Omaha parish celebrates patron and pope
Celebrating families and serving others.
Members of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha came together Sept. 27 for both during "Pope, Patron & Pasta," an event that combined the feast day of its patron and Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.
The parish long has celebrated the feast day with an afternoon of service projects and by honoring the winner of its Spirit of St. Vincent de Paul award, said Jenni Vankat, who served on the event organizing committee.
And this year, in honor of the pope’s emphasis on the family, they added a free pasta meal to bring the parish family together and build community, she said.
Parishioners also watched coverage of Pope Francis’ visit, including live video reports from Philadelphia sent by Kelly Barth, a parishioner and theology teacher at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha.
For Father Daniel Kampschneider, pastor, the highlight of the day was seeing parishioners of all ages together enjoying a meal, visiting and working on service projects.
"It was a wonderful, community-building experience," Father Kampschneider said.
Reflecting the parish’s mission of service to others, the theme of the event was "Love & Service is Our Mission."
Furthering the connection between the parish’s patron and the pope, T-shirts were made that said, "Love Like Francis, Serve Like Vincent." The shirts included a logo created by parishioner Jerry Morrissey that featured an image of Pope Francis and the roof line of the church.
"It tied together nicely," Vankat said.
The event kicked off with Mass at 10:45 a.m., including an announcement at the end of Mass recognizing Emily McKeone as the spirit award winner. She was honored for her work with Water for Zambia, which has funded and built wells in the country in southern Africa.
After Mass, the meal, service projects and videos all were offered simultaneously, with about 100 volunteers helping out, said Vankat, who also serves as the parish’s pastoral minister and adult formation director.
Knights of Columbus members served about 300 meals in Hanneman Hall. Leftovers went to Saving Grace, an Omaha nonprofit organization that delivers donated, perishable foods to local nonprofit partners, she said.
Popular for photo ops was a life-sized picture of Pope Francis, which was placed in different parish locations over the past month, including the religious education office.
Service projects were designed for different age groups and directed to specific parish, local and international needs, Vankat said.
Younger children created wall hangings with Bible verses for parishioners who are homebound or living in care facilities.
Also available were kids’ activity packets with interactive catechetical information about St. Vincent de Paul and Pope Francis, including coloring pages, a word search and sticker page.
Older children and adults assembled:
• More than 300 toiletry kits for the Stephen Center, Siena/Francis House Homeless Shelter and Youth Emergency Services, a nonprofit providing services to homeless and at-risk youth, all in Omaha.
• Eight additional boxes of toiletry items for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry and other partner agencies in Omaha.
Adults working from pre-purchased kits created denim shoes for Sole Hope. The North Carolina-based nonprofit distributes the shoes in Uganda, where jobs are created for shoemakers who finish the work. The shoes help prevent diseases from infecting feet.
Parishioners and students from St. Vincent de Paul School and the parish’s religious education program donated about 154 pairs of jeans for the shoe project and more than 3,000 items for the toiletry kits, including shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste, Vankat said.
Having the children and young people take part in the projects can help them develop an outward sense of service in the city and beyond, Father Kampschneider said. He said he and others were delighted to see how quickly and enthusiastically they worked and how focused they remained as they stocked toiletry bags and cut denim patterns.
"They really enjoy service," Father Kampschneider said.