As Catholics around the world observe Lent, some local adherents are using the season to give back to their community through the 40 Cans for Lent campaign, put on by the local Knights of Columbus council.
“This is the third year that our council in Airdrie’s St. Paul’s Church has been doing this,” said Wayne MacGillivary, chair of the campaign.
Every year, the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts the 40 days leading to Easter Sunday. According to MacGillivary, Catholics participate in prolonged fasting and reflection during lent, and charitable giving is also emphasized.
The local Knights of Columbus council chose to hold their annual campaign to correspond with Lent, MacGillivary said, as one way for local parishioners to put their faith into action leading up to one of the most significant days on the Christian calendar.
The Knights of Columbus is a worldwide men’s organization within the Catholic Church, he added, which is dedicated to performing acts of charity. The 40 Cans for Lent campaign falls under the international organization’s Food for Families program.
During Lent, MacGillivary said, the Knights of Columbus will collect food and monetary donations from parishioners at Sunday Mass for six weeks, ending the week before Easter. Local Knights of Columbus members will deliver the donations weekly to the Airdrie Food Bank.
“The food bank has given us a list of their needs,” MacGillivary said. “What we do is hand those out at church.”
The donations are weighed to keep track of how much has been collected, and MacGillivary said in past years, they’ve surpassed their fundraising goal.
“We set our goal the first year at, I think it was 2,500 pounds (lbs),” MacGillivary said. “That year, we collected 6,700 lbs of food. The second year, we set our goal at 3,000 lbs and we collected 10,000 lbs of food. This year, we set the goal at 3,500 lbs. We’re hoping to go over that 10,000 lbs.”
If donations exceed 2,500 lbs, MacGillivary said, the Knights of Columbus office in the United States will offer a rebate of $100 for every 500 lbs, which is then donated to additional charities.
Local Catholic schools have also been involved in the campaign, with students and families at Our Lady Queen of Peace School, Good Shepherd School and St. Martin de Porres High School participating. As a former teacher and school principal, MacGillivary said it’s important to involve young people in the campaign, in order to encourage them to think beyond themselves and recognize the needs around them.
“Once they do these sorts of things, they can carry [the spirit of it] through their life – getting involved in community, helping the community, that sort of thing,” he said. “They realize there’s things they can do.”
The campaign is not limited to local Catholics – MacGillivary said they’ll happily accept food bank donations from the public. Donations can be dropped off at St. Paul’s Catholic Church.
“Hunger knows no season,” MacGillivary said. “We invite people in the Airdrie community, people within our parish and our Knights, and within the schools, to give what they can.”