More than 3,600 children in seven poverty-stricken countries will receive Christmas gifts this year, thanks to the people of the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Through Cross Catholic Outreach’s Box of Joy program, headed up locally by the Harrisburg Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (HDCCW) and several Knights of Columbus councils, the children will be gifted items like toys, books, clothing, toiletries and games.
Cross Catholic Outreach partners with bishops, priests, religious and lay workers to provide food, water, housing, education, orphan support, medical care, microenterprise and disaster relief to the poorest of the poor in over 30 countries around the world.
Its Box of Joy program brings Christmas cheer to children in Guatemala, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Grenada and Honduras. The effort is made possible by the efforts of parishes, schools, groups and individuals.
Participation and promotion of the Box of Joy program has been an annual activity of the HDCCW for the past few years, stemming from the National Council of Catholic Women’s association with Cross Catholic Outreach as a partner agency.
Mary Ann Wayne, a coordinator of the HDCCW’s Box of Joy program, said the effort fits perfectly with the mission of the Harrisburg Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, which is “to support, empower and educate all Catholic women in spirituality, leadership and service; to inspire while promoting Gospel values in a constantly changing world.”
“The International Commission of the HDCCW aims to bring awareness of and present ways to help our fellow humans around the world,” Wayne said. “We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. With the pandemic and natural disasters in places like Haiti, the need for Cross Catholic is even greater. Many watch the news and wonder how to help. The Box of Joy program is one small way.”
Catholic parishes, schools and groups organize the boxes with small gifts like toys and school supplies, and adding essentials, like soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, as well as a few treats like hard candy and coloring books. Participants include $9 in each box to cover shipment from the local drop-off center to the child.
On November 8 and 9, nearly 2,000 boxes were dropped off at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg, assembled by parishes that have a Council of Catholic Women. Bishop Ronald Gainer, who serves as the chairman of the board of directors for Cross Catholic Outreach, blessed the boxes before they were shipped to recipients.
Wayne said local participation has increased since the HDCCW took on the project in 2019.
“What we have seen over the past three years is that parish coordinators underestimate the reception of the program in their parishes. Each year almost every parish hands in more boxes than the year before,” she said.
The HDCCW tallied the donated boxes along with the efforts of several Knights of Columbus Councils in the Lancaster and York areas who parishes don’t have a Council of Catholic Women. In total, the people of the Diocese sent 3,655 shoeboxes to Cross Catholic Outreach.
“To all those who filled a box and prayed for the child who will receive this Christmas gift – perhaps the first one they have ever received – thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Wayne said. “May God bless you and your loved ones as you have blessed these children.
“I would also like to thank Bishop Gainer for his beautiful blessing of the boxes, and the children, and their families, and for taking time out of his very busy schedule to join us,” she added.
Pope Francis has imparted an Apostolic Blessing on Cross Catholic Outreach and its benefactors on the occasion of 20 years of providing spiritual and material support to the poor and marginalized of the world. Each person who contributed a Box of Joy this year shares in this special blessing from the Holy Father.
For more information about HDCCW and how to participate next year in the Box of Joy Program, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or go to https://crosscatholic.org/box-of-joy.
(Photo by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness