By Deacon Frank Chavez     5/13/2020

Responding to the necessities of persons unable to leave their homes because of the Covid-19 crisis and are in need of food, crisis counseling and spiritual direction, Diocese of Orange ministry directors have launched a program called the Serve+Hope Helpline. 

Greg Walgenbach, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace, and Armando Cervantes, director of the Office of Youth and Young Adults, have spearheaded development of the ministry. Cervantes says, “We are called to live out the beatitudes. This is our ministry, and our faith.” 

Persons in need are able to call 844-279-0105 that activates volunteers to answer their call, pick up food, and deliver it to the caller’s home. Phone volunteers are also prepared to give emotional support and pray with the caller, including possible referral to the New Hope Crisis hotline that offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention.  

The caller may also be referred to volunteers that will offer spiritual guidance during these difficult times. Although not spiritual direction, it is a simple way to be present and accompany people primarily through an attentive listening to the Holy Spirit and prayer. 

Over 70 volunteers have registered to pick up food at the Catholic Charities Doris Cantlay Center in Santa Ana then deliver it to the home of the person who has asked for help.  

Lucy Dominguez of the Office of the Diaconate, coordinates the volunteers for pick up at the Cantlay Center and delivery to the caller. A protocol is followed to maintain social distancing for the volunteer and the client. Kathryn Wallace, a deacon wife and member of the deacon personnel board, manages a database that now includes 93 volunteers. 

Cervantes shared about one phone call from a 71-year-old woman who did not drive, was suffering with cancer, and had nowhere to turn until she was able to call the Serve+Hope Helpline. He also spoke to a woman who was quarantined because she had the virus, and was simply hungry. 

Michelle O’Donoghue, also of the Diaconate Office and wife of Deacon Tim O’Donoghue, has made two deliveries and labeled the experiences as “awesome.” She reports that one of the food packages was so abundant; the receiver asked if she could share it with her neighbors in the crowded apartment complex.  

As Michelle and her next client chatted through a window, they discovered common family roots in New York so the woman receiving the food has been texting Michelle since the visit. 

Lucy, along with her husband Oliver and son Francis, delivered groceries to a family of five who were all infected with the Corona virus. “It was really a humbling experience,” said Lucy. “We both cried and prayed.” 

 “Joan Patten, AO, director of the Office for Consecrated Life, is facilitating the spiritual guidance component of this outreach. Volunteers are directed to listen to people’s situations and ultimately, to their hearts, according to Joan. “We want to help them to notice God’s continuous presence and action in their lives.” 

Assistance in helping package food at the Cantlay Center has been provided by many volunteers. Deacon aspirant Jim Gregg said, “It was so fulfilling to get out of the house and help out.  I knew there were people in need, but really did not know where to go to assist.  I plan to do this weekly from now on.” 

The Cantlay Center is a ministry of Catholic Charities Orange County and has been providing food assistance and fulfilling other needs since the beginning of the Diocese of Orange in 1976. Directed by Michael Tijerino, the center distributes food on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from their Santa Ana Warehouse. On Tuesday, April 28, 15 volunteers served 735 families from 7 a.m. to noon. 

The Cantlay Center is the main source of food for the Serve+Hope program. 

Over a dozen persons have contributed masks for the ministry, including 90 masks donated by Deacon Moon Chul Lee and some sewn by deacon wife Alicia Reynoso of St. Boniface Parish. 

Deacon Frank Chavez, director of the Office of the Diaconate, reported that 16 members of the diaconate community (deacons, wives, candidates, aspirants) have served as drivers aiding at least 28 families. He also reports that 20 members of the diaconate community are working at the Cantlay center packing food for distribution and delivery.