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January 2, 2014
Thirtieth Annual Food Pantry Christmas Dinner
By Rick Winterson

There are backstories to all of South Boston’s key traditions.  The annual Christmas dinner, served this Year of Our Lord 2013 in St. Monica Hall by a host of St. Augustine Food Pantry volunteers, is no exception.  Please join South Boston Online in a short historical review of this particular tradition.

In 1983, Msgr. Thomas McDonnell, affectionately called “Father Tom”, was the Pastor of the St. Augustine Parish.  He was a widely-read person as well as a prolific writer.  One of his favorite themes was the incidence of feeding, including many outright feasts, which are found in the Gospels.  He was especially fond of the Gospel of St. Luke, because of the number of feasts this Gospel described – he named it “The Hospitality Gospel”.

Father Tom contacted one of his parishioners, Frank Kelley, back in 1983 and asked him to set up a Food Pantry.  Frank and numerous good-hearted volunteers in the Parish were successful.  The result was (and is) the ongoing St. Augustine Food Pantry, now thirty (yes, 30) years old.

We haven’t room to list all of the volunteers that made up the Merry Men and Women who helped Father Tom and Frank, but their success has been evident.  In addition to providing a parish resource for emergencies and for the needy, the Food Pantry has served Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas dinners over the last 30 years.

It’s impossible to calculate the total number of people who have enjoyed a festive dinner at these banquets, but an estimate can be made:  Something more than 25,000 meals have been served since 1983.  Many of these meals have been delivered to people who cannot get out, all by volunteers.

When St. Augustine Church was closed and merged into St. Monica Church a few years ago, the Food Pantry didn’t miss a beat.  The Archdiocese kicked in some $30,000 to upgrade the kitchen in St. Monica Hall; the Food Pantry continued to function.  It served perhaps 800 meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2013.

Volunteers, coordinated by Tom Butler, poured in on both Holiday occasions this year.  These days, the Food Pantry and the banquets in St. Monica Hall are supported by the combined South Boston Parishes and our elected officials.  Their worthy work continues. In South Boston, no real tradition dies away.  It simply changes to fit the times, and then carries on. 



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