Year of Youth 2018

Lent: Thanksgiving Thursday: Canice's Kitchen

Last edited 1st March 2018

Thanksgiving Thursday: Canice's Kitchen

The St Canice Soup Kitchen, officially known as Canice’s Kitchen, has been running for around 30 years and is described as a place where everyone is welcome, everyone is treated equally, and you can ask questions about Jesus. It provides a unique refuge in the area, a gathering place for street people, serving 50,000 meals a year and offering comfort, dignity and community to the homeless and disadvantaged.

Canice’s Kitchen is the heartbeat of the St Canice Parish in Elizabeth Bay. The kitchen is open every day for lunch from 11- 1pm and is relied entirely on donors and volunteers who come from all over Sydney.

In today’s Thanksgiving Thursday, we spoke with a couple of volunteers who’ve served at Canice’s Kitchen.

Monette Luz first had the experience of volunteering with Canice’s Kitchen as a young adult in the early 2000s, when her young adult community was rostered on. Now in her early 40s, a wife, and a mother of three, Monette shares how the fruits of volunteering back then are still visible now as she hopes to get her family more involved, and volunteer alongside her husband and three kids.

Kathryn Gerardino, 25, is a recent volunteer of Canice’s Kitchen, from the same young adult community that Monette used to be a member of. Before Canice’s Kitchen, Kathryn’s only up close encounter with the poor was during a mission trip to the Philippines. During that trip, she had an encounter so life-changing that she felt called to do something more on her own home ground.

Xt3: Why are you thankful for volunteering at Canice’s Kitchen?

MONETTE: I am so thankful for the gift of serving at Canice’s Kitchen, because my husband and I were able to experience it first hand as single adults (before we got married). We found the joy of serving the less fortunate, seeing God in them, and being a part of God’s work. Now, we’re able to experience it with our 3 children, and hopefully instil in them the legacy to continue to serve those who have less in life, and to see God in the people that we serve.

: I’m thankful because I get to experience helping the poor, meeting the marginalised people in society, hearing their stories, and just being someone to listen and make their morning a little better.

Xt3: How has volunteering helped you spiritually?

MONETTE: Volunteering with Canice’s Kitchen has helped my spiritual growth, because it allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and realise that just as anyone else, all people long for, is to belong and to be loved. Volunteering helps me keep my eyes “fixed on Jesus” because it reminds me of the love Jesus had - the great love he had for those who were outcasts, the poor, the sick and how he served them with an abundance of love.

KATHRYN: Praying, fasting, and almsgiving is well and good, but when you don’t put your faith into action then I think it can easily be just all in vain. Volunteering and being a part of this work helps me realise that God is not just in the tabernacle, He’s also in the people. Volunteering helps me keep my eyes “fixed on Jesus” as it allows me to put my faith into action: to serve Jesus through our brothers and sisters, giving love to those who can be hard to love.

Matthew 25:40 "The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

Xt3: What was volunteering like? Do you have any stories?

MONETTE: I remember serving with my fellow community members back in the days. The very first time we went we were all scared, but we left with such great memories. The second time, one of the people we served got aggressive, and scared us all but the caretaker was there and helped us pacify him. That experience didn’t deter me. It made me want to understand them more. I wanted to know where that aggression came from, because I knew it wasn’t by how we served. Me and my friends talked about it on our ride home. We remembered serving him the first time we were there and he wasn’t like that. A few of the guys serving with us sat with him and a few others, and listened to their life stories. Because it was our first time, we had the guys out on the floor and the girls in the kitchen, but I wished I also had the opportunity to listen to them.

God has taught and continues to remind me from my experiences of serving at Canice’s Kitchen that there is so much work to be done in helping the less fortunate. And I am very blessed that I was able to experience it as a young adult, but my children are even more blessed to experience at their young age so that they too can pass on to their peers and people of their generation to continue to serve at places like this, to be able to help the poor, the homeless, the outcasts.

Serving with our children was a beautiful experience. I was a bit worried at first at how they would perceive this experience - how they’d react to the people, etc. But God was truly present in all those that were there, as they were so thankful and appreciate that the kids were serving them food. The kids came home fulfilled knowing that they helped to feed the homeless, knowing that they made a difference in someone’s lives.

KATHRYN: Providing food to the less fortunate is good and it sustains them physically, but sharing your time and having a personal conversation with them - that’s what gives people real sustenance. To know that people are willing to listen, that they are not invisible, to have someone look at them without pity, but just give them undivided attention, recognising their dignity as a fellow human, as a brother or a sister, sometimes that is all that people need.

My first time volunteering at Canice’s Kitchen, I was honestly pretty nervous, but excited too. I was worried about so many things - how we were meant to set up, how we should serve the food and how were these people going to react to us, will we be safe? I know it's pretty harsh to have thought that, but I was so new to the experience, I just didn't know.

When we arrived at the Kitchen, there were a few volunteers already setting up so we just helped them. It was a few hours before we were going to serve, so we headed to morning Mass at St Canice’s Church and had breakfast in a nearby cafe. When we came back, they briefed us on what to expect, which was good so we all volunteers were on the same page.

Serving the food was more fun than I imagined. I just told myself to be kind and treat them as if they were customers at work, but instead of selling clothes, you're serving food. I brought the same principles we were taught at work - 'delight your customers'. So I just treated them like any other person - asking them how they are and just giving them a smile and a positive vibe for the morning.

Seeing everyone work hard and interact with our less fortunate brothers and sisters in Christ gave me hope and joy that even the tiniest deeds have made a big difference to them.

Would you like to volunteer at Canice’s Kitchen in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney?

Volunteers begin work around 9.00am and finish around 1.30pm. If you would like to be included on a regular roster please email or phone the parish office on 02 9358 5229.

Philosophy of St Canice’s Community
(Taken from the Canice Kitchen website)

The heart of our work at St. Canice’s is to reach out to one another without judgment, without condemnation. Every person is of absolute value and dignity. Not to reach out to the most rejected, the most despised, the most condemned would strike at the heart of our community and we would wither.

The health and vitality of our community at St. Canice’s is directly in proportion to the degree that we reach out to those who are on the outside. We cannot allow the community to die by shutting out the one who seeks refuge with us, who seeks companionship, who seeks food, hospitality, conversation.

Photo Credit: Canice's Kitchen Website:

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