Our Lady of Perpetual Help
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Washington, DC area in mid-March 2020, it caused an unprecedented impact on our region. With the closure of schools, churches, and businesses, our economy, a significant portion of our community members, are unemployed or underemployed. According to Washington, DC's Department of Employment Services, there have been more than 104,000 claims for unemployment benefits in the District of Columbia since mid-March. For the people living in the eighth ward of the District of Columbia, the pandemic caused more devastation to the people living in the area, which has been identified as one of the most impoverished areas of Washington, DC. Through such devastation and loss, many turn to the church for support. Our Lady of Perpetual Help (an Archdiocese of Washington parish), located in the Ward 8 and has had a long history of evangelizing African Americans in this area, serves the community directly with their food pantry in support of those in need.
Typically, the Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish provides each family with food for at least three days and provides fresh produce, meat, non-perishables (canned vegetables; cereal; milk; pasta; tuna; soup; fruit; peanut butter/jelly; rice; beans); and, bread/baked goods, if available. The average number of persons in a family is four. For the Ward 8 area, African Americans represent 92% of the area and 49% poverty rate in the District of Columbia before the pandemic. Since the pandemic, the parish has seen a significant increase in food demand as well as other essential financial services.
The mission of the African American Ministry continues a long tradition of enhancing the participation of the African American Catholics in the community and in educating all involved to share their rich and vibrant history. The African American Ministry not only serves the local Church but also provides a vital connection with the Archdiocese of Washington's Office of Cultural Diversity, the National Black Catholic Congress and the neighboring parishes in the Archdiocese. The African American Ministry at Our Lady of Perpetual Help also supports the universal Church and broader community by embracing diversity and encouraging unity through the performance of charities and development of enrichment programs.