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CHELMSFORD -- Pauline Bergeron knows what it’s like to face suffering with faith.
Two years ago, Bergeron was diagnosed with cancer. Upon receiving the devastating news, she turned to St. Mary Parish for support and prayer.
According to Bergeron, she first spoke with her then-pastor, Father Leo Martel, who prayed with her and blessed her.
“I felt so much more at peace after that,” she recalled.
It was at this time that the parish also set up a prayer line -- a dedicated phone line where people can call and ask other parishioners to pray for their intentions. Bergeron had initially volunteered to be part of the prayer line, something she still participates in today. However, because of her health crisis, she also found herself calling and asking others to pray for her.
“I was part of the prayer line -- both praying and being prayed for -- when it was first started,” she explained. “It was very important to have people praying for me. To me, that’s the biggest gift anyone can give -- their prayers.”
Knowing she was being prayed for, Bergeron faced her chemotherapy and radiation treatments with confidence.
“I never once had the feeling that I wasn’t going to pull through this. Even my doctor said I recovered so quickly because of my faith,” she said.
Today, Bergeron, 71, is a cancer survivor. She is also an active parishioner at St. Mary’s. “I just love my church,” she said emphatically. “I’m just so happy there. I would never think to go anyplace else.”
Bergeron described her parish as “vibrant” and praised the new pastor, Father Stephen Donahoe.
“He brings out the best in people,” she said. “I think he has a talent for making people feel at home here,” she said.
“There are so many activities that people can participate in, and everyone is welcome to be there,” she added.
Every parishioner at St. Mary’s is encouraged to become involved in parish life in whatever capacity they can, Bergeron said. Every year, the pastor sends each parishioner a list of ways they can become more involved in their faith. Everyone is encouraged to participate in at least one of the parish’s activities.
One of the activities Bergeron actively participates in is “The Spirit of Christmas” program.
Every Advent, parishioners buy gifts for people in need. These gifts are wrapped and tagged by parishioners, and given to area charities to be distributed. For years, Bergeron helped the coordinators of this program with whatever needed to be done. Then she noticed that very few hats, mittens, gloves and other winter-weather gear were being collected for the charities.
The following year, she began asking parishioners who knew how to knit to donate their servicets in order to make enough items so everyone who received gifts from the program could also be given a hat and mittens.
The result was overwhelming, she said. Not only did parishioners make enough hats and mittens, there was an abundance so that every charity was given a separate bag of hats and mittens to be given to anyone in need.
“This is just one little example of how generous my parish really is,” she said.
Bergeron also asks parishioners to donate unused toiletries. With these, Bergeron makes over 80 “goody bags” filled with practical items such as shampoo, calendars and toothbrushes, which she also gives to area charities so they can distribute them to whoever may need them.
“It isn’t much, but this is my little niche in the parish,” she said sheepishly.