Pierogi, a Polish delicacy consisting of a savory filling wrapped in dough, is the unlikely first course of an outreach by the Franciscan Friars of the Our Lady of the Angels Province to help two struggling coal mining cities of Northeast Pennsylvania.
Pierogi making is part of the culture at parishes in the region where they are made regularly as part of their fund raising efforts. It also presented a chance for Mother Cabrini Church pastor Fr. Martin Kobos, OFM Conv., co-founder and former Director of the Companions of St. Anthony.
Fr. Martin noticed how a parish in a neighboring town had engaged with students of Bucknell University and explored how he could bring them to Shamokin.
“A number of things seemed to have converged all at the right time,” said Fr. Martin. “Bucknell has the 40 Mile Project, by which the University gives back to the local region with the knowledge and enthusiasm of its senior interns and the expertise and resources of its professors.”
To bring the interns to Shamokin, Fr. Martin and his staff went to Bucknell and made a presentation about the parish’s pierogi program. Drawing upon what they learned from their Managing for Substantiality major, five students observed all aspects of the program and ultimately presented a detailed report with suggestions to sustain, improve and grow the program. The relationship with Bucknell was established.
In addition to Mother Cabrini, the Friars minister at two other local parishes in the region – Our Lady of Hope (Coal Township, Pa.) and St. Patrick (Trevorton, Pa.). Earlier this year, the Friars hosted a gathering of approximately 30 stakeholders from all three municipalities to brainstorm possible broader topics of interest for the Bucknell interns.
To assist with the effort, Our Lady of Hope pastor Fr. Steven Frenier, OFM Conv., donated the use of a former rectory building as a work space. A generous donation of furniture and household items was made from the Franciscan Center, a former OLA Province ministry in Buffalo, NY, to outfit the facility.
“The people of this region are struggling,” added Fr. Martin. “The coal is all gone and with it the economy of this region is depressed. In addition, residue of the coal mining days has negatively impacted the area.”
The efforts of the Cabrini Friars are an example of the Franciscan commitment to Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation (JPIC). “This work we’re doing fits perfectly with the mission of our JPIC office, directed by Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. Fr. Michael continually helped us, providing guidance and expertise in moving the program forward.” †
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