Mar. 11 2022

Faith in action

byGavan Mooney

Pilot photo/courtesy Catholic Appeal

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Catholic parishes are the heart and soul of our communities throughout Greater Boston -- and beyond. Importantly, our parishes serve the spiritual needs of more than 1.8 million Catholics in our archdiocese. Their impact, however, extends much wider and deeper, putting faith into action to address a variety of needs for people of all faiths.

Food insecurity is an issue that impacts far more people in our communities than most of us realize. Our high cost of living combined with the pandemic and all its ramifications has exacerbated an already significant food insecurity problem for thousands of families in our area. Many of our parishes have stepped up to help address this critical and growing need by establishing, staffing, and running food pantries. At Harvest on Vine, the food pantry run by St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown, roughly 800 families are able to receive supplies of food twice a month.

"It's undeniable to be a follower of Jesus Christ means we look and we see those who are in need in whatever way, shape, or form that might be," says Father Jim Ronan, pastor of St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish. "The Catholic Church in this community and in many, many places has taken the leadership in responding to the people who are the neediest."

Many of our parishes have also taken the lead in addressing the devastating problem of addiction in their communities. As Father Joe White, head of the Archdiocesan Addiction Recovery Pastoral Support Services and pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Boston, puts it, "Very few families, very few communities go unscathed by the illness and disease of addiction."

Through a program called iThirst, parishioners in several of our parishes are trained to be spiritual companions to accompany individuals with addictions and/or their families and friends on journeys to recovery. The Archdiocese of Boston was the first to offer this program, which has now expanded across the country as well as internationally. Addiction "is a spiritual disease that requires a spiritual remedy," says Keaton Douglas, founder of the iThirst Initiative. "As such, the Church and all faith communities have a real role to play in this. iThirst is meant to empower the Church to become a resource for those suffering from addictions and their families."

We also witness faith in action in the 100 Catholic schools across our archdiocese, where children of all ages and faiths are inspired to realize their innate God-given potential. In today's social media-driven society, external pressures on adolescents and teens are enormous. "Catholic education has probably never been more relevant and more necessary than at any other time in our Church's history," says Tom Nunan, president of Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody. "I think about the level of isolation and alienation that students experience today. One of the most important things about Catholic education is providing positive peer pressure. We can provide positive peer pressure so that students can be, freely and fully, who God calls them to be."

In the inner cities, a Catholic education can significantly transform the trajectory of young lives. As Aliece Dutson, president of Mission Grammar School in Roxbury puts it, "We know that a high-quality education surrounded in a faith-filled community is a way for access, opportunity, equity, and possibility for our scholars."

Every year, we reach out for support of the annual Catholic Appeal, which provides operational support to our parishes and enables them to continue the good works of our Church, including those mentioned above. As we launch this year's Appeal, I encourage you to listen to the witness talks in your parish, watch the Appeal video on our website, bostoncatholicappeal.org, and consider a generous gift to help ensure the vitality of our Church and our ability to continue to put faith into action in so many needed and meaningful ways.

- Gavan Mooney is chief philanthropy officer of the Archdiocese of Boston and president of Catholic Community Fund.