Blessed are the Poor: Pastoral Responses to the Economic Crisis

On the first weekend of this month, I worshipped with three socially and economically diverse parish communities: Sacred Heart in Lynn, St. Luke’s in Belmont and St. Mary’s in Franklin. Despite their diversity, these three communities are all being impacted by the current economic crisis. At one Mass, a well dressed couple asked for my prayers for the husband, who had been laid off that week. This couple represents an alarming growing number of people who need our prayers and our help.

The economic crisis is taking its painful toll on families and individuals throughout our archdiocese, our country, and the world. More than four-and-a-half million persons are unemployed. Homeowners are facing foreclosure, a process that also harms renters. Every day people are making difficult choices as they struggle to meet basic needs such as food, housing and healthcare.

I recently asked our parishes and schools to share with me their best practices in responding to the economic crisis. Our parishes have always been at the forefront of serving those in need. Visit any one of them and you are likely to see a container to collect nonperishable food donations for parish or local food banks. Clothing drives are common, as are ministries such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which provide emergency assistance for utilities, food and other bills. The signs of economic distress on families often become evident for the first time at our schools. You may not have thought you would ever need these resources, but if you find yourself in need, it would be our honor to minister to you and assist you in every way possible.

Here are some examples of inspirational and practical outreaches in our archdiocese:

Job Networking: Creating a “Faith Works Employment Support Network” where the spiritual and discernment needs of the unemployed are addressed, and job resources, information and networks are shared;

Job Search Tips: Providing help for parishioners in writing resumes and using the Internet;

Community Discussions: Gathering to support one another in coping with the financial downturn;

Mortgage Help: Teaming with other faith communities and local banks to find refinancing options;

Religious Education Assistance: Waiving or reducing fees;

Catholic Education Support: Asking those who can afford to do so to sponsor a child’s attendance at a Catholic school; allowing parents to volunteer their time in lieu of, or for a reduction in, tuition payments;

Prayer: In a Novena to St. Joseph the Worker, interceding for those who are unemployed;

Works of Mercy: Creating “New Life” baskets for new parents; preparing a meal for the homeless as a Confirmation service project.

Using the great input I have received from pastors and principals, we will be distributing a list of resources and programs throughout the archdiocese, so that the good that is being accomplished in one community can be echoed in other communities. Additionally, Father J. Bryan Hehir, our Secretary for Social Services and Health Care, will be leading regional discussions to assist us in working together for the care of those who are in need. The purpose of these meetings will be to further share best practices and offer strategies and suggestions for developing effective, pro-active outreach by parishes during this unprecedented crisis. Finally, our Planning Office for Urban Affairs, along with Catholic Charities, one of the largest providers of social services in Massachusetts, will be distributing information such as the location of food pantries, help for families dealing with potential foreclosure, notices for pastors to put in parish bulletins, and information sheets with phone numbers for governmental and nonprofit organizations that can provide support.

I know, in moments of pain, when money is scarce and hope begins to fade, we sometimes ask, “Where is God?” God is with you. The gifts he has bestowed--your faith, your inner strength, your determination to care for your family, your skills--are evidence of His presence. God is in the compassion of the people who support food pantries and in the thoughtfulness of the parishioner who organizes a job-networking group. When you reach out and someone responds, God is in that response.

God works through us. As St. Teresa of Avila prayed: “Christ has no body now on earth but yours; yours are the only hands with which he can do his work.” If you are in a position to help, be the hands of Christ. If you are in need, reach out. His hands will meet yours. Blessed are the poor, and blessed are those who care for the poor.

Father Richard M. Erikson is Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Today is 'hour of the laity,' Archbishop Gomez tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Hispanic Catholic leaders are living an important moment in the history of the Catholic church in the U.S. and are called to ...

Stay close to the suffering, forgive one another, pope tells Latvians

AGLONA, Latvia (CNS) -- What would Mary do? was the question Pope Francis, in effect, asked Latvian Catholics gathered at their nation's popular Marian ...

Joy, hope contagious for Encuentro participants as they discern priorities

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Joy, hope, energy and a spirit of continued collaboration are contagious among the participants of the Fifth National Encuentro, ...

Update: Pope in Lithuania: Don't let anti-Semitism, hatred resurge

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Outside the former KGB headquarters in Vilnius, Pope Francis ended a day of paying homage to victims of totalitarianism and ...

God is patient, even with failures, pope tells young Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- Meeting young Lithuanians in Vilnius, Pope Francis said he wanted a relaxed conversation, like they were sitting in a pub ...

Update: Vatican signs provisional agreement with China on naming bishops

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- For the first time in decades, all of the Catholic bishops in China are in full communion with the pope, the Vatican announced. Pope ...

Find strength in tolerance, solidarity, pope tells Lithuanians

VILNIUS, Lithuania (CNS) -- In Lithuania, a nation that experienced invasions, atrocities and persecution, Pope Francis began his visit with a plea to ...

Ospino: Encuentro reflects 'energy, maturity' of a church 'here to stay'

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- The thousands of Hispanic Catholic ministry leaders gathered in Texas for the Fifth National Encuentro shared views on the maturity ...

N.J. cardinal won't attend synod, asks to remain home at 'time of crisis'

NEWARK, N.J. (CNS) -- Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark told the people of his archdiocese Sept. 21 that Pope Francis has granted his request that he ...

Detroit Archdiocese welcomes investigation into Michigan dioceses

DETROIT (CNS) -- Michigan's attorney general has opened an investigation into the handling of sexual abuse by clergy in all of Michigan's seven Catholic ...

Catholics believe in God but 'don't believe in us,' Miami archbishop says

MIAMI (CNS) -- The crisis the Catholic Church is facing is not "a crisis of faith" or "mainly about a crisis of sexual abuse by clergy," but is "a crisis ...

Update: Disney animator says grounding in Catholic schools led to success

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (CNS) -- Ron Clements is a renowned animator, screenwriter and producer-director of award-winning Disney films, including the blockbuster ...

#WhyImCatholic movement aims to share hope at difficult time for church

CHICAGO (CNS) -- Catholic Extension has launched a new social media campaign called #WhyImCatholic to offer "hope and unity" for Catholics by inviting ...

Continue to be an evangelizing church, nuncio tells Encuentro delegates

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- Quoting from Pope Francis' apostolic exhortation "The Joy of the Gospel," Archbishop Christophe Pierre encouraged Hispanic Catholic ...

Encuentro opens with procession, papal message, prayers for abuse victims

GRAPEVINE, Texas (CNS) -- A video message from Pope Francis and a procession of Encuentro crosses representing all of the participating episcopal regions ...

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...