Parishioners of the Essex Catholic Community have gotten on board a new Meal Train Ministry.

The Essex Catholic Community Meal Train Ministry was set up to help families who are welcoming a new child into their family. “This is in combination with our baptismal preparation programs to welcome new parishioners, allow for families to have some prepared meals during the first couple weeks of their newest addition’s arrival (or whenever we connect) and maybe even meet some new friends,” explained Emma Goff, coordinator of religious education at St. Pius X Parish in Essex Center.

That parish and Holy Family-St. Lawrence Parish in Essex Junction make up the Essex Catholic community.

The meal train is set up for whenever the family would like the meals. “We have a team of volunteers who are at the ready to make meals, send gift cards or schedule a meal delivery,” Goff said. Families have the option of two weeks of meals daily or four weeks of meals every other day.

As a mother she has appreciated it when friends dropped off food during the first couple weeks after she gave birth. “It allowed for our expanding family to be more present to each other, not thinking about preparing a meal for dinner,” she said. “I believe that no matter the timing a meal can be a wonderful blessing and aid in creating community.”

The Essex Catholic Community Meal Train Ministry allows families to focus on spending more time together. “The stress around having to think about having a parent(s) going back to work, other children’s schedules, or not having a strong community of support are all reasons that this ministry can be a tiny bit of help,” Goff commented.

The ministry began at the end of March; two families have received meal trains so far; currently there are three families who are on the list for this year once their child arrives.

“I believe it’s been a wonderful response so far — we have made some connections with families who probably wouldn’t have connected so early on in regards to baptismal preparation because of it, and our parishioners are being supportive of volunteering, though we could always use more people to make or send meals,” Goff said.

This ministry works in conjunction with the churches’ baptismal preparation program. “Often the first time we connect with a family is when they reach out about baptism, and then we don’t have good connections until they sign their child up for First Communion preparation,” Goff said. “We are hoping that the Meal Train Ministry will allow us to connect with families even before their child arrives so that we can do a better job welcoming them into the community and having them feel like they would like to continue to participate in our parishes after baptizing their child.”

This ministry is going to go along with other programing like monthly gatherings to create a supportive community for families with young children in the parishes.

“I believe as a Catholic community we have an obligation to make families who are baptizing their children in our parishes feel welcomed, loved and supported; bringing a meal is just a tiny aspect of how we can do this,” Goff said, noting that meal trains make people feel like they are supported, can give families one less thing to think about and would allow for a family with young children to meet other people in the parish. “It seemed like the perfect opportunity to set up a ministry around it.”

Parishioners get on board the meal train by making a homemade meal, dropping off food from a local restaurant or gifting a gift card.

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