Pastor gives out $100 bills; parish returns ‘more for poor’
Photo Caption: Jeannine Montgomerie (left) of St. Mary’s, Bloomington, presents $17,500 to representatives of a parish in Hazard, Ky., through funds raised in St. Mary’s “More for the Poor” outreach.
By: By Jared Olar
BLOOMINGTON — It began with something of a role reversal at a Sunday Mass in August: a priest handing out cash at church, where Catholics are more accustomed to putting money in the collection basket.
That Sunday Father Ric Schneider, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Bloomington, passed out $100 bills to 180 of his parishioners.
The cash was to be used as “seed money” for a parish-wide effort, “More for the Poor,” meant to raise money for impoverished families of Appalachia. The $100 bills came from several parishioners who donated $1,000 or more to the charitable project.
“I just wanted to challenge the people again to think of others,” Father Ric said of his parish, which hosts many other giving programs for the Bloomington-Normal community including the Clare House Catholic Worker food pantry, Loaves and Fishes Soup Kitchen and the St. Anthony Outreach Ministry.
“Even though we’re middle class or lower middle class in an older part of town, they still reach out to others,” Father Ric told The Catholic Post.
Preaching a homily on Jesus’ parable of the talents, Father Ric gave the money to the parishioners with the instruction to find creative ways to multiply the seed money for the sake of the poor. “Everybody’s got to use their talents,” he said.
The goal was to raise at least $50,000. When the various fundraising activities had finished earlier this month, the parish’s seed money had yielded a harvest of $70,000.
Among the ways St. Mary’s parishioners raised money were a garage sale, bake sales, a car wash, sales of calendars and t-shirts, a wine and cheese party, a euchre tournament, a motorcycle ride to Mattoon, and an auction.
One parishioner raised $1,000 just by taping her $100 bill to a jar and inviting visitors to her house to place donations in the jar, according to Father Ric.
News of the parish’s Appalachian outreach project began to spread during the fall, and The Bloomington Pantagraph ran a feature story on “More for the Poor” in its Nov. 30 edition. After that the Associated Press picked up the story, which spread nationwide and then internationally.
“We’ve gotten a lot of calls since it went out over the AP. One call came from New Zealand. They interviewed me for a morning radio show,” said Father Ric. The project, he added, even merited a mention on the show of famed radio personality Paul Harvey.
Now, as Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story.
The $70,000 was divided four ways: $17,500 each was given to four Appalachian missions or charitable outreaches, including Msgr. Ralph Beiting’s ministry to the poor of Appalachia based in Louisa, Ky.
Msgr. Beiting is the founder and director of the Christian Appalachian Project and the Father Beiting Appalachian Mission Center, which serve 100,000 families in three states.
The other three checks went to missions in Cumberland, Hazard and Jackson, Ky., that are served by Father Ric’s religious community, the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor.
“The three friars got together in Cumberland so they wouldn’t have to drive around to each place,” said Father Ric.
The checks were personally delivered the week of Dec. 7.
“My husband and I and one of our daughters, Julie, and one of her sons, Andrew, had the blessing of being able to go down there and give them the checks,” said St. Mary’s parishioner Jeannine Montgomerie. “It was great to see the look on their faces.”
Need is very great in Appalachia, and the donations will help to ease the burden for a little while, Montgomerie said.
“In Cumberland unemployment is 46 percent and in Hazard it is 39 percent. One of the places has a line of 100 people every week at its food pantry,” so money and food are a constant need in Appalachia, she said.
With the economy and Wall Street in uncertainty, Father Ric’s financial advice is to invest your money where it will do the most good by giving it to the poor, just like his parishioners did.
“It was a great investment: $18,000, with a $70,000 return in three months,” said Father Ric. “They really rose to the occasion.”