You have done it again! Once again you have proved beyond doubt that St Paul of the Cross is an extremely generous parish. Whenever you come to know about the conditions of the poor and the suffering anywhere, you come to their aid in full force. I have seen it firsthand in the last five years. When that devastating earthquake hit Haiti, the poorest country in our part of the world, you reached deep into your pockets and provided over $40,000 to help the Haitians rebuild. Last year we went as a group to Arizona and handed a hefty check to support St Jude Mission that serves the Navajos. This year we embraced the “untouchables” in South India as the beneficiaries of our Lenten Sacrifice. As of May 4 we have raised over $60,000 and the funds will go towards the building of a community center.
In the name of Fr Val and all his people, I would like to offer you my heartfelt thanks to each and every one of you. I can guarantee that God will abundantly bless you. When we help His poor, we really help Him. The poor of our world have nowhere to turn except the Lord. When we come to their aid, we become the helping hands of God!
I would like to thank in a special way, Adrienne Timm, who has been the driving force behind this effort. I am also grateful to Anna Mae Parkhill, our DRE, who encouraged both the catechists and the students in our religious education program to work hard to make this a grand success. They responded tremendously and raised the greatest amount they have ever raised in any Lenten season. I am also touched by what our school students and teachers accomplished. Both our school and religious education students rallied around this cause and their enthusiasm has been palpable. I was moved to hear that our first graders in the school collected over $300 by doing chores and making sacrifices. A couple of days ago two fourth grade girls handed me a Ziploc bag filled with coins and dollar bills. They collected the money by selling soap which they made at home with their own hands. There have been many projects initiated by many groups and individuals and they have all borne abundant fruit. I will be remiss if I did not thank the Servants of St Francis who have been the catalyst in the parish and in the school. They even came up with a creative slogan for the campaign: “Give to Gingee! Don’t be stingy!” We have no idea how we have changed the lives of these people living in far away Gingee.
When I called Fr Val a few days ago and gave him the news, he was beside himself. He could not believe it. He asked me to personally convey to you the gratitude of all his people and assured me that they are praying for us. He told me that as soon as he gets the money he will break ground. Hopefully the center will be completed within a year. I am including an artist’s rendition of what the center could look like. On the ground floor it will have a couple of offices and a large hall which will serve as church on Sundays. The children will use the hall as their study hall. On the second floor, there will be two halls which will be used as dorms for men and women when they have to stay over at the center. There will also be bathrooms and showers. It is a modest building but it will serve the needs of over 200 people. The total square footage of the structure is only 2,200.
Our original target for this campaign was $50,000 and we have exceeded it by $10,000. In the past Fr Val has been at a loss as to how he would fund his ministry. He has no source of income and depends on the kindness of people. Year to year the future of his ministry is uncertain and our contribution will make it a little more stable. Once he finishes the building, Fr Val will deposit the surplus in a CD. In India one can get an interest rate of over 9% on CDs and the income will fund Fr Val’s work at least partially. Thus we have not only helped him build the center now but also enable him to continue his ministry in the future.
What we have done this Lent is a source of satisfaction and pride for all of us. It should serve also as an impetus for more action because there is so much need. The poor are always with us. I shall leave you with the words of Pope Francis who is constantly calling on us to serve the poor:
Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?
May our parish become more and more responsive to the call of our Holy Father! Let us remember that when we choose the poor, we choose Jesus Himself!
Please know that I pray for each and every one of you in my Masses and daily prayers. May God bless you abundantly for what you have done for the poor of South India!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...