SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ --With a shortage of food for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic, Union Catholic answered the call to help during these difficult times with a faculty and staff-driven initiative that raised $2,500, which was donated on Thursday to the St. Joseph Social Service Center in Elizabeth.

Since 1983, St. Joseph has served the materially poor and homeless community of greater Elizabeth by providing basic human needs such as food, clothing and medications, as well as a wide range of services and programs to help them acquire the material goods and social services they need to live with integrity.

The latest initiative, which reaffirmed Union Catholic’s strong commitment to social justice, was sparked when Union Catholic Principal Sister Percylee Hart, RSM, received a $500 grant from the Sisters of Mercy. Sister Percylee then challenged the faculty and staff at UC to match that grant, which was far exceeded.     

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The sight of long lines stretching down the street from the St. Joseph Service Center as people waited to fill their empty bags with food for their families overwhelmed Sister Percylee. She’s grateful that the Sisters of Mercy gave her the opportunity to help.  

“To be able in the name of Mercy to directly respond to the need of feeding the hungry and serving the poor was an especially fulfilling experience for me,’’ said Sister Percylee. “As Principal of Union Catholic High School, I directly respond to these needs by fostering and encouraging our faculty, staff, and students, through their clubs, activities, etc., to engage in such social justice initiatives. The Mercy grant gave me the opportunity to directly respond to those in need in the name of the Sisters of Mercy.’’

Sister Percylee said the response by the faculty and staff at Union Catholic to meet her challenge was very heartwarming.

“Upon receiving the Sisters of Mercy grant of $500, the Parable of the Talent’’- Matthew 25:14-30 crossed my mind,’’ said Sister Percylee. “I decided to put forth the challenge of a matching grant to our faculty and staff, and I was thrilled to see the $500 Mercy grant grow to $2,500. This filled me with joy.’’

Bernadette Murphy, the Executive Director for the St. Joseph Social Service Center, was very thankful and appreciative when she received the check from Sister Percylee and UC Assistant Principal Dr. Jim Reagan Jr., Union Catholic’s Chief Development Officer. 

“This means a tremendous amount, especially when we don’t have to ask,’’ said Murphy. “The life of a non-profit involves so much asking and grant requests, so when we get a gift like this where someone just saw that there was a need and knew we were trying to meet that need, and helped us reach that need through their compassion and love for their sisters and brothers, that’s the best gift of all. I can’t thank Sister Percylee and Union Catholic enough for this donation.’’  

Union Catholic has had a very strong relationship with St. Joseph over the years as the school has promoted and protected the human dignity of our brothers and sisters by helping those in need.

As part of its Lenten Challenge this past year, Union Catholic partnered with St. Joseph by restocking their soup kitchen by collecting plates, napkins, utensils, and cups.

Union Catholic has also donated to St. Joseph through its annual Christmas Drive, food drives, and clothes drives. Several clubs have made trips to St. Joseph for Service Days, distributing food and other essential items to those in need. 

Murphy said she’s very grateful for the strong support that St. Joseph has received from Union Catholic. 

“We have been so blessed with all the kids from Union Catholic from so many different groups coming to help us out at Christmas time, and other times during the year, donating their time and much needed items,'' said Murphy.  “They come and work hard and connect with people. Working with the staff and students at Union Catholic has been wonderful.’’