Graces large and small: an appreciation of our priests

On Sept. 16, more than 1,000 people will join Cardinal Sean at the Seaport Hotel to show their appreciation for the priests of our archdiocese. Due to the weekly publication schedule of The Pilot, I am writing this column before the event. I will be there, though, and look forward to showing my gratitude -- along with so many others -- for the countless acts of grace, large and small, that the priests in our communities bring into our lives each week.

I think it’s safe to say that Boston’s secular media doesn’t go out of its way to remind us of the profound and moving stories about what our priests do for us every day. So, I wrote to the employees of Catholic Charities, asking them what they’d want me to know if I were writing to you about appreciating our priests.

The responses were overwhelming, and they came from every corner of the agency. A few people even wrote with angst, for fear that they might accidentally leave someone out. There is no way that I can mention everyone here and so I have chosen to focus on two or three areas. For my omissions, I apologize, and let me just say, the fault is mine and that of the space limits of this column, not of our appreciative employees.

First, the priests of this archdiocese are incredible about helping mobilize the resources of their parishes on behalf of the clients we serve: giving trees at Christmas, baby showers, book and school supplies drives, and parish space for offices, programs and food pantries. In the North region, Msgr. Garrity of St. Mary in Lynn shares space with our Asia Center. Fathers Timothy Harrison and Ronald Gariboldi at Holy Family in Gloucester provide us the office space for our Basic Needs coordinator there. I visited that space recently. They make it possible for us to help people keep the lights on and stay in their homes. They also gave us the “Holy Grail” of gifts on Holy Thursday this year, when they held a second collection for us, raising $800. Father George Dufour has continued a legacy of giving us a place to run our Christmas giving program at St. Anne in Salem.

In Boston, Father Dan Finn of St. Mark in Dorchester and Father Walter Waldron of St. Patrick in Roxbury have earned the undying appreciation of our Greater Boston staff for their unwavering dedication to fighting youth violence and maintaining a strong Church presence in the inner-most part of the city. Father Joe White of St. Vincent de Paul in South Boston merits the same kind of appreciation. Father Mike Guarino in Revere has earned the appreciation of our staff in both Greater Boston and North region for his consistent support, even in lean times for his parish. He has demonstrated a continuous passion for the Church’s social justice mission. Father Paul Soper has walked with us all along the way, at more than one church, offering constant attention from his parishes, and pastoral care for our employees when they’ve needed it. And sometimes, they do.

In the Bowdoin Geneva neighborhood of Dorchester, several priests have supported and helped guide our St. Peter Teen Center as it has built itself into the premier safe, productive place for neighborhood teens -- many from the Cape Verdean community -- to study, socialize and spend time after school. Most recently, Father Jack Ahearn has continued that welcoming tradition.

Father Philip Earley offers his services as General Counsel for the agency, and has worked with us in different capacities for 27 years. He also has organized support through his parish, St. Thomas of Villanova in Wilmington. Father Rich Erikson, vicar general for the archdiocese, sits on our board and offers us his time, support and advocacy. The cardinal’s senior priest-secretary, Father Robert Kickham, does the same.

Finally, I’d like to express my own appreciation to Father Bryan Hehir, a wonderful mentor and my predecessor at Catholic Charities. He has provided thoughtful personal, professional and intellectual guidance, and even baptized my son.

To these priests and the many, many others who support the work of Catholic Charities every day, thank you. We could not do it without you, your inspiration and your leadership, nor would we ever want to.

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

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