“Who we are as a community and as individuals can be measured based on how we welcome and treat the least among us,” Fr. Raymond Decipeda regularly tells his parish at St. John of God in Norwalk. 

This month, parishioners joined Fr. Raymond in putting these words into action, distributing over 850 care bags to the homeless. In the Homeless Care Bag Project’s second year, the church has more than doubled their efforts — last year, they distributed around 300 bags. 

In each 20x19 care bag, parishioners packed prayer sheets, $20 cash or gift cards to McDonalds, homemade meals, an 8x10 tarp, blankets, socks, gloves, toiletries, cleaning wipes, and a handwritten letter from the parish school children and religious education students. Children from the after school daycare program prayed over the bags before they were handed out. 

Letters of prayer and encouragement from school children at St. John of God were included in each care bag. (PHOTO COURTESY ST. JOHN OF GOD PARISH)

Around 4 a.m. on Jan. 26, over 100 parishioners gathered to pray in the cold, and by the break of dawn, they were greeting the less fortunate with prayer and gifts. They delivered bags along the homeless encampments in Norwalk, Anaheim, Compton, Long Beach, Skid Row, Union Station, and MacArthur Park. “We saw tears of joy and God’s grace in both the receiver and the giver,” said Deacon Frank González.

St. John of God parishioners expressed profound gratitude for their experience, and many shared that they appreciate more fully how many blessings they had received. Distributing these bags of care helped them experience a greater solidarity with the less fortunate, and understand that all are in need of love and compassion. Next year, the parish hopes to exceed their goal of 1,000 bags distributed. 


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