Providing Solace and Hope

USD alumna Deanna Wolf ‘12 (BA) of Catholic Relief Services


Faith transcends our churches, moving beyond pages of Scripture and into our communities. As the COVID-19 pandemic forced houses of worship to close their doors this spring and summer, Deanna Wolf ‘12 (BA) witnessed faith taking hold in parking lots and neighborhoods. As the community and volunteer engagement manager for Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego, Wolf (pictured) has seen how faith in action has been an integral part of the organization’s response to the global health crisis.

In 1919, as the Spanish Flu pandemic gripped the West Coast of the United States, Catholic Charities of San Diego was established as a children’s home for those orphaned by the crisis. Now in its centennial year, the organization is once again serving its community in response to a global pandemic.

In March 2020, as the number of U.S. COVID-19 cases rose, the Catholic Charities Diocese of San Diego searched for new ways to serve. Under the direction of CEO Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor ’02 (LLM), the Catholic Charities Emergency Food Distribution Network was established to serve the food insecure and the senior population through weekly food pantries and home deliveries in the region. By utilizing multiple parish distribution locations, mobilizing as a drive-thru pantry, and limiting the number of volunteers at each site, Catholic Charities is able to adhere to physical distancing while providing food to those in need.

“Our faith institutions are where we go in times of trouble and where we’re looking for solace and hope, inspiration and connection,” says Wolf. “Even with the doors to our churches closed, we’ve been able to invite people back to church in a way.”

For Wolf, faith exemplified through action is at the very heart of Jesus’ teachings. “It’s very biblical. As Matthew 25 tells us, you feed the hungry, give drink to those who thirst. The role of church extends far beyond the walls of the building,” says Wolf. “Jesus always healed and always fed. He served human needs before he even got around to the business of teaching, and I think that’s what a good church does, no matter what.”

Since March, the program’s 21 parishes and more than 200 volunteers have spent thousands of hours handing out food at drive-thru pantries in parking lots and providing delivery for those unable to leave their homes. Volunteers have included USD resident ministers, who’ve helped collect and deliver food to the San Diego community.

“University Ministry at USD has enjoyed a long and rich partnership with Catholic Charities,” says Michael Lovette-Colyer, PhD, assistant vice president and director of University Ministry. “When we heard about their plan to respond to the pandemic through the Emergency Food Distribution Network, we immediately asked if we could help. Doing so has allowed us to advance our vision of serving as an anchor institution while responding to the needs of our local community.”

With these community-driven efforts and established relationships, Wolf sees Catholic Charities’ work, both now and in the future, as being accomplished hand in hand with parish partners, establishing long-term connections to support the common good and advance our faith.

And for Wolf, that faith is rooted in Jesus’ love.

“When I think about Catholic Charities and our work with the Emergency Food Distribution Network and other opportunities to volunteer, that is taking the love that Christ has given you and giving it to others, no matter who they are.” — Allyson Meyer ‘16 (BA), ‘21 (MBA)

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