Christmas card number 301

Each year around this time, I start warming up my signature muscles and rent a couple of movies that my husband has absolutely no interest in seeing. (Has anyone made a new adaptation of a Jane Austin novel recently?) I get some good hot chocolate or decaf coffee, make a few batches of homemade popcorn, and sneak some butter on it when no one’s looking. This is all part of my newly-formed ritual for personally signing about 300 Catholic Charities Christmas cards to friends and supporters. I sign them at night after the family is in bed. My staff sends a few extra, which is good because of the occasional butter smear...

This year, I would like to use my December Pilot column as Christmas card number 301. It is my chance publicly to say “Thank you,” and, “Merry Christmas” to all of the parishes in the Archdiocese who do so much to support the work of Charities, especially around the holidays.

I had thought, foolishly, that I could mention all of the parishes by name. After all, there are a few occasions when it is more than appropriate for the right hand to know what the left is doing. As the lists began flooding in from our regional directors, however, it became clear that there just isn’t enough space on the page. Literally dozens of parishes set up giving trees, make donations, volunteer for food distribution, and commit other acts of love and kindness on behalf of the Church’s social justice mission at Thanksgiving and Christmas. What a truly wonderful thing.

Recognizing, therefore, that I will leave some parishes out, and apologizing profusely for the omission, as I mean no disrespect -- indeed, I mean quite the opposite -- I would, nevertheless, like to thank a sampling of parishes by name. To begin, thank you to my own home parish, St. Michael’s in Bedford. They have baskets full of ornaments made by the kids from religious education asking for gifts for our clients.

Blessed Mother Teresa in Dorchester provides 1,000 toys each year to the Greater Boston program. Together, St. Paul’s in Wellesley and Resurrection Parish in Hingham provide enough gifts for 300 children who attend Sunset Point Camp over the summer.

Gate of Heaven and St. Brigid’s parishes in South Boston do giving trees for our families there, and St. Vincent’s parish has stepped up with home visitors and volunteer nurses for an elder care program run by the Laboure Center that recently lost a chunk of its state funding. St. Thomas of Villanova in Wilmington provides coats and warm clothing to our refugee clients, and the Arrupe Community of St. Ignatius in Newton collects household items and holds Sunday fundraising drives for our Refugee and Immigration Service programs.

Catholic Charities North sent me a list of 16 parishes that offer help around this time of year. Among them are St. Agnes in Reading, which gave presents for 266 children from our Peabody Childcare Center and St. Pius V in Lynn, which took up a basic needs collection. St. Joseph’s in Wakefield caravans from the church to one of our programs with enough gifts for the full wish lists of 100 families. And St. Anne’s in Salem allows Charities North to use their basement as a staging area for holiday goods distribution.

There are not enough words of thanks for this generosity of spirit, time and goods. I wish everyone in the Commonwealth could understand how serious everyday Catholics are about the social justice ministry of the Church, and how much good for our poor and vulnerable gets done in the name of parishes. From every single staff member at Catholic Charities, thank you, and Merry Christmas.

Tiziana C. Dearing is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.