantry. Volunteers were especially excited recently when they came up with a creative solution to the problem of backpacks being torn or not returned. T-shirt totes! These new bags will not only carry the edible blessings for our keiki, but also serve as a constant reminder of Christ’s blessing presence in their lives throughout the summer and into the new school year.
St. Michael the Archangel, Kailua-Kona, Big Island
Malama Na Keiki is St. Michael Parish’s response to childhood hunger. Since August 2014, parishioners have been gathering and distributing backpacks with plenty of child-friendly goodies, including some healthy choices of fresh fruit and carrot sticks. Throughout the summer, 60 backpacks were distributed every two weeks to students from Holualoa Elementary.
Especially inspiring are the many parish volunteers in food ministry, even as they experience challenges in their own lives. For example, one parish social ministry leader, who was instrumental in establishing the “caring for keiki” backpacks project, struggles with her own health issues while taking care of her sick daughter.
St. Damien Church, Kaunakakai, Molokai
Kukunaokala is St. Damien Church’s social ministry approach to addressing childhood food poverty. Started in 2013, the program, which literally means “the rays of the sun,” was a way to shine light and hope on hungry children. This year, 120 students at Kilohana, Kaunakakai, Kualapuu, Maunaloa and Akaula Elementary and Molokai Middle Schools received backpacks twice a month. The team anticipates 25 more students joining the program this coming year.
Through valuable community partnerships with SustainABLE Molokai and Maui Food Bank, parishioners work with school community gardens to distribute healthy and kid-friendly foods to those most in need. Volunteers are planning to host more family garden activities as well as a Senior Food Box program in August. The parish has 20 kupuna committed to the program, yet another inspiring image of encountering Christ with the vulnerable.
These are just a few of the images from the summer blessings in a backpack, similar to other programs in the diocese, like those at Sacred Heart Parish in Hawi and St. Elizabeth Parish in Aiea, all images of witnessing to Jesus with the most vulnerable. If you would like more information about starting a backpack food ministry in your parish, please contact our Office for Social Ministry at 203-6702. Mahalo,
Your friends at the Office for Social Ministry