NORTH END ? Most everyone has their favorite spot in Boston’s North End. For Barbara Maldero, her favorite spot is St. Leonard of Port Maurice Parish ? the parish she has attended for all of her 79 years.
“St. Leonard’s is part of my life,” she declared. “I was baptized here. I was married here. I baptized my children here. I buried my parents here. I buried my husband here.”
The seventh of 10 children, Maldero recalled that her father “was in church every day.”
“My dad was always in church. My mother was religious too, but she stayed at home with the children quite a bit back then. They loved their church, and taught us to love it too,” she said.
This love of her faith has been the drive behind Maldero’s involvement in her parish. In addition to being a member of the parish’s pastoral council and a daily Massgoer, Maldero is a member of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas. She is also a member of the Secular Franciscan Order. The church’s tabernacle was donated by Maldero in memory of her husband of 28 years, Louis Maldero, who passed away in 1977.
“Years ago, our parents were always involved in the church, but now it’s the seniors who are the pillars of the church,” she said thoughtfully.
Perhaps her biggest contribution to St. Leonard Parish was the establishment of the St. Damien Society ?an all volunteer group of 25-30 people who meet once a week to help the poor and needy both here in Boston and throughout the world.
“We made bandages to send to the Third World,” explained Maldero, who is currently the president of the organization. “We also knit baby blankets and baby clothes for poor unwed mothers; we make hats and scarves for the homeless in winter; we make scarves for people in nursing homes.”
According to Maldero, every item the group makes is imprinted with their motto: “Our work is a labor of love.”
In addition to her work with the St. Damien Society, Maldero is responsible for keeping a tradition alive within the parish. Each year, during the Marian month of May, she cuts out over 1,500 hearts from blue paper and leaves them at the back of the church. Parishioners and visitors to St. Leonard’s are invited to write their intentions inside the hearts. Every day, Maldero collects all these hearts and posts them on the altar. Over 1,000 hearts lined the altar this year.
“It’s beautiful,” she said.
During the month of October, the month of the rosary, Maldero also helps coordinate an annual 24-hour rosary vigil. This year, over 278 rosaries were prayed, she said.
On warm summer nights, Maldero is often found in the St. Anthony Peace Garden adjacent to the church selling St. Anthony holy oil to tourists from all over the world.
“My second life is for the Church,” she said sheepishly. “I’m not holier than anyone, I just know my faith has gotten me through a lot.”
“I thank the Blessed Mother for my life ? for me being who I am,” she continued. “It’s been a good life and I thank God for every minute of it.”