Summary of today’s show: Employees at the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center have a new tradition of getting out each spring to give some hands-on assistance at inner-city parishes and making a connection between the work they do at their desks and the people in the parishes they serve. Scot Landry and The Good Catholic Life team made their way to St. Matthew Parish in Dorchester today to get their hands dirty and to sit down with Denise McKinnon-Biernat, one of the organizers of the Week; Rich Durham, business manager for a number of inner-city parishes; and Gaspard Lafalaise, a parishioner and volunteer at St. Angela’s and St. Matthew’s parishes.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry
Today’s guest(s): Rich Durham, Denise McKinnon-Biernat, Gaspard Lafalaise
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: Pastoral Center Service Week
1st segment: Scot Landry said we’re at St. Matthew Parish in Dorchester. He welcomed Rich Durham, business manager at many of inner-city parishes; Gerard Lafalaise, a volunteer at the parish; and Denise McKinnon-Biernat of Parish Financial Services. Denise said the objective of Parish Service Week is the give people who work in the pastoral center the flavor of working in the parishes and also providing some manual labor for parishes that need some help. A lot of the volunteers find they get more from doing this than what they give.
Denise said they’re promoting a culture of service. The Pastoral Center serves parishes, but often its from behind a desk, but the service week gets employees out into the parishes and face to face. Last year they were at St. Katharine Drexel Parish in Roxbury with about 35 people and this year at St. Matthew’s and St. Angela’s in Mattapan, they had more than twice as many.
Rich said these two parishes were picked this year because they are inner-city parishes that need significant help. St. Katharine was chosen last year because they needed a lot of landscaping and exterior painting, which are very visible signs of change for the parish.
Scot said many of the parishes Rich serves receive subsidies from the Central Ministries, which are supported by the Catholic Appeal. Scot asked how many parishes need that support. Rich said it costs about the same to run any parish. So a suburban parish can support a general budget, but an inner-city parish’s parishioners have less they can afford to give, although they are still giving a lot as a percentage. Rich wants to ensure they have websites and Facebook pages so they have all the tools that any other parish has to make sure they feel part of the archdiocese.
An example of the work being done is St. Angela’s in Mattapan where they had a contractor fix a railing. That required skilled labor. But the volunteers painted the front doors of the church to give a welcoming façade. They power washed the statues in front of the church, so now there’s a bright white statue of the Blessed Mother as people pull up. Scot said the exterior of the church tells people whether we take pride in our church, whether there’s a lively community. We all have lists of things to do and we can help parishes with that list.
Scot asked Gaspard about helping out at St. Angela’s and St. Matthew’s. He said he’s helped out at St. Angela’s for 16 years with Fr. William Joy, the pastor, and at St. Matthew’s for the last few years. Gaspard is a native of Haiti. Both parishes are diverse communities. The majority are Haitian or of Haitian descent, but they also have groups from other Caribbean islands and Latin America. He said it’s a fragile community too because there are many cultural concerns. The Haitian community in the Archdiocese is the largest in the country. Gaspard said both parishes gather the majority of the Haitian Catholic community in Boston. People come to the parishes from as far away as Maine for cultural devotional events. Even when people move to other communities, they come back because this is the hub of Haitian immigration.
Fr. Joy is the pastor and couldn’t be here because of a funeral. Gaspard said he loves Fr. Joy because he is a humble leader. He lets people express themselves and trusts people to make good decisions. He works with Fr. Joy closely and is very comfortable with him and that’s why he is happy to volunteer.
Scot said being a pastor in an inner-city parish is one of the most challenging but also fulfilling ministries. Rich said Fr. Joy has a difficult task. Of the two parishes, St. Angela’s is much larger, but he never favors on parish over the other and ensures that he gives equal attention to all groups. There is no favoritism. He’s amazed at how he’s able to accommodate all the needs, whether it’s culture or facilities management or language. The reason we’re at both parishes this week is because Fr. Joy insisted on coming to both. They hired more professionals for St. Matthew’s because the needs are greater here, while St. Angela’s got more of the volunteers yet both got equal amounts of service.
2nd segment: Scot asked Denise about the many vendors who serve the Archdiocese who have donated products and services. The mulch, flowers, and some of the labor was donated by Dokurno Landscaping in Bridgewater. Hardie-Trott from Weymouth donated new drywall and prep work to allow volunteers to paint seven rooms at St. Angela’s. Ridgemont Construction in Quincy donated new railings in St. Angela’s. Folan Waterproofing power washed the statues at the parishes.
Scot said the hedges at St. Angela’s were trimmed by Cardinal Sean and showed up in a photo in the Globe. Rich said it took six people two hours to weed the flower beds at St. Angela’s, including removing fencing. Also the front of the rectory there doesn’t get a lot of sun and so there were a lot of dead plants and trash. Even though it was general landscaping it took a lot of time. He noted that landscaping work can be tough when you work behind a desk most of the time. Thankfully, there have been no major injuries among the volunteers.
Scot said there’s been a broad group from the pastoral center. They came from most departments, including BCDS, Catholic Media (including Scot’s flower bed planting, which he credited to Dom Bettinelli), legal services, Catholic Schools, Parish Financial Services, Facilities, Real Estate, Faith Formation, Finance. People of all ages and sizes too.
Scot asked how Cardinal Sean got assigned to hedge trimming. Rich said they had to find a photo opportunity and in front of the Blessed Mother was a good idea. George Martell the photographer had a good idea to give him hedge trimmers. Scot asked what Msgr. Deeley is going to do and Rich said they’re going to give the vicar general a bow saw and a ladder to trim trees.
Scot noticed a sense of joy among those working. He said it’s nice to get to know the other people who work in the Pastoral Center that he might not have gotten to know before. Denise said it is a community building exercise. She said last year people kept saying they couldn’t wait to do it next year and happy to work beside people they didn’t know before. Denise said she’s sure that will happen again next year.
Scot asked Gaspard his opinion on the quality of work. Gaspard said he was happy to see all that’s been accomplished. He’s looking forward to the impact on the parishes in terms of recognizing the support they have from outside. It will make a huge long-term impact. He said the front doors at St. Angela’s look great as well. It makes a big difference from what there was before. What has been done is wonderful and he doesn’t have words to express his gratitude.
Rich said the biggest thing he hopes people take away from this is having seen the people who work in the parishes and seeing the facilities, they can appreciate the impact their work has on the people in the parishes. It’s good to see how the parishes can struggle with limited resources and it bridges the gap. Many people see their home parish as the Catholic Church, but seeing a different parish helps people to understand the breadth of the Church.
Scot asked Denise what she would ay to those who give to the Catholic Appeal and the impact their donations have for the immigrant Catholics who in many ways are the future leaders of the Archdiocese. Denise said they provide funding for the mission of these community. The Church needs to be in these neighborhoods and provide for the ministry to those who don’t have the wherewithal to provide for themselves now.
Gaspard said he invites long-term parishioners, those whose families have roots in those parishioners, who have moved out of state or out of town and into other parishes to come back and visit St. Angela’s and St. Matthew’s. The current parishioners are grateful for what they have left for this generation, which is doing its best to keep up the gift that has been handed on to them. There are a lot of challenges they are facing and former parishioners may be able to support the parishes with prayers or financial gifts.
Scot said St. Matthew’s probably started as serving the Irish immigrants. Gaspard said both parishes have highly mobile populations, in and out of the parish. So if someone comes from Haiti, they seek out St. Angela’s to worship in Creole French. As they become more stable and learn English and get married, for example, they move somewhere else. Scot asked what communities Haitian Catholics are moving to? Gaspard said it depends on income or education. Many move to Malden, Chelsea, Brockton, Randolph or Avon. Some go to Hyde Park and Milton. A large percentage go to New York or Florida, which is a challenge to the church both financially and spiritually. People form bonds but then one person moves away, often just when they are making a little more money and could support the church with gifts a little more.
Rich said both parishes have strong youth and young adults groups. That provides for a strong future. St. Matthew’s has a very vibrant food pantry, in which the food is provided by a parish in the western suburbs. They serve very many families in the area. The parishes do share the sacraments, doing First Communions and Confirmations together, which is mainly for financial reasons. The business operations are run out of St. Matthew’s, but the parishioners would appreciate having two offices.
Scot said he prepared for today by looking at the parish websites and he was impressed by them and how they have many photos showing parish life. Gaspard is the creator and maintainer of those sites. He doesn’t take the credit for the sites for himself. He said the Archdiocesan highlighted the parish’s site as one of the top six parish websites, but he said the parish ministries take credit for providing the good content. The choir ministry and youth and young adult ministries are the backbone and strength of the parishes and all he does is take pictures of what they do. One of the goals of the websites was to create an online giving program and so they needed a good website for them. But it was also a good opportunity to show the good news from inside the parishes to the outside world.
Scot asked Denise what else she hopes will be accomplished today. This is the largest day with over 21 volunteers today. They hope to do flower beds, trim trees and bushes, and paint the front doors to bring them back to life and make them more welcoming. They’re going to work around the parking lot and clean up some areas.
Rich said the front of both churches came out spectacular and people will feel very welcome with the new doors, the power washed statues, and new flower beds. He pointed out that on rainy Wednesday, volunteers painted 7 rooms in the rectory which benefits the parish staff especially. Denise said even when it rains there’s a lot of work to do inside.
3rd segment: Now as we do every week at this time, we will consider the Mass readings for this Sunday, specifically the Gospel reading.
Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers
—there was a group of about one hundred and twenty persons
in the one place —.
He said, “My brothers,
the Scripture had to be fulfilled
which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand
through the mouth of David, concerning Judas,
who was the guide for those who arrested Jesus.
He was numbered among us
and was allotted a share in this ministry.
“For it is written in the Book of Psalms:
May another take his office.
“Therefore, it is necessary that one of the men
who accompanied us the whole time
the Lord Jesus came and went among us,
beginning from the baptism of John
until the day on which he was taken up from us,
become with us a witness to his resurrection.”
So they proposed two, Judas called Barsabbas,
who was also known as Justus, and Matthias.
Then they prayed,
“You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this apostolic ministry
from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.”
Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias,
and he was counted with the eleven apostles.