If there was someone in need, Peter Zonsius would find a way to help them. Affectionately known as "Uncle Pete," he was a parishioner and long-time building and maintenance supervisor at St. John Brebeuf Parish in Niles, IL. He started out by making sack lunches and delivering them to individuals on the streets of Chicago's West side. Over time, he encouraged people at the parish to get involved and his little ministry started producing big results, adding agencies such as Marillac House and Deborah's Place to the sack lunch delivery route.
Although Uncle Pete passed away in 2012, people have continued his legacy of serving the less fortunate. In 2015, those dedicated to the ministry made around 14,000 sack meals to distribute to local area families. In 2016, that number jumped to 18,000, thanks to hundreds of generous souls who pitched in with time and financial support.
The people who serve Uncle Pete's Ministry today are not only parishioners from St. John Brebeuf, but also include groups across the Chicagoland area. In 2016, Uncle Pete's Ministry held 51 events to help pack meals. The events took place in parishes, scouting troops, and schools. Even a local business hosted a day to create meals. Sister Judith Zonsius, OSB, of our monastery was Uncle Pete's niece. After he passed away, she along with a small group of Uncle Pete's helpers, organized the program so it could continue as it does today, under the sponsorship of the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago. All financial donations go directly to those in need.
"It's a privilege," notes Sister Judith, "to be able to carry on the good works of Uncle Pete's Ministry for the less fortunate through the dedicated efforts of many, many people. The work will be done when all the hungry are fed, not just for a day, but for their lifetimes."
If you'd like to get involved in Uncle Pete's Ministry, contact Sister Judith Zonsius here.
Sister Judith Zonsius (right) stands with Uncle Pete (left) in an undated photo.
A postscript note for the curious: What goes in an Uncle Pete's Ministry sack lunch? Here is a list from the people who minister:
2 sandwiches with meat on white or wheat bread, each in a plastic bag
2 hard-boiled eggs in shells
1 small bag of potato chips or other chips/pretzels
1 piece of fruit such as an apple or orange
1 packet of cookies or a candy bar
1 small bottle of water or juice