Nearly 1,000 gifts, cards donated to hospital patients

Nearly 1,000 gifts, cards donated to hospital patients

GREENSBURG – Students and parishes throughout the Diocese of Greensburg demonstrated the true spirit of the holiday season with heartfelt donations to patients at area hospitals.

Students donated nearly 1,000 cards and gifts, many which were beautifully handmade, along with donations from students and parishes including rosaries, pocket prayer shawls, blankets, prayer cards and scapulars blessed by Bishop-elect Larry J. Kulick. The gifts were taken to Excela Westmoreland Hospital in Greensburg, Indiana Regional Medical Center, Armstrong Center for Medicine and Health in Kittanning and Uniontown Hospital whose patients may not be allowed to have visitors over the holidays due to coronavirus mitigation efforts.

Bishop-elect Larry J. Kulick blesses Care Cards from area Catholic students made for hospitalized patients, along with blankets donated by St. Agnes Parish in North Huntingdon, among other parishes.

“This pandemic provides too many reasons to feel isolated and apart,” said J. Kevin Frye, head of school at Christ the Divine Teacher School in Latrobe. “How wonderful of our students to take such advantage of the opportunity to give; to  reach beyond the school walls into our community and help provide to those in need. I am so impressed with their caring and generosity, and our school community is beyond grateful for their efforts.”

This generosity was a result of two outreaches; one from Diocesan Mission Director Father Anthony J. Carbone to parishes asking for assistance and the other as part of the Christmas Care Card project, which involved 800 Catholic School students who have benefitted from the Saint Pope John Paul II Tuition Opportunity Partnership. The TOP student initiative was founded by anonymous donors who received Catholic educations and were profoundly influenced by Pope John Paul II.

These anonymous donors allocated $2.4 million in tuition assistance this year, which helped to increase enrollment by more than 13 percent.

In return for tuition assistance, TOP students were asked to act in service to their faith communities. Recently, they were asked to participate in the Care Card Project to try to bring some comfort to those who are hospitalized. The COVID-19 pandemic has limited hospital visits, resulting in many patients feeling isolated and lonely, especially during the holiday season.

“The patients who are hospitalized, particularly during this time of COVID, find themselves removed from what is personally comforting and familiar,” said Kathy Radocaj, clinical director of the intensive care unit at Excela Westmoreland Hospital, where some blankets were donated. “Receiving a blanket from our community is a simple gesture, but it really blankets the recipient with love and compassion. It’s not about the gift per se, but the kindness and understanding that is shared. And when our patients are well enough for discharge, they will have something tangible to remind them of the good that came of something bad.”

TOP students at the Diocese’s 10 elementary schools and two junior-senior high schools were asked to become servant leaders in their faith community and fulfilled the mission of this project in a big way.

“Generosity is second nature to all Mother of Sorrows students, and I am so proud of all that they do,” said Theresa Szmed, principal of Mother of Sorrows School in Murrysville. “Each student strives to share their God-given time and talent to help others in the community and place the needs of others before theirs.”

“When the students and families of the Mary Queen of Apostles School community see a need or hear of a project they participate wholeheartedly,” added Cathy Collett, principal of Mary Queen of Apostles Catholic School in New Kensington. “They pray, they share talents and they contribute financially or with donations of goods or their time. I am humbled by their willingness to serve and grateful for their kindness and generosity.”

Cards and gifts poured into the Diocese, with a number of students making multiple donations.

“We are thrilled to see so many students with caring hearts. I think many of them were eager to find a way to help during the pandemic and that is why we got such a tremendous response,” said Jennifer Miele, chief communications officer and managing director of evangelization, Diocese of Greensburg.

Boxes packed with donations were taken to area hospitals.

“The outpouring has been beautiful,” said Al Novak, a parishioner of St. Bartholomew Parish in Crabtree, who serves as vice president and chief development officer of Excela Health. “The timing couldn’t be better. We have a lot of patients that can’t have visitors, because of the pandemic. It’s going to pick people up to know they’ve been remembered. It will be a blessing to them.”


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