Parish Annual Report 2020

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

 

I hope this letter finds you well. The past nine months have been a trial for everyone. We keep especially in our prayers our parish members who have lost loved ones. We entrust them to the Lord and hope in his word, In my Father's house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you (John 14:2)? We also keep close to our heart the many sufferings of our parish family that in some cases have caused financial hardship, employment stress, student difficulty and family distress. Our consolation is the promise of Christ who remains with us until the end of the age (see Mt 28:20).

In these days of pandemic, unprecedented in our lifetimes, I wanted to share with you a bit about how our parish is doing. Please know of my continued prayers for all of you.

  • Fr. Michael

 

 

  1. The Pandemic and St. Mary Parish

 

In response to the pandemic and the first great wave of coronavirus cases in Massachusetts, St. Mary Parish, like all parishes throughout the Archdiocese, followed the stay at home order of the Governor of Massachusetts and stopped having public Masses for a two-month period from Mid-March 2020 to Mid-May 2020. During this time, St. Mary Church remained a house of prayer keeping her front doors open for private prayer every day from dawn until dusk. We also began Eucharistic Adoration from 8:00am to 10:00am every morning with the priests available to hear confessions. In addition, we began to livestream on Facebook and YouTube our Sunday Mass. In response to many people who were hoping to receive the Eucharist but could not, Father Michael was able to bring the Eucharist in a monstrance to many homes where he blessed families and individuals on their front steps.

To take it one further step, our religious education teachers and the seminarians who were with us over the summer tried to call as many of our parishioner’s homes as possible to see how people were doing.

 

We wish we could have done more. Those on the parish staff that could work from home did so during this time.

 

Masses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were permitted to go public again in Mid-May.

 

Here is what has been continuing to happen up until this point:

 

Sunday Mass:                         We are back on a full Sunday Mass schedule with a 4:00pm on Saturday in English, 9:30am on Sunday in English, 12:00pm on Sunday in Spanish and a 7:30pm on Sunday in Spanish. For those who feel the need to stay home, we livestream on Facebook and Youtube the Sunday Masses at 9:30am and 12:00pm.

                                                We follow Archdiocesan protocols at Masses where congregants are asked to wear Masks, Social Distance, sanitize hands and submit to a temperature check through the scan of foreheads. Seating was set up such that only every third pew is in use to create social distancing. Signs were put in place to facilitate traffic especially when receiving communion. After each Sunday mass, we sanitize the church pews. A great team of “Ushers” assists us in adhering to the protocols at the 9:30am and 12:00pm Masses.

 

Daily Mass:                             We have daily Mass at 8:00am from Monday to Saturday in English (Please note the Saturday 8:00am is sometimes a Communion Service). We have Mass at 7:30pm on Friday in Spanish. The weekday Masses follow protocols of wearing a mask, sanitizing hands and social distancing. Congregants are invited to wipe down the pew they sat in with “sanitizer wipes” before leaving. 

 

Eucharistic Adoration:           We have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Lower Chapel Monday – Friday from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. We began the pandemic having adoration from 8:00am to 10:00am on weekdays but moved it to the afternoon hours in June. We continued this practice until the priests were quarantined in December. We began again weekday adoration on January 4, 2021. All Covid protocols followed at daily Mass are followed during Adoration.

 

Food Pantry:                           In June, we began a food pantry that distributes food to needy people from 8:30am to 11:00am on Saturday mornings. We are grateful for the volunteers and staff who have given their time to make this ministry fruitful. We are also thankful to the many people who have made donations to the pantry.

 

Covid-Priest Team:                 Fr. Michael Harrington and Fr. Joseph Keville, a priest in our rectory residence, have volunteered to be part of the Covid-priest backup team to give the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to those who need it at this time in hospitals. The Archdiocese has set up a procedure where Hospitals, when they have a patient who is sick with Covid, will call the priest “on call”. For our parish, it means we would receive “initiating sick calls” from Spaulding Rehab in Cambridge and Cambridge (CHA) Hospital. If the priest on hospital duty that day, due to his age or health, is unable to assist with a covid case, he will call a priest on the covid-backup team. In these cases, we would assist with covid calls from all Boston, Cambridge and Somerville hospitals and nursing homes. The Archdiocesan priests who serve in this capacity follow strong protocols which will keep them safe and others who work with them. The Covid Team of 22 priests who served from April to June anointed over 1100 people in hospitals and nursing homes and not one of them contracted covid. We intend to maintain safety protocols while meeting the needs of people in the hour of their greatest need.

                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Religious Education

 

We are blessed to have some wonderful people who step forward each year to serve as catechists in our Religious Education program. Their service is important to our parish in general but to our youth and families especially. The witness of our catechists to the importance of the faith in their lives is essential to helping the young people come to a better understanding of the importance of going deeper into the relationship Jesus desires to have with each one of us. Under the capable leadership of Maria Bermudez our religious education program is excellent.

Formal, in-person religious education classes, however, came to an abrupt end with the stay- at-home order in the spring, though some of our teachers were able to touch base with the students at certain times. As we moved deeper into Lent and toward Easter we were able to make some at-home activities and resources available to everyone in the parish through a program platform called “FORMED” (www.formed.org). This program is still available to all our parishioners.

 

“FORMED”, a sort of “Catholic version of Netflix” can be streamed to your TV or mobile device and contains some of the best Catholic content there is – video series, movies, books and study programs – all to help you grow in your faith, find deeper peace with God, and share what you believe with others.

 

FORMED enables personal study, parish-based small groups, family discussion, and outreach to loved ones who no longer practice their Faith. It works in youth ministry, children’s catechesis, sacramental preparation, marriage enrichment, adult faith formation, RCIA and more.

 

You can see what’s on FORMED by checking out the trailer below.

 

https://vimeo.com/139714262

 

HOW DO I CONNECT TO FORMED?

 

  • To access our parish subscription to FORMED, go to FORMED.org
  • Click “Sign Up” and then Select "Sign Up as a Parishioner"
  • Find your parish by name (St. Mary Catholic Church Cambridge) or zip code (02139)
  • Enter your name and email. Then you are all set.

 

Our religious education program will move this month into a sort of “hybrid” model where the bulk of the learning is going on at the home.

 

  • Families with children in grades kindergarten – 5th  will be using a program called “Project Nazareth”. "Project Nazareth: Faith Begins at Home" is an initiative that will deliver weekly resources to families with children in pre-school through 5th grade. These resources will give parents suggestions for how to Pray, Listen, Act and Ponder with a given topic throughout the course of each week. Guided by Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, different series within Project Nazareth will explore the fundamental Gospel message, the Sunday Mass readings and other special topics such as the Year of the Eucharist.

This is not just another lesson to be completed by children at home, but a way to weave their faith formation into the fabric of family life.

 

  • Families with children in grades 6th - 8th grade will follow the online program called “Encounter” and “Theology of the Body for Middle School” at www.ascensionpress.com.

 

  • Families with children in the Confirmation program will be guided in the following programs: “Chosen” by Ascension Press and the “Alpha Youth Series”.

 

Families will be shown how their children can access the Lessons plans and homework from their respective programs.

 

Catechists will send weekly emails to parents with lessons and activities.

 

Families will be provided with all print and online materials and updates throughout the year.

 

In addition to the above, there will be a few “in person” learning opportunities such as teaching Masses.

 

Perhaps one blessing to come out of our current circumstances is that the need to have part of our program done at home this year serves to highlight the reality that the primary place for learning about our faith is intended to be in the home. At the very beginning of the rite of Baptism, before anything else happens, the priest or deacon addresses the parents and godparents and asks them about their resolve to pass on the faith of the Church to the child being baptized. The rite continues only after they have acknowledged that. In fact, a religious education program is meant to augment and assist the learning of the faith that happens at home and to prepare the young people more specifically for the sacraments they will be receiving, especially Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation.

 

 

 

  1. Social Media/ Communications

 

St. Mary Parish, is striving in these days to enhance our social communications and online presence.

 

New Website:             I am happy to announce that we have a new parish website. It can be found at www.stmarycambridge.org

                                    The new website will have up to date information.

                                    The website is currently in English but we hope it will be translated into Spanish as well during the month of January, 2021. We hope the website will remain up to date, but please keep in mind that during the pandemic we have been working at times with “skeleton” staff and volunteers.

 

        • In the “Who We Are” section of our website, we feature information about the priests and staff, history of the parish, Liturgical Art in the Church, as well as share photo galleries of highlighted events and offer ways for individuals and families to register and contact staff.
        • In the “Religious Education” section of the website, we feature much of the information I shared above and more about how we are trying to pass on the faith to our children. In this section, families can register “online” their children for religious education.
        • In the “Sacraments” section of the website, people can learn a great deal about the seven sacraments. Parents can also fill out and submit a baptismal request form and newly engaged couples can fill out and submit a wedding request form.
        • In the “Parish Life” section of the website, people can learn about our offerings for youth ministry, family ministry, prayer groups, book club and concerts.
        • In the “Pastoral Care” section of the website, we have information about hospital and home visits to bring people communion or anointing of the sick. We hope this section will be a resource for parishioners to offer prayer intentions for particular needs.
        • In the “Mass Times” section of the website, you not only see our Mass schedule but can find the daily “Mass Readings” in English and in Spanish.
        • We have a section of the website which looks at the three traditional divisions of the Church: the Church in Glory, the Church on Pilgrimage and the Church in Expectation. The Church in Glory is the Saints. We feature in this section “testimonies of the Saints”. The Church on Pilgrimage is us. We hope soon to feature in this section “testimonies of our parishioners.” The Church in Expectation is those who have died and are in purgatory. We are called to pray for the dead therefore in this section, we feature obituaries of those who have been buried from St. Mary Parish.
        • We have a section on the website called “News and Events”. This section will be more populated when we return to normal activity in the parish.
        • We have a section on the website known as “Callouts”. In this section we have “Callouts” that when clicked upon will take you to things like…Cardinal Sean’s online blog, Catholic TV, the Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Boston and more.
        • There is a lot of information on our website and the best news is that it offers us room to grow.

 

Email Newsletter                    We occasionally send out information through an email newsletter service called Flocknote. Our hope in 2021 is to send this newsletter out each Thursday.

                                                If you do not receive this email, first check your junkmail. You may be getting it but for reasons we cannot help it goes to your junkmail. Then take the necessary steps in your email service to make sure future emails go smoothly to your inbox.

                                                If you are not getting the emails at all, you can start receiving them by emailing us at [email protected] or call the parish office at 617-547-0120. Just ask to be added to the email list.

 

 

Parish Bulletin                        We halted publishing a weekly bulletin when the pandemic began. We plan to reinstate the parish bulletin in January 2021 with a new look.

 

Facebook Page                       We livestream Sunday Masses and special events on our facebook page. The page is www.facebook.com/saintmarycambridge

 

 

YouTube Page                        We livestream the Sunday Masses and special events to our YouTube page. Please go on Youtube and search for Saint Mary Cambridge. When you find our page, please subscribe. If we can get 100 subscribers, we then can request a unique URL for our YouTube page. We currently have 55 subscribers.

 

Zoom Meetings                      During the pandemic, we opened a parish Zoom account. We have used this account extensively over the past many months. We use it for parish council meetings, staff meetings, teacher meetings, etc.

                                                I hope soon we will have meetings in person but for now this account is serving us well.

 

 

 

  1. Physical Plant

 

We are the caretakers of a property that has been passed down to us from previous generations. The physical plant consists of a church with an upstairs and a downstairs, a church property made up mostly of a parking lot, a rectory (also used as a parish office and meeting space) with a yard and parking lot, and two schools. The parish leases the schools to Prospect Hill Academy. The lease agreement specifies that the parish has use of the school on each Sunday and on Saturdays if Prospect Hill is not using it and we give them prior notice. The church parking lot is also part of the lease agreement. Prospect Hill has use of the entire parking lot except for eight spaces during workday hours Monday thru Friday. The parish has use of the parking lot on weekday evenings and on Saturdays and Sundays except for eight spaces for the school should they need them.

Prospect Hill Academy is responsible for the day to day upkeep of the school, but the parish is responsible for major capital repairs such as the roof, outside of the building and boiler.

Below is a review of major expenses to the physical plant over the past few years.

It is important to not postpone maintenance to our physical plant and property if we remain able to do so. Minor problems to the facility can become major problems if they are postponed. A well-kept physical plant is a blessing for today and a promise for tomorrow.

 

 

 

Church                                  The Church is in good shape for an old building. But it is old and always needs some work. We have not done too much work in the church over the last few years. Below are some projects we have completed:

 

 

 

Church Roof

                                               

July 2017                     Fixing various leaks                                         $8,226

October 2019              Flat roof over handicapped entrance             $16,076

 

Church Doors

 

July 2018                     Sand and Stain all 7 Outside Oak Doors         $9,582

August 2020                Sand and Stain 3 Outside Oak Doors              $7,500

 

Organ Repair

 

July 2020                     Replacing many parts                                     $3,240

 

 

 

 

New Baptistry

 

April 2020                   Purchase of Gothic Style 19th century            $8,780

                                    Altar Rails from Belgium

 

July 2020                     Installation of Gothic Railings, some design   $5,833

                                    Custom fabrication of custom mouldings

                                    to match existing. Installation and

                                    fabrication of posts and post wraps using

                                    oak wood pews from church. Staining of

                                    Wood rail and trim.

 

November 2020          Move baptismal Fount to baptistry                $4,950

                                    Plumbing for Baptismal Fount.

                                    Patch Walls, cut and core

 

Miscellaneous

 

March 2018                Heat Repair                                                     $3,843

January 2018              Major Toilet Repair                                         $2,500

 

 

 

Outside of normal maintenance, there are many projects that I would like to consider in the coming days, months and years. For example:

 

  • Making the church truly handicapped accessible. Our current lift breaks down all the time and it is impossible to operate on your own. We need a more reliable option for all persons with disabilities, young and old.
  • The Church needs to make our church more prayerful by returning its sanctuaries and altars to more prayerful spaces. The original statues of the church are no longer with us. They disappeared years ago and there is no record of where they went. I would be very much in favor of placing a statue of Joseph, one of Mary, and one of the Holy Family into the upper church. I think we can also strategically place images of a Saint or two that has meant a lot to the community such as Saint Oscar Romero. I would not overly crowd the church with devotions, but we have the natural sanctuary space for them.
  • Modern times should invite us to consider making the church “air conditioned.” We would attract more people and events in a church that is air conditioned.
  • The church needs significant masonry restoration and Waterproofing repairs to the entire outside. This is not glamorous, but it is needed. This is a major cost and possibly needs to be done in stages. We have many bricks and mortar that are crumbling on the outside. The church is 100% safe but to maintain that safety for years to come work will need to be done.
  • We need to consider a major renovation of the lower chapel and hall with more bathrooms and a better kitchen. In the 1970’s they renovated the lower church and put the chapel on the opposite side of where is was originally. As a result, sacred and consecrated altars are in the hall and often have trash barrels put in front of them. All these factors could make us consider a renovation.

 

All of these projects won’t be done at once necessarily. But, I do think they will make our church more welcoming.

 

 

Rectory/ Office Center/ Yard

 

Please note that the rectory is more than a living space for priests. It is also used as an office center and parish meeting space. Our parish office, pastor’s office, youth office, business office, copy and mail room, small staff meeting room, dining room (used for bigger parish leadership meetings), maintenance workroom, parish storage, and another meeting space for private, more individual, meetings with priests are all within the rectory building. The building which was initially built in 1922 as a rectory for priests could just as easily now be called our parish office center. The first floor is almost entirely used as the parish office. It includes a kitchen which the parish staff has access to when they are here. Also, there are two staff and visitor bathrooms.

The basement is used for storage of office materials, workspace and storage for our facilities and maintenance manager, for general parish storage and a laundry room.

The second and third floors are private space for the deacons and priests who live here. We currently have 4 priests and 3 deacons living in the house. Each has his own room. There is a small chapel in the house for private prayer (About 2-3 people at any given time) and a common room (can fit 7-8 people for gatherings). The parish receives three rent checks each month from the Archdiocese to help care for the priests who are not assigned to St. Mary Parish. The Deacons do not pay rent but help the parish in various ways.

 

The Rectory/ Office Center is in good shape for an old building. But it is old and always needs some work. We have done some work in the building over the last few years. Below are some projects we have completed:

 

Rectory/ Office Center Roof

 

March 2018                Repair and restore top flat roof                     $19,576

 

Parish/ Office Center Heater and Pipes

 

August 2017                Replaced 80 gallon water heater                   $7,859

September 2017         Replaced all old/damaged pipes                    $11,800

in basement

 

 

            Remodel Bathrooms  

 

June 2018                   Two bathrooms remodeled and                     $43,150

                                    old/ damaged pipes behind walls

replaced. It necessitated knocking

down some walls and then restoring them

after new pipes installed.

 

Rectory/ Office Center Masonry Restoration and Water leaking Repairs

 

September 2017         Repointing the Rectory. Restoration to         $130,500

                                    Masonry and Water leaking repairs were      (we received $50,000

                                    Done.                                                              From the Cambridge

                                                                                                            Historical Commission

                                                                                                            For this project. So

                                                                                                            Total cost to us was

                                                                                                            $80,500)

 

 

Rectory/ Office Center/ Parish Landscaping

 

September 2018         Garden beautification                                     $10,904

 

 

Rectory/ Office Center Boiler Repair

 

November 2019          Installation of 90 feet of ¾ black pro              $4,300

                                    press pipe at basement

February 2020            Pipe and Fittings                                             $3,490

                                    Replace Radiator

                                    Return steam pipe to radiator on

                                    2nd floor

 

Rectory/ Office Phone System

 

August 2020                Installed a new office phone system              $7,442

                                    Old system was decades old, breaking

down and could no longer receive maintenance

 

 

 

 

 

Outside of normal maintenance there are some projects that need to be considered.

  • The rectory/ office center parking lot needs to be repaved. This is where priests and staff park. We also have parish barbecues and occasional events that use the parking lot. It has not been repaved in many years. It is falling apart.
  • We need to remodel a few more bathrooms. The reason for it is that the bathroom fixings are decades old if not a century old. I’m sure they are the same old tubs that were put in in 1922. They do not make it easy for older priests to get into. We need modern day showers in the rooms. Also, the pipes behind those walls could burst anytime. If they do, they will cause significant damage. We want to do at least a room each year. The challenge we are having is that contractors are charging us twice or three times the amount they charged us two years ago. Two years ago, contractors were asking $40,000 for two rooms. This year, they are asking $40,000 - $60,000 for just one room. We have to compete with all the Cambridge construction projects.
  • We need to do more landscaping. The parish council asked me last year to do more to beautify the property. Parish landscaping needs a much better look. Again, it makes the parish more welcoming.
  • We have a significant amount of wood rotting at the entrance to the rectory/office center and a significant amount of wood rot on the porch to the rectory/ office center.

 

 

 

 

Schools/ Parking Lot

 

The schools are also old buildings. The oldest was built in 1892 and the second one in the early 20th century. They are in good shape overall but always in need of care. Below are some projects over the past few years.

 

            School Roof

 

            January 2020              School roof repairs                                         $2,900

 

            Boiler and Heating

 

            January 2020              Long list of various repairs                             $20,100

 

 

 

 

Parking Lot

 

April 2020                   Fabricate and install 2 window grates            $8,298

                                    And bumper posts painted yellow with

                                    Guard rail welded to posts - school

 

 

  1. Parish Financial Status

 

Financially, I am happy to report that St. Mary’s is very sound. The primary source of our operating income is from our school lease. Our parish is also supported through the Offertory, Dividend Income, Rental donations and various miscellaneous entities. Although our weekly offertory is not the main source of our current parish income, it is extremely important. The year 2020 has brought increased challenges. We saw a decrease in offertory funds during the stay at home order and then because of the decreased numbers of people attending church over the past many months. I am grateful that many of our parishioners either mailed in their donations, dropped them off at the rectory, or began or continued the use of on-line giving. Some people also gave some extra gifts to the parish at that time. I am grateful to the people of the parish for their continued support.

We are happy with the amount of money we have in the parish’s accounts at various banks and in the Archdiocese which you can see from our accompanying page. While we have sufficient funds in our savings accounts, we should be cautious about not overlooking the need to try and increase income in all areas. We are pleased that our school lease has been extended until at least 2025 with a strong belief that it will be extended well beyond that. However, please note that the normal source of a church’s operating income is the weekly offertory and other parish wide appeals. Our parish, if left to its offertory, would have to operate at a less than sustainable rate. My strategy has been over the last few years to make sure St. Mary’s parish is in mission mode. If we can do more focused outreach to youth, families and individuals in our community by using creative methods with inspired volunteers, we can remain a beacon of hope for many years to come.

 

Below were our finances from July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020

 

Income

 

PARISH REVENUE

ACTUALS

BUDGET

Sunday Offertory

$124,244.47

$95,196.00

Grand Annual

$0

$0

Shrines, Candles, Flowers

$3,185.80

$2,000.00

Sacramental Offerings

$20,234.00

$13,000.00

Catholic Appeal Rebate

$1,154.22

$0

Gifts & Bequests*

$225.00

$1,000.00

Religious Education Income

$465.00

$0

Donations - Other

$9,567.00

$0

Other Income

$10,646.22

$0

Lease Income

$922,119.00

$960,000.00

Rental Donations

$32,390.00

$30,000.00

Market Gain (loss) on investment

$(3,108.41)

$0

Interest/Dividend Income

$58,407.16

$58,000.00

TOTAL PARISH INCOME

$1,179,529.46

$1,159,196.00

 

Expenses

 

 

PARISH EXPENSES

ACTUALS

BUDGET

Employee Compensation & Related

$383,771.42

$387,600.00

Clergy Stipend & Related

$112,622.99

$116,600.00

Religious Stipend

$400.00

$0

Office & Related

$50,210.41

$60,250.00

Weekly Envelopes

$2,082.48

$2,100.00

Household

$37,252.89

$38,500.00

Utilities & Maintenance

$156,577.88

$151,600.00

Property Insurance & Liability

$61,600.00

$74,500.00

Pastoral/Liturgical

$78,050.63

$86,850.00

Other Expenses

$17,540.06

$4,500.00

Capital Expenditures

$16,570.06

$62,000.00

Central Monthly Tithe

$14,480.88

$14,500.00

Parish School Tx

$36,190.56

$38,600.00

Net Rental Inc- Central Ministry

$102,411.72

$109,000.00

TOTAL PARISH EXPENSES

$1,069,761.98

$1,146,600.00

 

 

NET INCOME (Profit/loss)

$109,767.48

$12,596.00

 

Cash Balances as of June 30, 2020

 

Petty Cash

$275.38

 

E. Cambridge Savings

$541,786.23

 

 

Checking Account

$540,465.53

 

Savings Account

$1,102.30

 

Account Asamblea

$218.40

E. Boston Savings

$1,675,931

 

 

Business Checking

$139,165.67

 

Money Market

$62,849.67

 

Business CD

$555,182.71

 

Business CD

$545,667.32

 

Business CD

$373,065.50

Archdiocese Accounts

$1,439,219.98

 

 

Unrestricted Accts

$17,598.08

 

Restricted Accounts

$1,703.14

 

CD Account

$705,084.52

 

12 Month CD

$565,525.99

 

Common Investment

$149,308.25

 

 

 

Outstanding operating debt

$93,200.00

Payroll Protection Plan

 

 

 

Accounts Payable

$15,003.61

 

 

Notes:

 

Regarding the Payroll Protection Program, we will submit a forgiveness application form and the loan could be forgiven.

Without the Lease Income of $922K, we would run a deficit of about 812K

 

Total Cash Balances

$3,657,212.46

 

 

 

 

  1. Participation in Mass

 

Our weekend liturgies would be impossible without the efforts of so many lay people within our parish. In normal times, we are always looking for new volunteers to assist us with our Masses each weekend. There are many ways to get involved including hospitality, lectors, eucharistic ministers, altar servers, the choir, offertory collectors, etc.

However, these are not ordinary times. During the pandemic, we had to change the way we do things. We had to rethink the way music and hospitality is done. Unfortunately, we were asked to discontinue, for the time being, the roles of our Eucharistic ministers, altar servers, and hospitality team. I am grateful to those who “stepped up to the plate” to help us make changes in music ministry and to begin new ministries as ushers and media coordinators. Our ushers help us to maintain “Corona” safety protocols and our media coordinators help broadcast the Mass to those who need to stay home.

 

  1. Youth Ministry

 

St. Mary’s seeks to offer opportunities for young people in Middle School and High School to connect and belong to a strong community of faith. We hope to develop them into youth disciples for Christ. Recognizing the importance of our youth, in 2017, we hired a full-time youth minister. Our youth minister helped us develop programs of outreach and faith development. Each year, we organized one day long retreat for our Confirmation students and a weekend retreat for our youth ministry. The youth also became more involved in the area of service to our community especially when we had feast days or special events like the concert. Twenty of our youth were planning to go on a mission trip to the Island of St. Croix in June of 2020. But, that trip had to be cancelled due to covid. We are in the process of reorganizing our youth outreach which is complicated due to covid.

 

  1. Social Justice/ Outreach Ministry

 

At the end of each year, our parish organizes a Giving Project that provides much needed gifts to children of local families in need during the Christmas Season. At the end of 2019, we conducted a project called “Box of Joy”. We asked parishioners to fill up a “shoe box” with items that could be given to children of various ages. The generosity of our people enabled us to distribute nearly 200 “Boxes of Joy”. At the end of 2020, again the covid-19 virus made us look at the charity in a different way. We put together a “backpack of joy” for each child. Instead of having the parishioners fill their own box, this year we asked them to simply make a small donation that would allow us to place winter hats, gloves, socks and scarves in each backpack. All the items were purchased by the parish at wholesale prices. With some extra money offered, in many cases we were able to add small toys. This year we distributed about 80 “backpacks of joy”.

We also began a food pantry. We are blessed to have two partners in this food pantry, Food for Free in Cambridge and Catholic Charities in Somerville. We receive bags of food from these organizations. We also depend on the generosity of our parishioners. Currently, we distribute food every Saturday morning from 8:30am to 11:00am or until we run out. We are very blessed to have a core group of volunteers who have been helping with this project.

 

  1. Family Ministry

 

Before the pandemic, Fr. Michael and a small team from the parish including Fr. Marcellino, our parochial vicar; Nazareth Velazquez, our youth coordinator and Estefania Reyes, a young adult volunteer would visit families in our parish to bless their home, pray the rosary and bless their family. These pastoral visits were very rewarding. We had visited over twenty homes on Friday nights starting with families who had children in our youth group. We were planning on visiting many households last spring before the pandemic put everything to a halt. We hope to continue this ministry when things open up.

Fr. Michael had been active with family ministry before coming to St. Mary’s in 2017. When he arrived, he brought that ministry with him. He has formed a Holy Family group in the parish particularly reaching out to families with school age children. Before the pandemic, the group, which is bilingual, would meet twice a month on Saturday nights in the parish hall. During the pandemic, the group started an online Bible Study which meets twice a month.

 

  1. Prayer Groups and Prayer Days

 

Prayer groups have been a major part of our community for many years especially in our Latino community. We have a very large prayer group called the Asemblea, which prior to the pandemic was meeting every Sunday evening. Like so many other things, the prayer group has not been able to meet in person during these days. However, the leaders continue to connect frequently with their membership and maintain an online presence.

The Legion of Mary group and the Divine Mercy group have not been able to meet much during the pandemic. When the weather was nicer in the summer and fall, the Legion of Mary would at times pray the rosary before Our Lady of Lourdes in the Rectory Yard. Both groups continue to be in touch with their membership.

We implemented parish prayer days in October featuring Eucharistic Adoration and talks in English and Spanish. We have been using these days to pray for reparation for our sins, Unity in our church and country and finally for healing and strength for the Lord to see us through these dark days.

 

 

  1. Conclusion

 

Over this past year, we have faced countless challenges as a country and as a church. But we are prevailing. I have great hope that we can do some great things in the new year. We are going to need every one who can to lend a hand in reaching out to our members during the days left to us in this pandemic and we will need everyone united and working together to restore things when we return.

Together in Christ, we can make a difference!

May God bless you all!