Caring for Creation at Our Lady of Charity
In a time of isolation and fear, when the whole world seems to be a mess, one South Buffalo parish is doing its part to clean up. Our Lady of Charity parishioners took a couple hours out of their Saturday to clean the debris from South Park Avenue.
On the windy morning of Oct. 10, two dozen eager volunteers, grabbed some garbage bags and hit the street. Participants, many bundled in Buffalo Bills sweatshirts, met at Holy Family Church on Tifft Street at 10 a.m. to get their instructions, then armed with rakes, brooms and shovels went about picking up litter and raking leaves off the street between where Our Lady of Charity’s two worship sites, Holy Family and St. Ambrose, sit.
The project arose from the parish’s Discipleship program, led by Maureen Brown, began discussing social justice. As the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi is in October, they decided to focus on the care for creation. Father Bryan Zielenieski, pastor, suggested the clean up after noticing all the trash strewn along the streets while he took one of his routine walks around the neighborhood.
“He thought it would be a good idea to help our students to remember that care for creation is everybody’s responsibility, even if we didn’t throw the trash down, even if we aren’t the ones who made the mess,” explained Eileen Charleton, who captained the project.
The parish does a lot of outreach into the community. Charleton is quick to point out the Community Table the parish holds every Friday from 4-6 p.m. The three-year old program feeds people in need. The parish also has regular collections for the nearby Catholic Charities food pantry, and seasonal collections of hats and gloves for asylum seekers at the Buffalo Peace House in Hamburg.
“We do what we can,” she said.
Area businesses helped out by donating garbage bags and allowing the crew to use their dumpsters for the refuse.
Most of the volunteers came in small family groups. Nicole Faltisco brought her two young children with her because she wanted to show her kids that “church” is not just a Sunday morning thing. They are meant to represent the Lord by doing His work seven days a week. Her daughter Morgan seemed to get the idea.
“It’s fun, because you get to be with your family and you get to clean up God’s creation,” she said.
Faltisco saw the family helping out as a continuation of the work that God started.
“Earth is obviously one of God’s greatest creations. So, we’re just trying to take care of it and make sure it’s here for a long time,” she said.
Mike McGuire, brought his own weed wacker to help clean the greens along the sidewalks. A regular volunteer who can be seen at the chicken dinners and meat raffles, he supports the parish because he feels the Church is needed now more than ever.
“The Church, I believe is the cornerstone of the community,” he said. “With the volatile times we’re in, it’s a place you can go and be at peace and be led by the parish and the Church to a more meaningful life.”
Heather Przybyszewski also brought her four daughters to help out as an act of kindness and to keep their own neighborhood clean. For her, it’s also a way to give back.
“I have a strong faith,” she said. “God’s always there for us. It’s important for me to bring my kids into that faith, because I would be no where without my faith. It’s important to us, especially in these times, when there is so much uncertainty and a lot of evil workings in the world, it’s important to have that center and that base of your faith to bring us together.”
The kids admit they were dragged into it, but were glad they pitched in after seeing the result of their toil.
“I wanted to keep going because there was so much garbage on the street. That was really gross. When we picked it up, it looked a lot better,” said Leigha, age 11.
Photo: Rosa Burdes and her mother, Damaris, work together to clean up debris from South Park Avenue. They were among two dozen volunteers from Our Lady of Charity Parish to clean up the South Buffalo street as part of the parishes Discipleship program on Oct. 10