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New food truck to help stem senior hunger in Diocese of Oakland

IMAGE: CNS photo/Carrie McClish, Catholic Voice

By Carrie McClish

OAKLAND, Calif. (CNS) -- A new shiny truck is bringing food to senior citizens in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood and nearby communities.

A year in the making, the Mercy Brown Bag Program has expanded, with the truck visiting several locales and offering assistance to seniors faced with the high cost of rent and medication.

Krista Lucchesi, director of the program that is part of the services of the Mercy Retirement and Care Center, couldn't stop smiling as she looked at the vehicle parked behind the residential care facility.

Having the truck "now is kind of amazing for all of us," she told The Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Oakland Diocese.

Staff and volunteers cheered the truck as it arrived April 2 after a cross-country trip from St. Louis, where it was built. Nicole St. Lawrence, Mercy Brown Bag's assistant director, brought the truck west on a mission to help stem the tide of senior hunger in Alameda County.

Most recipients enrolled in the Mercy Brown Bag Program have an average yearly income of less than $12,000 in a county where the annual median income is $82,000. Average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about $1,663 a month, Lucchesi said. In such a costly environment, many seniors must make difficult choices about buying food, medication or shelter in order to survive.

"Healthy food is usually the first thing they will give up," Lucchesi said.

That's where the Mercy Brown Bag Program comes in. The program delivers food to 5,000 seniors at 17 sites and through 45 social service providers. Most of the food that the program distributes comes from the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

Each registered person can take home up to 20 pounds of groceries. Much of the food from a variety of food groups can be considered senior-appropriate: low in sodium and easy to chew.

Contacts at the distribution sites indicate which foods are more desired or more popular.

"Some sites say to bring rice every single time and say, 'we are always going to want rice' or 'we love sweet potatoes,'" Lucchesi said. "Whenever we can find them we try to make sure we have certain foods available for that site."

Fresh produce makes up the majority of the food delivered. The new truck is equipped with a system that will lower baskets of produce to street level, making food selection easier. The truck has a refrigerated area, allowing for the transport of milk and other products that must be chilled.

The food truck, which cost about $200,000, was paid for with donations from the Thomas J. Long Foundation and the Carl Gellert and Celia Berta Gellert Foundation.

The truck is allowing the program to reach up to 3,000 more seniors in need, Lucchesi said. "We are currently building our route to see which areas are not as well served," she said.

The truck also will help address new challenges facing seniors.

"We kept getting calls from low-income seniors who are homebound and with little or no social support," Lucchesi said. "We used to be able to ask them, 'Do you have a child or a friend or a neighbor who can come and get your bags for you?' People had some social connections. But now the isolation is so much deeper and we are hearing more and more from people who say they have no one who can come out to pick up their bag, which makes us sad. So we have been trying to figure out how to get closer to those folks."

The truck may also help address public transportation concerns.

"We have been getting calls where people are saying, 'I don't have any money to get on public transportation to get to one of your sites.' They are really, really living on the edge. This (truck) is a way to get food to them so that they don't have to go on public transportation," Lucchesi said.

A formal dedication of the truck took place April 19 and deliveries were to begin as soon as drivers were hired and trained.

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McClish is a staff writer for The Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Diocese of Oakland.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Spokesman: Tight security is 'new normal' as pope heads to Egypt

IMAGE: CNS photo/EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Despite the ongoing risk of terrorism, Pope Francis planned to travel to Egypt as a sign of being close to the people there, said Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman.

Heightened security is part of the "new normal" in many countries, but even in the wake of the Palm Sunday attacks in Egypt, it is the pope's desire "to go ahead, to also be a sign of his closeness" to those affected by violence and all the people of Egypt, Burke told journalists April 24.

At a Vatican briefing outlining some details of the pope's trip to Cairo April 28-29, a reporter asked if there were any worries or concerns about the pope's security.

Burke, speaking in Italian, said he wouldn't use the word "worries" or concerns, but would say that "we live in a world where it is now something that is part of life." He added, "However, we move ahead with serenity."

The pope has requested that a "normal car" -- not an armored vehicle -- be used when he is driven from one venue to another, Burke said. It will not be an open-topped vehicle, he added.

The pope will use a "golf cart," however, rather than the open-air popemobile when he makes the rounds through the crowds at the air defense stadium, where Mass will be celebrated April 29.

He also will use the golf cart for circulating among the more than 1,000 seminarians, religious and clergy expected to attend an outdoor prayer service at the Coptic Catholic Church's St. Leo's Patriarchal Seminary in the Cairo suburb of Maadi April 28.

Burke said that after Pope Francis' private meeting with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, at the patriarch's residence April 28, the two leaders will go together to the nearby church of Sts. Peter and Paul, which had been bombed during a Sunday Mass in December 2016, killing 24 people and injuring at least 45 others.

They will pray "for all the victims from these past years and months, pray for Christians killed," Burke said.

The two will leave flowers outside the church, light a candle and then have a moment of prayer for the victims from the December attack, the Vatican spokesman said.

Soon afterward, the pope will go to the apostolic nunciature, where he will be staying, and will greet a group of children who attend a Comboni-run school in Cairo and later will greet more than 300 young people who made a pilgrimage to Cairo to see the pope, he added.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Pope pays tribute to modern martyrs, calls for witnesses of God's love

The Francis Chronicles Rome

At Rome's Basilica of St. Bartholomew, a shrine to modern martyrs, Francis presided over an evening prayer service April 22, honoring Christians killed under Nazism, communism, dictatorships and terrorism.

Mercy opens the door to understanding the mystery of God, pope says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Mercy is a true form of knowledge that allows men and women to understand the mystery of God's love for humanity, Pope Francis said.

Having experienced forgiveness, Christians have a duty to forgive others, giving a "visible sign" of God's mercy, which "carries within it the peace of heart and the joy of a renewed encounter with the Lord," the pope said April 23 before praying the "Regina Coeli" with visitors gathered in St. Peter's Square.

"Mercy helps us understand that violence, resentment and revenge do not have any meaning and that the first victim is the one who lives with these feelings, because he is deprived of his own dignity," he said.

Commemorating Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis said St. John Paul II's establishment of the feast in 2000 was a "beautiful intuition" inspired by the Holy Spirit.

God's mercy, he said, not only "opens the door of the mind," it also opens the door of the heart and paves the way for compassion toward those who are "alone or marginalized because it makes them feel they are brothers and sisters and children of one father."

"Mercy, in short, commits us all to being instruments of justice, of reconciliation and peace. Let us never forget that mercy is the keystone in the life of faith, and the concrete form by which we give visibility to Jesus' resurrection," Pope Francis said.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @arochoju.

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Copyright © 2017 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Catholics should speak out against Trump's proposed budget

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The people have spoken, so what is the role of public opinion in church teaching?

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Update on Arkansas executions: April 24

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