Parish expands ministry in light of pandemic

By Joanna Puddister King
FLOWOOD – Famed newspaper cartoonist and editor Marshall Ramsey has a saying that suits us in Mississippi. “When things get bad, we get good.” That saying is no exception for many of our parishes around the diocese, who have been helping others in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

St. Paul Flowood began humbly serving about 50 families at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis and now serve upwards of 90 families per week. The program is called “Feed the Hungry” and it grew out of the Backback ministry the parish was operating for Pisgah and Oakdale schools that served disadvantaged children, identified by conselors, on the weekend with snacks.

Cecilia Carlton of St. Paul Flowood says the church “is truly serving the needs of families affected by circumstances for which they had no possibility of preparing.”

“COVID-19 has given our parish family the ability to become ‘missional’ in our intent to serve our brothers and sisters far beyond the walls of St. Paul.”

The parish began their “Feed the Hungry” program with referrals from principals, teachers and counselors at Pisgah, Oakdale, McLaurin and Pelahatchie schools. Carlton also says that a few have come from Northwest Rankin. Once massive layoffs caused unemployment rates to rise, the parish began getting calls from individuals for food assistance as well.

St. Paul parishioners have been very generous, says Carlton. Father Gerry Hurley and Carlton have even taken to calling their makeshift pantry the ‘Table of Plenty.’ Carton says of Father Hurley, “It does his heart good to see cars all through the day bringing in food.”

The Knights of Columbus Council 10216 have also been a huge help to the project, teaming up with those in the parish operating the Backpack Ministry for Pisgah and Oakdale schools. The Knights and chapter president, Jose Lopez have also been filling orders and helping off of the ‘Table of Plenty’ as they hear about needs in the community.

Each year, the Knights smoke boston butts for the fourth of July weekend and sell to raise money for different causes. This year, the smoked butt sale will be on June 28 and funds raised will go to subsidizing the “Feed the Hungry” project. The butts are $40 each and can be purchase through the St. Paul Flowood’s website.

On May 30, Michelle Harris, parishioner of St. Paul, who runs Rosie’s Garden stopped by with fresh produce for St. Paul’s “Feed the Hungry” program. Rosie’s Garden is a non-profit located in Rankin county that grows fresh produce and distributes to non-profits helping with food. The organization regularly delivers to Catholic Charities, The Mustard Seed and Stewpot among others. Now, they are proud to begin helping St. Paul’s efforts to feed the hungry.

“It may have taken us a while to get there, but there are so many people working right now to feed people who need it,” says Carlton.

Additionally, St. Paul Flowood also has a “Feed the Flock” program that is feeding individuals at high-risk for contracting COVID-19. The parish has been delivering meals on Wednesday’s to 24 individuals. The programs are not just for parishioners, said Carlton. “It is for anyone in need who is at high-risk.”

Carlton says that the program will continue until people get back on their feet, no matter how long that may be.

For those that want to help, Carlton encourages everyone to look at their home parishes and see how you can help your community.

Some of the most needed items for the ‘Table of Plenty’ are peanut butter, cereal or breakfast bars, pasta, rice, spaghetti sauce, mac and cheese, canned tuna, chicken, or salmon, canned vegetables, canned fruit, boxed crackers & cookies, toothpaste, toothbrushes, bars of soap, shampoo/conditioner, toilet paper and bleach. Donations and can be dropped off before 6pm under the pavilion behind the right side of the church or monetary donations can be made online.

For more information or if you need help, visit

FLOWOOD – Michelle Harris and Cecilia Carlton sort through fresh produce from Rosie’s Garden for St. Paul Flowood’s “Feed the Hungry” program. (Photo by Joanna Puddister King)