Catholic Appeal donors thanked at annual Appreciation Mass

BOSTON -- When he was a young priest, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley celebrated the funeral Mass of a woman with Down syndrome.

After the funeral, the woman's mother shared her story with him. She said that when her daughter was born, she was angry at God.

"It was so hard for me to accept this child," she told him, "but as the child grew up, I could see how the presence of this child softened my other children and made them more loving and more connected to her and one another."

When the mother was widowed and her other children moved out of the house, only the daughter with Down syndrome was left in her life.

"I realized that she was my best friend," the mother told Cardinal O'Malley. "She was the joy of my old age. Now she has died, and I am so ashamed that I did not rejoice when she was born."

Cardinal O'Malley recalled this experience at a Mass of Appreciation, celebrated at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on Nov. 19, for those who donated to and volunteered for the annual Catholic Appeal.

In connection with the Thanksgiving holiday and that week's Gospel, the Parable of the Talents, Cardinal O'Malley's homily instructed the faithful to be mindful of and grateful for their God-given gifts, even when they are "blessings in disguise."

"Part of our life of faith is to be able to recognize the gifts that we have received," the cardinal said in his homily.

Money raised by the Catholic Appeal supports the Archdiocese of Boston's ministries, schools, parishes, programs, and resources. Each parish has its own appeal coordinator who helps with fundraising.

Over 400 donors and volunteers were invited to the Mass, but Archdiocese of Boston Catholic Appeal Manager Arlene Dubrowski estimated that 500 people came.

"It was great, especially the week before Thanksgiving," Dubrowski told The Pilot. "I think it's really meaningful for people to come express their gratitude, while we say thank you to them."

Cardinal O'Malley personally expressed his gratitude to the donors and volunteers.

"I am so grateful to all of you who are striving to be faithful Catholics," he told them.

He said that in Gospel parables, such as the Good Samaritan and the Sheep and the Goats, people are judged not only for bad deeds they did, but good deeds that they failed to do. At the Last Judgment, some will be rewarded for capitalizing on their gifts to do good in the world, while others will be judged poorly for wasting their gifts.

"The vision of faith is a great gift that allows us to be good stewards," he said. "Good stewards that understand that everything we have, and everything we are, is a gift, and that each gift is a responsibility."

In Catholic social teaching, those with material wealth are expected to be generous. However, the Parable of the Talents represents spiritual gifts, which are far more valuable than material ones.

"What is on the surface often deceives us," Cardinal O'Malley said. "We need the gift of faith to be able to see the world through God's eyes."

He pointed out that the word Eucharist means "thanksgiving" in Greek.

"This is what we celebrate at Thanksgiving," he said. "What a beautiful American holiday it is. When we gather with loved ones and celebrate the gifts that we have received from a loving God. We show our gratitude by sharing those gifts with others."

At the end of Mass, Cardinal O'Malley wished everyone a blessed Thanksgiving.

"May we have joyful, thankful, and generous hearts," he said.