St. Mary Magdalene Parish embraces discipleship call through giving project

By Claudine Fredy | For The Compass | December 20, 2022

WAUPACA — St. Teresa of Kolkata taught through her missionary life, work and word that, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” The parishioners of St. Mary Magdalene in Waupaca testify to these teachings by demonstrating that great love also bears great discipleship.

For the past 18 years, St. Mary Magdalene has participated in Operation Christmas Child, a ministry project through Samaritan’s Purse which provides international relief services. The history of Operation Christmas Child in the parish has consisted of members bringing a shoebox home and filling it with gifts such as personal care items, accessories, toys, and school supplies. Participants then returned the filled shoebox to a drop-off location. Operation Christmas Child boxes are shipped to children in more than 100 countries.

An Operation Christmas Child board and shoeboxes were displayed in the narthex at St. Mary Magdalene Church in Waupaca. Parish volunteers packed approximately 170 boxes for children across the world. (Brittany Burant | Special To The Compass)

This year, Brittany Burant, faith formation coordinator, youth minister and volunteer coordinator at St. Mary Magdalene, and parishioner Mary Larson organized a packing party with the intent to provide a community gathering activity.

“The packing party flips the idea from ‘you have to provide it all,’ to ‘you provide what you can provide,’ and let’s all come together as a community and really let people’s strengths show,” said Burant. “Whether your strength is constructing boxes or donating your time or items, come to church and do it for fellowship.”

Bill Kramer, a member of St. Mary Magdalene Parish, donated his woodworking talents by carving crosses and boats to be packed in each shoebox.

The youth of St. Mary Magdalene participated in this year’s project with the middle and high school students folding the boxes, and the elementary students filling out pen pal forms to add to the boxes. Burant said she felt the youth learned a valuable lesson in service.

“Operation Christmas Child teaches young people in the church that there are children less fortunate than them, and that they, too, can participate in evangelizing the world,” she said. “You can participate in Christianity now, you don’t have to wait until any point. All you have to do is give what you can give at whatever stage of life you’re in, and it is useful for the cause.”

Donations of new or gently used items were collected to fill the shoeboxes. The packing party was held Nov. 5. Using an assembly line, parishioners packed the boxes to be sent to children around the world. Parishioners still had the opportunity to bring a box home and pack it the traditional way. St. Mary Magdalene Parish volunteers packed approximately 170 shoeboxes— double the number of boxes from last year.

Along with the gifts the parishioners packed, Samaritan’s Purse includes a copy of the New Testament in the child’s native language and offers a discipleship program.

This year’s boxes, which all have a QR code for tracking purposes, are en route to children, some going to Zambia and Jamaica.

“Rather than just delivering donations, it’s more of a gift with a lot of meaning behind it, and discipleship behind it afterward. It’s not just stuff being transferred across the world,” said Burant.

For more information, visit samaritanspurse.org/operation-christmas-child/evangelism-discipleship-multiplication.

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