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Feeding the hungry, one cantaloupe at a time

Sister Sentinelle, PJC, hands a cantaloupe to Keith Winterhalter, a parishioner of St. Joseph in Shawnee, from the back of a pickup. The Sisters of the Fraternity the Poor of Jesus Christ have been selling produce and flowers at churches to support the order’s special needs fund, which helps mission houses in 16 countries throughout the world. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Moira Cullings
moira.cullings@theleaven.org

WAMEGO — This summer, members of the Fraternity the Poor of Jesus Christ are arriving at churches around the Kansas City metro in style.

Their bright red pickup piled high with colorful flowers and fresh produce makes for an eye-catching combination.

And the cause the items are being sold for is even more beautiful: the order’s special needs fund, which helps mission houses in 16 countries throughout the world, including the United States.

Sister Miracles rolls into the parking lot of St. Joseph Church in Shawnee with a truck filled with cantaloupes, watermelons and flowers to sell. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

“Funds from that account are for urgent needs of our missions, wherever they may be, especially our poorest missions in the world,” said fraternity member Sister Magdalena of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, PJC, who raised and harvested the bounty herself.

Many of those missions take to the streets to serve the homeless in some of the poorest areas of the world.

The special funds have also been used to purchase machines and materials for new mission houses so the missions can create and sell items like arts and crafts, rosaries and liturgical vestments.

By doing so, the houses are able to remain self-sufficient.

The account has additionally helped build or repair the order’s Houses of Recuperation for those suffering from alcohol or drug addictions.

Catholics in the archdiocese have been eager to help the cause — especially when what they receive in return is a sweet treat.

Sisters of the Fraternity the Poor of Jesus Christ hand out cantaloupes, watermelons and flowers they’ve been selling all summer at parishes around the Kansas City metro. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

The fraternity’s cantaloupes and watermelons will be up for sale one final weekend, Aug. 14-15, at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood.

Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park is also selling the produce on Mondays and Fridays until the fraternity runs out — likely in mid-August.

The idea to sell produce to help the special needs fund originated about three years ago, said Sister Magdalena.

“I had lived for a while at my friend’s farm, Maria Kientz, before I entered religious life,” she said. “And she and her late husband used to plant a lot of melons, sweet potatoes and other things.

“Her husband passed away a few years ago, and Maria has been renting the land to a local farmer.”

The Sisters have had much success this summer selling produce in the archdiocese. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

Sister Magdalena asked Kientz to borrow a slice of land and equipment for the project, and Kientz not only agreed but has also helped raise the crops.

Sister Magdalena has received some added help from her nephew.

Together, they’ve laid plastic mulch, planted seedlings, hoed weeds and harvested the fruits.

Six Sisters and four friars have been involved with the project on the weekends, picking up the harvest and selling it at churches in the Kansas City metro after Mass.

For Sister Magdalena, working with the land has been a joy.

“This experience has been very rewarding,” she said, “especially when we see how the funds we [raise] have been able to help our missions throughout the world in so many ways.”

Sister Sentinelle, PJC, chats with parishioners at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

By the beginning of August, the order had raised $3,000 — just enough to cover the project’s expenses, said Sister Magdalena.

The remainder of the money raised will go toward the special needs fund, she said, “to help our missions throughout the world, to help us provide for the poor who we serve and to build God’s kingdom.”

To donate to the fund, visit the website at: poorofjesuschristspecialfunds.com or mail a check to Sister Magdalena at: 40691 Hwy K99, Wamego, KS 66547.

To learn more about the fraternity, go online to: sisterspoorofjesuschrist.com.

About the author

Moira Cullings

Moira attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park and Benedictine College in Atchison. She majored in marketing, minored in psychology and played center midfield for the women’s soccer team. Moira joined The Leaven staff as a feature writer and social media editor in 2015. After a move to Denver in 2018, Moira resumed her full-time position at The Leaven and continues to write and manage the website and social media channels. Her favorite assignment was traveling to the Holy Land to take photos for a group pilgrimage in 2019.

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