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WEST BRIDGEWATER -- Tom Maloney knows what it’s like to turn to faith during times of trial.
Six years ago, during the clergy abuse crisis, his pastor Father Edward McDonagh was falsely accused of assaulting a minor. During the months when Father McDonagh was removed from ministry pending investigation, Maloney and his fellow parishioners at St. Ann’s Church turned to God for strength.
“I don’t think I ever prayed so much in my life,” recalled Maloney.
“Our whole parish came together as a family to try to support Father [McDonagh] in any way we could,” he added.
The result was a weekly prayer vigil. Every Sunday night, parishioners would meet to pray for Father McDonagh, “knowing he was going through a terribly tough time,” as well as for other priests in the same situation. These prayer vigils continue today, Maloney said, adding that the group now prays for issues such as world hunger, priestly vocations, as well as for priests who are still removed from ministry pending investigations.
Nine months after the ordeal began, it was over. Father McDonagh was cleared of any wrongdoing and returned to the parish. Maloney recalled that Father McDonagh’s first Mass after returning to the parish -- coincidentally occurring on St. Valentine’s Day -- “was like Easter and Christmas all put together.”
“You have never seen so many happy people at Mass,” he added.
Although Father McDonagh was shaken by the ordeal, Maloney said he returned with as much zeal as ever.
“His faith sustained him, and I think our prayers sustained him as well,” he said. “I think it was our faith that sustained us for the whole nine months that we were without Father [McDonagh]. I think it made [the parish] stronger and made our faith stronger too.”
Since that time, St. Ann’s parishioners have remained close.
“We are a tight-knit community of faith that is looking to grow,” Maloney said.
Maloney was born in Dorchester but spent much of his childhood in Quincy. Although he was always Catholic -- even serving as an altar boy when he was a child -- Maloney admits he “never really got too involved in the Church” until he became a parishioner at St. Ann’s in 1995, shortly after marrying his wife, Pamela Maloney.
Today Maloney is an extraordinary minister of holy Communion, an usher and a religious education teacher’s aid for seventh grade. He also serves on the parish’s pastoral council and is involved in the weekly prayer vigil as well as on the parish’s prayer line. He regularly participates in eucharistic adoration as well.
“My faith is very important to me,” he said. “I look forward to eucharistic adoration with Jesus every Friday so I can spend some time alone with the Lord.”
Maloney is also very passionate about his work with the youth of the parish.
“The children are our future,” he said. “The children are the Church of the future. We need to inspire them to grow in their faith.”
Maloney admits getting young people to remain active parishioners is certainly a challenge, but it is one he knows is worth undertaking.
“We get children involved because of the sacraments, we need to keep them involved once they have received the sacraments,” he said emphatically. “We have to show them that there is life after confirmation.”