The Conference of Religious Leadership, an organization of consisting of leadership from congregations of religious sisters in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, is marking Catholic Sisters Week – March 8-14 -- with a food insecurity challenge. CORL asked congregations of sisters both locally and nationally, as well as the public, to join the campaign to address food insecurity.
“The food insecurity challenge is a collaborative effort to serve persons in need and bring much-needed awareness to the current increase in food insecurity and underlying causes, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty, unemployment/underemployment and inconsistent access to healthy food,” said Sister Margaret Taylor, congregational leader of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and a member of the CORL executive team.
“We are challenging them and the people in the communities they serve to emphasize food insecurity during Catholic Sisters Week to build even more momentum to alleviate hunger throughout the year,” she added.
Sister Taylor said a number of Northeast Ohio congregations accepted the challenge and planned many activities during the week. Some of those include:
- Donations to food banks and distribution organizations across the region, such as from the Congregation of St. Joseph, Dominican Sisters of Peace, Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine, Sisters of the Humility of Mary, Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis, the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland and the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown.
- Bag lunches and meals for shelter residents
- Advocating for state and federal policies that increase access to food.
- Congregational prayer.
In addition, Sisters of the Incarnate Word hosted a drive-thru drop-off of non-perishable food on March 7 at Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights. Sisters collaborated with IWA to continue the food collection through March 11. Donated items will go to the Parma Heights Food Pantry and the Bishop Cosgrove Center in Cleveland, a ministry of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland.
CORL invited the community to participate in the food insecurity challenge and suggested ways to get involved, including hosting a food drive for a local food bank or pantry, volunteering for a food bank or pantry, donating to an organization that addresses hunger, food insecurity or food injustice, setting up a community garden, little free pantry or other project serving those who are food insecure and contacting public officials at the local, state and national level to advocate for policies that will increase access to food, including expanding SNAP benefits, increasing the minimum wage and funding food initiatives.
The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine is among the congregations participating in the food insecurity challenge. Sister Marian Durkin, CSA, first assistant for the congregation, said they are pleased to be able to financially support food banks in the locations where they minister using stimulus checks from the federal government.
“Our hearts were moved over and over again by the long lines of persons suffering from food insecurity across the country,” she said. “It is a blessing to be able to share with those less fortunate. Our hope is that others might be able to do the same.”
On March 5, prior to Catholic Sisters Week, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland released a podcast that focused on food insecurity. The episode, “Generative Spirits: Conversations with Catholic Sisters,” discussed how Sister Marie Manning, SND, works in East Cleveland to address food insecurity. These monthly Catholic sister podcasts explore how members of Northeast Ohio congregations respond to sign of the times with personal highlights and a collective knowledge of life and ministry that is more than a century old.
The foundation, established in 1996, is a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine. It partners with residents, nonprofits and community leaders to change the trajectory of poverty in Cuyahoga County.
CORL was established in 1975 to share ideas, support the congregations of religious women in Northeast Ohio, strengthen the bonds among the congregations and seek new ways to maximize the collective strength and influence of the sisters in the Church and Northeast Ohio.
Catholic Sisters Week takes place annually March 8-14 as part of National Women’s History Month. It is intended to shine a spotlight on the good works and good will of Catholic sisters, both past and present. The week is under the direction of the Communicators for Women Religious, a professional organization of communicators within religious congregations of women.