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Cardinal highlights homelessness during Christmas visits

  • Cardinal O’Malley greets Pine Street Inn guest Eric Lamrche after serving him lunch on Christmas Eve. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
  • A member of “Team Menino” helps distribute toys at Catholic Charities’ Teen Center at St. Peter’s. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
  • Bicycles wait to be distributed to children at the Teen Center at St. Peter’s on Christmas Eve. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
  • Cardinal O’Malley leads a prayer before Christmas Eve lunch at the men’s shelter at Pine Street Inn. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
  • Cardinal O’Malley serves dessert at the Pine Street Inn women’s shelter. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy
  • Seminarians Aaron Sanz and Gabriel Hanley sing carols during the Christmas morning prayer service led by Cardinal O’Malley at St. Francis House. Pilot photo/courtesy St. Francis House

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Observing his annual Christmas tradition, Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day not only celebrating special Masses but also visiting Boston facilities that serve those in need.

On the morning of Christmas Eve, the cardinal joined Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, Police Commissioner William Gross and Catholic Charities Board Chair and Interim President Kevin MacKenzie at Catholic Charities' Teen Center at St. Peter's in the Bowdoin-Geneva section of Dorchester for a distribution of Christmas toys to families in need.

The toy distribution, carried out in partnership with the Menino Foundation, provided more 300 children with over 1,000 toys, including nearly 80 bicycles.

Later in the morning, Cardinal O'Malley visited Pine Street Inn homeless shelter on Harrison Avenue.

Accompanied by executive director Lyndia Downie and one of Pine Street's original founding members, Msgr. Francis Kelley, the cardinal gave a blessing before joining volunteers serving Christmas Eve lunch to those at the men's shelter. Afterward, he helped serve a holiday dessert of pumpkin or apple pie at the adjacent but separate women's shelter.

On Christmas morning, before celebrating the 11:30 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the cardinal led a prayer service at St. Francis House day shelter in downtown Boston.

Speaking at Pine Street, the cardinal pointed out that Christ was born homeless in Bethlehem.

Christmas "is a time for us to focus on the needs of our brothers and sisters who are without shelter, without housing," he said. "There are about 600,000 people in the United States who have no place to live (and) over half of them are working. Many of them are in homelessness because of problems mental health, addiction, and simply a lack of affordable housing."

The cardinal added that the mission to serve those in need, particularly those lacking shelter, is ongoing.

"It is wonderful that at Christmastime we pay so much attention to the Pine Street Inn, St. Francis House and these other places, but it is a great challenge for us every day, doing something to make our community a place where people have decent housing."

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