CHICAGO (CBS) – Father Michael Pfleger emerged in public Saturday for the first time since his suspension from St. Sabina Parish and says he’s coping with help from others.

“My faith and the people are my strength,” Pfleger told reporters during a food distribution to the poor.

Pfleger smiled and appeared relaxed as he met with community members. But the normally outspoken priest declined to talk about the disciplinary action taken by Cardinal Francis George last month.

George suspended Pfleger after the priest threatened to leave the Catholic Church if he is not allowed to remain at his longtime post at South Sabina.

The food distribution of 10-pound bags of chicken Saturday drew long lines at St. Sabina. The Hear Foundation teamed up with Pfleger and the St. Sabina community.

“It’s a real desperate situation,” Pfleger said. “The recovery, unfortunately, has not come down to 79th Street yet.”

Those in line were quick to show their appreciation. 

“He’s always trying to help the community, always trying to help people in need,” Darlene Davis said of Pfleger.  

Asked if he would clear up any misinformation in the media about his suspension, Pfleger cited a recent ad taken out by parish members in the Sun-Times. That ad lashed out at the Chicago Archdiocese for disrespecting and failing to communicate with parish members about changes at the church.

The Archdiocese sent a new priest, Andrew Smith, to help at St. Sabina after Pfleger’s suspension was announced.

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