Since the Great Depression, Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable people have lined up outside the social hall of Saint Mary of Mercy Church for a simple lunch to keep them going. Thanks to an expansion of the Red Door service, they are now welcomed inside for additional support and spiritual assistance.
The poor and homeless receive up to three meals a day, as well as clothes and shoes. You can also sign up for subsidized housing through nonprofits that work in the basement of the church.
Guests will soon be able to take a warm shower and even wash their clothes, according to Father Chris Donley, pastor of Divine Mercy, the ward that includes Saint Mary of Mercy.
One man said to me, ‘I can say that you are community and you respect me. It’s the only time of the day that I feel this way, ”said Father Donley.
Dozens of students from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon and Duquesne volunteered at the Red Door, said Will Ives, a FOCUS Catholic campus missionary who included missionary Marykate O’Brien.
Pitt junior Megan Nagy, who recently made sandwiches Thursday morning, called it a “great experience.” I hope I can come again. “
Elise Smith, whose friends took her to the Red Door, volunteers two or three times a week. “I come from a strong Catholic family,” she said. “This type of work is really important to my faith.”
Volunteers had to stay out when the pandemic broke out a year ago, so Father Donley stepped in with the help of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus. He worked with Catholic charities to set up a thermal center and then brought in real estate experts. A scholarship from our campaign for the living church! helps pay for upgrades for the dining room, kitchen, and toilet.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are now served, and guests are welcome to attend daily mass and worship, pray, or watch spiritual films on a large screen TV. In the evening they return to emergency shelters for the night.
Father Donley wrote to Bishop David Zubik, who has worked alongside the ministry for decades, to inspire and encourage many of the improvements.
“More important than giving a sandwich is giving to Christ,” said Father Donley. “We try to fulfill the biblical call to love the least of these.”
Parents and children are invited to become a “Red Door Family”, collect items, put together packed lunches and hand in non-perishable food and clothing. The Red Door has also received clothing from sports teams in Pitt, Duquesne, and the Central Catholic ice hockey team.
“People are very grateful,” said Father Donley. “I have a great love for the poor. After 10 years as a priest, I think this is just the beginning. “
More information can be found at https://divinemercypgh.org/red-door.
Father Chris Donley overlooks the new thermal center below St. Mary of Mercy Church in downtown Pittsburgh.