Holiday Tradition: St. Mary's Serves Up Meals Galore

By Jeff Neumeyer

November 22, 2012 Updated Nov 22, 2012 at 6:08 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (www.incnow.tv) --- A Thanksgiving feast on a grand scale.

Hundreds of people showed up Thursday at St. Mary's Catholic Church downtown, where the tough economy took a one-day vacation.

" When you come to dinner at someone's home, it means they respect you and love you, but you also respect the people where you're going."

Those were the comments of Bishop Emeritus John D'Arcy, who welcomed a crowd of visitors looking to join in a true holiday tradition.

St. Mary's Catholic Church has a reputation for feeding Ft. Wayne's low income and homeless folks on a daily basis through its soup kitchen.

On Thanksgiving, 700 sit-down meals are prepared for clients who waited in a long line to get their fill.

" I like everything on the plate, and I like all the desserts," said Christy Tabor, who came to enjoy the meal.

" I'm very blessed to be here and thank everybody for feeding me and my family," said Damita Hawkins, who says she has visited St. Mary’s on Thanksgivings past.

How do you satisfy a crowd this size?

Mostly through generous donations that helped purchase 168 turkeys, 20 pans of stuffing, and other side dishes to fill the plates to overflow.

St. Mary's Thanksgiving banquet dates back to 1974.

It wouldn't be possible without a whole lot of volunteers.

" I just love, you know, contributing and seeing how happy everybody is, while they're getting their food, so, it's a nice way to give back," said volunteer Shaleen Moriarity.

" It looks today like one of the biggest crowds, very affected by the economy, and so just so many people coming to serve of all faiths," Bishop D’Arcy said.

" In Matthew 25, it says, when I was hungry you fed me, when I was thirsty you gave me something to drink, when I was naked you gave me clothes. That's the mission," said event chairperson Pat McBride.

700 carry out meals for shut-ins and others also went out the door, in pursuit of a lofty goal, that for one day, nobody goes hungry.

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