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Local parish assists sister churches across the Atlantic

LOCK HAVEN — Good things are happening in Clinton County.

Holy Spirit Parish of Lock Haven — made up of St. Agnus Catholic and Immaculate Conception churches — are partnering with St. Joseph’s Parish in Renovo, the Knights of Columbus (KOC) of Lock Haven and Renovo, and Lock Haven Catholic School in an Adopt-A-Parish program.

The organizations are committed to raising money and awareness for one of their sister parishes in Baghdad, Iraq.

St. George Chaldean Catholic Church serves 350 to 400 families and has approximately 140 children in its religion program, Holy Spirit Parish’s Father Joseph Orr said.

Father Orr has been a driving force behind the Adopt-A-Parish program after years of experience helping many Catholic and Christian families find a home in the United States.

Father Orr said when he came to Holy Spirit Parish he discovered many of the organizations he previously assisted were unable to send families to Lock Haven due to it being outside of the “HUB” of activity.

Although upset by this information, Father Orr discovered a way the parish could help others.

“I heard of all of these people displaced in the Middle East,” he said. “Many of the people in refugee camps in the Middle East want to go home. They don’t want to go to another country. But they don’t have the money to do it.”

In October 2019, Father Orr read an article in the Knights of Columbus monthly magazine “The Columbia” that detailed the issues persecuted Christians face in the Middle East.

He also learned that the KOC were beginning a program to address these issues: the Adopt-A-Parish program.

The goal of the program is to raise money for parishes in the Middle East as well as create connections between priests across continents.

In the parishes and KOCs first round of fundraising they were able to raise roughly $4,500 and surpass their $2,500 goal, Father Orr said.

Another round of fundraising has begun again and he hopes they can continue to raise funding for their sister church in the Middle East.

The parishes will hopefully raise even more money with a program Orr is encouraging the parishioners of Holy Spirit to take part in.

Father Orr plans to discuss the program on Sunday, Oct. 18 which is World Mission Sunday.

“Of course when we talk about missions its in the Evangelical sense,” he said. “But it’s not enough for us to feed people’s souls. We have to feed their bodies as well.”

Father Orr referenced specific passages of The Bible in relation to World Mission Sunday including Matthew 28 Section 19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”

He also referenced Matthew 25 Sections 35-36, a conversation between Jesus and his disciples: “For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

When the people asked when they ever did such things he replied in Matthew 25 Section 40: “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”

Father Orr said showing this kindness to others in the name of God is the “heart and soul of what we’re about.”

Those who aren’t a member of Holy Spirit can still donate to the cause even if they don’t participate in World Mission Sunday by visiting the Knights of Columbus’s website, https://donate.kofccharities.org/team/268064.

Four members of the Knights of Columbus Lock Haven chapter — Steve Stevenson, Mike Rendos, Terry Shank and David Gill — helped organize the program with Father Orr and encourage people to donate to the cause regardless of if they are part of the parish.

“It’s so easy to donate online,” Stevenson said. “They don’t have to be Catholic to help.”

Rendos said monetary donations aren’t the only form of help you can give.

“It’s not just monetary donations. We encourage people to pray for them,” he said.

KOC is responsible for forwarding all funds collected by the local chapters as well as the parishes to St. George, Gill said.

“We’re able to do this because our home office started this,” he said. “There’s no overhead.”

KOC’s main office is based in New Haven, Conn. with 1.9 million members worldwide. KOC invests their time and effort and resources into their values of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism since they first began in 1882.

Father Orr hopes the program will spark similar programs in other area churches.

“One of the things I would hope would come about is some groups try to do something similar,” he said. “Just about every denomination has churches that are suffering.”

He hopes that other churches reach out to organizations that could help get in touch with churches in similar situations to see how they can help.

“The Christian community in general has suffered greatly over there. The small amount we can send over is of great value there,” he said.

The money raised will go toward assisting families of the St. George Parish in rebuilding homes, paying rent or supplying them food and clothing.

Father Orr, who is the official contact between Holy Spirit and St. George’s priest Father Hany, said things have been moving along well.

“It’s taking a little bit to work communication but it’s moved along fairly well,” he said.

Through his communication with Father Haney, Father Orr has learned that the money raised will help benefit 40 parish families who are living below the poverty level.

He also learned the parish holds a Cultural Forum with members of the Muslim community to foster connections through art, literature and history.

“It’s interesting to see there are those who are trying to create bonds between the Christian and Muslim communities,” he said.

Due to COVID-19, Father Orr said Father Hany has been busy providing food, medicine and other supplies to parishoners that aren’t able to leave their homes. However they seem to be doing well, he added.

Father Orr hopes World Mission Sunday can help kickstart the fundraising process which has taken a back seat since March due to COVID-19.

“This fundraising has not been on the front burner but we seriously need to start helping them,” he said.

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