David and Martha Crowley with their grandchildren Alexandre, Rémy, Thomas, Maegan, Michael and John. Pilot photo/ Courtesy the Crowleys
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GLOUCESTER — For the past two years, Martha Crowley has taken to heart the call to help the poor.
Together with fellow parishioners at Holy Family Parish, Crowley has traveled to the town of Cevicos in the Dominican Republic, to help build houses, educate young people, and bring necessary medical supplies to their “twin parish” — Nuestra Señora del Pilar.
“I don’t speak any Spanish, but I go and help in whatever way I am asked to help,” said Crowley, 66.
According to Crowley, the parish began travelling to Cevicos several years ago after “adopting” Nuestra Señora del Pilar. Four times every year, parishioners travel to the Dominican Republic for one week and help the parish and its adjoining medical center, bringing items, such as medicines, educational materials and building supplies, to help alleviate the poverty experienced at Cevicos. Together with the Dominican Sisters of Fatima, an order that staffs the medical center, the Holy Family parishioners “roll up their sleeves and do whatever needs to get done.”
“I would encourage anyone who has any interest in helping the poor to go down,” she said.
Crowley and her husband of 40 years, David, have been parishioners of Holy Family since their parish, St. Peter Parish, was closed three years ago.
“We figured we’d go to the receiving parish and make it the best parish it can possibly be,” she said.
In addition to her travels to the Dominican Republic, Crowley is a member of the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul society. She is also a lector and helps run several parish events such as the annual St. Patrick’s Day dinner and the Christmas Fair.
Although relatively new to the parish, Crowley feels she is truly a part of the parish family.
“You get to know people by volunteering and then you feel a part of the parish, and then it all seems to gel,” she said.
Crowley said she believes her transition into Holy Family was made smooth because of the “wonderful priests at Holy Family.”
“They are both excellent priests, who complement each other wonderfully,” she said.
Originally from Maine, raised in what she calls a “real staunch Maine family,” Crowley was taught at an early age to take her faith seriously. She praised her father, who although not Catholic until Crowley was in her 20s, always encouraged his family to attend weekly Mass.
“I wouldn’t ever get up on a Sunday morning and say, ‘I’m not going to church today.’ It just was not an option,” she recalled.
After leaving Maine, Crowley and her husband settled in Marblehead, where they raised three children.
“My husband was a physician. I had my career inside the house, raising the children,” she said. “All of our children went to Catholic school and Catholic colleges. We are real believers of Catholic education.”
The couple moved to Gloucester in the 1990s, after all three children had moved into their own homes. Today, Crowley enjoys visiting her six grandchildren, and volunteering in parish activities.
“To me, being Catholic is very much a part of who I am. It is who I am,” she said. “My faith isn’t perfect — I don’t think anyone’s is — but it’s a work in progress.”