TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson and the local food bank joined forces Monday, Feb. 22 as part of Pope Francis' Year of Mercy.
Catholic mass was held at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
A spokesman said the food bank gave out 273,000 food boxes last year.
He said many of the recipients are among the working poor.
The mass at the food bank was celebrated to thank and honor those who feed the hungry.
During the mass, a singer strummed his guitar and sang, "The Lord hears the cries of the poor. Blessed be the Lord."
"Today is an opportunity to say thank you for all you do and also to invite others to consider doing for others," said Bishop Gerald Kicanas of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson.
All year, the diocese will recognize those who do any of what are called the Corporal Works of Mercy.
The bishop told those gathered that the works or acts of mercy are, "feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick, visiting those in prison and burying the dead - are acts that any one of us can do."
"There are so many needs in our society, so many people who are struggling, so many people who are anxious, so many people that feel unloved," Kicanas said. "And what the Lord is telling us is that you have things that you can share, that you can do something for someone else that will make all the difference. And so that's what the Year of Mercy is all about really."
Bringing the message home, the bishop asked everyone to think for one minute about their favorite foods.
Afterward, he stated that every minute "17 people in the world died from hunger, 13 of whom are children."
Kicanas said hunger is everywhere.
"Many children, of course, have their only meal when they come to school where they get a hot meal. So, yes, hunger exists among us," he said. "Hunger is not just a physical need, but it's also an emotional need. Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said that, 'I have come more and more to believe that being unwanted is the worst disease that one could ever experience.'"
For those who donate time, money or talent to the food bank, it's very personal.
"I think this is a very concrete way to do something that's really important, to make sure everybody has food," said food bank volunteer Douglas Ruopp. "I feel it's really important the community takes care of itself and any time somebody is in need."
Another volunteer, Matt Montano, said he feels like he's actually doing something to make a difference in America.
"You know if you're working up in the pantry over here you see people who don't have work, or they have work or they just don't have enough money to provide for their families, for their kids," Montano said.
Kicanas will officiate at another mass at a food bank this week.
He'll be in Yuma on Saturday.