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McAnthony's

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Those of you who have lost your faith in miracles or in people need to drive by the rectory of St. Anthony's Church in Davenport, Iowa, some noon, to witness a modern version of those famous five loaves and two fishes back in the New Testament.Six days a week, between 9:30 and 11:30 and 1:00 to 2:00, some five hundred homeless, jobless hungry people line up at a small window in back of the rectory for a free lunch: soup, a sandwich, potato salad, along with a dollar bill, soap, razors, disposable diapers, and whatever else has come in to the church in donations. No questions asked. No identification needed.

Supervising this miracle is St. Anthony's pastor, Father James Patrick Conroy, and Sister Ludmilla Benda, who lead a congregation that gives an amazing fifteen percent of its income off the top to buy food and supplies. That giving seems to multiply as much as the five loaves and two fishes. The line of people at the window outside is matched by a stream of individuals and local businesses who drop off hams, beef roasts, hot dogs, pies and potatoes at the rectory.

A hundred or so volunteers from the congregation and the community prepare and serve the meals each day, getting up as early as five in the morning to cook six hundred or so hamburgers or cut five hundred slices of ham.
As with the five loaves and two fishes, there are even leftovers. These allow St. Anthony's to prepare more than 1,100 food baskets each Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and deliver them to needy families in the space of two hours. And with the leftover leftovers, Sister Ludmilla herself makes 4,000 fruitcakes each Christmas—one for every family in the parish, and for every Davenport policeman and firefighter.

This small rectory window has come to be known as McAnthony's. And while it still has a ways to go to equal the five billion served beneath the golden arches, don't bet it won't ever catch up. A miracle seasoned with people who care can do far more than any secret sauce.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.