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Our priests are there for us, let's be there for them

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Every gift makes a difference and is a symbol of gratitude for all that priests do to make our parishes, our communities, and the world better places.

There is a strong tradition in Greater Boston of people coming together to affect change to help those in need. Camp Harbor View, a camp that serves 900 children from Boston's underserved neighborhoods, and our inner-city Catholic schools are just two examples of initiatives, where many contributed their time and treasure for the common good of our communities. This generosity of spirit has never been more evident than it is now, in this time of incredible turmoil and need. I have had the great fortune to participate in the work of the Boston Resiliency Fund as it answered the needs of the community in response to the COVID crisis, and it has been a wonderful example of people with means searching out opportunities to help their fellow citizens who have been disproportionately affected by this crisis.

Very often, when people are in crisis, we find a priest standing nearby to help. Our priests are often at the center of efforts that build strong support systems for all of us. They establish social service organizations for homeless citizens like the Pine Street Inn. As chaplains, they offer spiritual support and guidance for firefighters and police officers. They operate food pantries out of their parishes for anyone in their community who is hungry. And recently, in response to the pandemic, they put their lives at risk to enter hospitals and provide comfort and peace for those suffering with COVID-19.

Father Jim Ronan, pastor at St. Mary-St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Charlestown, shared that he has seen this pandemic as "a time of grace." While most of us would have a hard time seeing it that way, Father Ronan has seen the very best in people emerge -- more parishioners giving to his food pantry and young adults in confirmation classes being more self-reflective and concerned with the feelings and challenges of others. I think that Father Ronan is able to see this as a time of grace because he creates a community in which grace abounds.

I recently became a member of the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust (CHRT) Board of Trustees to help ensure that our priests receive the care they need to continue their incredibly important work. They are there for us in a very personal way, in times of celebration and of suffering; they build and sustain our parishes, and they are building stronger communities for all of us.

The CHRT has made a promise to our priests to help care for their health and well-being so that they may continue to help others. Through three main programs, the CHRT provides guidance and support to all active and senior priests in good standing. The Intentional Living program offers preventive health and wellness programs to all priests. The Dedicated Care Team provides one-on-one support and advocacy to priests with health concerns. And Regina Cleri is a state-of-the-art facility, where senior priests are cared for and can live out their days in community with their brother priests. The CHRT team supports them throughout their entire priesthood: from ordination until they are called home to God. I am grateful to have the opportunity to support these programs and these men who have dedicated their lives to God and to us.

This September, you will have the opportunity to support the CHRT's mission by giving to the special collection at Masses on Sept. 19-20. You may also give anytime online at clergytrust.org. Every gift makes a difference and is a symbol of gratitude for all that priests do to make our parishes, our communities, and the world better places. They don't just observe need in our communities; they seek it out so that they can respond. I would like to ask for your support of these men who selflessly serve all of us and so many in need. Thank you for considering a gift to this worthy cause.

Sharon McNally is the president of Camp Harbor View and chief of staff in the Connors Family Office. She is also the board chair at the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare and a board member at Community Servings, in addition to her board role at CHRT. The Clergy Health and Retirement Trust is an independently managed trust that provides ongoing care and support for the health, well-being, and retirement of diocesan priests in good standing across Greater Boston.

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