On Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, St. Philip Neri Parish in Pennsburg, Montgomery County donated more than $100,000 to organizations serving those less fortunate in their neighborhood, the Upper Perkiomen Valley.
The parish, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, started the “Share Our Blessings” fundraising campaign five years ago as a way to celebrate the centennial anniversary. Parishioners not only met but exceeded their fundraising goal of $100,000.
“This has been a very exciting way to celebrate,” said Jo Ellen Carr, who with her husband Ray have been parishioners of St. Philip Neri for 46 years.
“We’re happy to share with the whole valley,” said Jo Ellen, who started the parish’s prayer shawl ministry 10 years ago, supplying hundreds of handmade shawls and blankets for baptisms, funerals and those who are housebound.
Ray, a member of the parish council and finance committee, commended his fellow parishioners, saying, “There’s a lot of great people who care about people.”
The presentation of the “Share Our Blessings” gifts was held in the parish church and attended by many parishioners as well as representatives from various local organizations: Veterans Brotherhood Inc., a Pennsbury non-profit organization serving homeless and suicidal veterans; Birthright of Pottstown, a pregnancy care center; and the Open Link, a social services organization in Pennsbury.
“As a statement of our faith and as a way to fulfill Jesus’ command to care for the least among us,” said Deacon Michael J. Franks of St. Philip Neri Parish, “we decided to raise at least $100,000 to support the poor here in the valley.”
The presentation started with a welcome from St. Philip Neri’s parochial administrator, Father Anthony Hangholt. He arrived at the parish in January and continued the “Share Our Blessings” campaign, which was started by his predecessor, Father Robert Roncase.
Father Hangholt said the parish strives “to serve those less fortunate in the valley (and) to seek Jesus in our brothers and sisters that need our help and care. It’s our Christian commitment to care for the least among us.”
Veterans Brotherhood was awarded a $10,000 donation. “It’s an honor and privilege to share and distribute these funds,” said the organization’s Kathleen Hydier, and that the donation was “beyond what we expected.”
She said the all-volunteer organization started five years ago and receives no government funding, only private donations. Although it was founded to help suicidal veterans, Hydier said most money is currently spent on homeless veterans to help them quickly get shelter “without all of the paperwork.”
“By this donation,” she said, “you’ll help save veterans’ lives.”
Colleen Glenn of Birthright of Pottstown, which was awarded a $25,000 donation, said she was “overwhelmed by the enormous generosity of this parish,” adding the donation will “help mothers be able to have their babies.”
Glenn said Birthright of Pottstown supports mothers and their babies up to 18 months of age. She describes Birthright volunteers as “the friend these women don’t have” to provide care and support to mothers in need.
“This money will go very far to help (mothers) support their children,” Glenn said.
The Open Link received a $50,000 donation.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown people out of work and made a bad situation worse for low income families in the Upper Perk Valley,” said executive director Stuart Bush. “This generous donation from the faithful of St. Philip Neri Parish in Pennsburg will help the Open Link better serve those in distress with rental and utility assistance, food assistance and more. St. Philip Neri is making a real difference in their community.”
The parish is also using $15,000 to start an emergency fund for local pastors in the Perkiomen Valley to feed the hungry. Remaining funds will be used by the parish to help any parishioners struggling to provide the basics of everyday life.
Additionally, parishioner Lori Carr was awarded the Defender of Life Award by Mark Nunan, president of the Valley Forge Chapter of the Knights of Columbus, for her 39 years of volunteer service to Birthright of Pottstown.
“Our parish is thankful to be in the valley for 100 years and to serve others,” said Father Hangholt. “We ask for the grace to see Christ in others for another 100 years.”
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