San Francisco: I Was Hungry and You Fed Me

Pictured above: The food and gifts were lovingly prepared by women and men religious from the Capuchin Franciscans, Daughters of Charity, Dominican Sisters of the Philippines, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady of Peace, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, Sisters of Mercy, the Society of Helpers, Associates of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet and the Sisters of the Presentation.

Nearly a dozen Sisters of the Presentation of San Francisco took part on Saturday, September 17, 2016, in the Second Annual Picnic in the Park for the Homeless. This year the event was moved to Saint Anthony of Padua Church because the Golden Gate Park Panhandle was unavailable.

Saint Anthony’s Parish Hall was decked out with colorful tablecloths for the guests who enjoyed sandwiches, fresh fruit, chips and beverages. Following the lunch and good conversations, new socks, T-shirts, sweatshirts, pet food, toiletries and gift cards were distributed to the guests.

Taking part in the event were Presentation Sisters Sylvia Llerena, Joanne O’Shea, Rita Jovick, Maire Sullivan, Kathy Sickly, Pam Chiesa, Denise Bourdet, Judy Romero, Judy Cunningham, Giovanna Campanella, and Rosina Conrotto, who directs the Office of Religious of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and sponsored the event. Sister Rosina said, “This event not only drew together the women and men religious of the Archdiocese in a shared outreach, but provided a much needed service to our brothers and sisters who are homeless in the city of San Francisco. We were able to provide food and clothing, but more importantly, we offered companionship and conversation with those whose lives are hidden from us because of where and how they live. I’m humbled by the response of the men and women religious and especially humbled by the women and men we served. No one took more than they needed and all accepted what we had to offer with gratitude and graciousness.”

Additional sandwiches, fresh fruit, chips and beverages were also distributed to men and women living on the streets near Golden Gate Park, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Station at Mission and Twenty-fourth Streets, and the Tenderloin area of San Francisco.

Sister Judy Romero said, “When the Picnic in the Park for the Homeless was moved to Saint Anthony’s Church Hall, I thought I was going to be very disappointed, but, in fact, I was not. Many hungry came and got sandwiches, chips, fruit and warm greetings. Several of us went down to the Tenderloin and gave away more food. We received many words of thanks and ‘God bless you.’ For me the day was wonderful and I look forward to next year’s event.”

Sister Giovanna Campanella added, “I was touched by the genuine gratitude so many, if not all, of the people we served, expressed to us. Yet, I’m always struck by the question in my heart, ‘And what else can be done?’”

In the Tenderloin, Sister Rita Jovick commented, “When Sister Joanne O’Shea and I walked toward a group, the only words that were said to the group were, ‘Do you want a sandwich?’ One man said, ‘We were just talking about Jesus. ’”

At one station, Sister Sylvia Llerena and Sister Denise Bourdet noticed a woman sitting on a bench with no arms and legs. They looked over at the woman as they were giving a man some items. He told them, “I’ll bring her these things. I am her arms and legs.”

Sister Pam Chiesa noted, “For me, the picnic for the homeless is an opportunity to directly connect with the people we pray for every day. It allows me to put a face and a name on “the homeless.” They are real people, each with a name and a story. Handing out food and clothing was so appreciated by the men and women we met that day, but the real gift we offer is a smile, a touch, a safe place for a brief time. Hopefully, God’s love for them shines through.”

A special thanks to Father Moises Agudo for the use of Saint Anthony’s Parish property. It has also been the site of the Sisters of the Presentation Tuesday breakfast and monthly lunch for day laborers for more than 20 years.