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Award presented to St. Anthony of Padua Parish

WINDHAM, ME (July 31, 2023)—Bishop Robert Deeley presented the Matthew 25 Award to the Social Justice and Peace Ministry of St. Anthony of Padua Parish during a Mass celebrated Sunday, July 30, at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Windham.

The ministry serves the community in many ways throughout the year, including providing bagged lunches and other food to the homeless, serving a community meal once a month, holding a Thanksgiving food drive, and setting up a Christmas Giving Tree. 

“This Matthew 25 Award is given to you in recognition of the many ways in which you live the Gospel, bringing comfort, food, shelter, clothing, and care to those who lack housing or adequate sustenance,” said Bishop Deeley during the Mass. “The Gospel is lived in practical ways! Thank you all for your service and for extending yourselves for those whose lives are challenged. Your outreach brings the light and love of Christ to others.” 

The $5,000 award will especially benefit the parish’s ministry to the homeless, which began back in 2020 when a parishioner, Blanca Lytle, began making sandwiches for people she saw on street corners and outside the Oxford Street Shelter in Portland. 

Upon learning of her ministry, other members of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church community stepped forward to help, and soon, sandwiches were not only being taken into downtown Portland but also being delivered to local motels that were being used as temporary shelters for those in need of housing. 

“This whole ministry was something that was initiated by our parishioners. They took responsibility for it. They came up with the idea, so basically, I just needed to stand back and let them do their thing, and they have been doing that for the last four years,” said Father Louis Phillips, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish. “It’s an amazing group. Our kitchen, our parish hall, and our storage areas get used a lot, so it’s a very busy place, and it’s all for good work.” 

While the ministry has evolved over the past four years, bagged lunches with sandwiches are still being made and taken downtown and to a motel every Tuesday. The Social Justice and Peace Ministry of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church takes care of the first, third, and fifth Tuesdays of the month, while similar ministries at the parish’s other two churches, St. Anne in Gorham and St. Hyacinth in Westbrook, handle the other two weeks. 

In addition, on Mondays, parishioners pick up food available through Wayside Food Programs, which receives donations from local supermarkets, restaurants, and farmers. The parishioners distribute some of the food at the motel and take some of it back to the church for use in the bagged lunches.

 In the past, they said they were limited as to what they could take because they had little space to store perishable items. Thanks, however, to the Matthew 25 Award, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church now has two new freezers and refrigerators. 

“We were wasting food. We were seeing food that we couldn’t give out. If we didn’t have some place to store it, we couldn’t take it to pass it out,” said Christine Lynch, coordinator of the Social Justice and Peace Ministry at Our Lady of Perpetual Help. 

Lynch said ministries such as the food distribution to the homeless go to the heart of our faith.

 “Our faith is based on helping people whenever we see them. Blanca planted the seed, and then, it just grew because there isn’t anybody here who wouldn’t help anybody,” she said. 

“I like to help people, and I drive by Deering Oaks, and I see all those people out there. Something needs to be done, and we have the means to feed them, so I like to volunteer,” said Jennifer Grondin, a parishioner. 

The Matthew 25 Award is presented annually through Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry (PSM) program and is intended to provide one-time financial assistance to a parish so that it can better meet the immediate needs of the community.  

Deacon Frank Daggett, director of PSM, said one of the things that was impressive about the program at St. Anthony of Padua Parish is that it continued throughout the pandemic.

 “Many other ministries stopped, but of course, people still needed to eat. People were still homeless. We still have people arriving from out of state, from out of the country. They saw that need and adapted and continued to serve our Lord and his people,” Deacon Daggett said. “This ministry came from just doing the least little thing for a person in need, and I think that is the message Jesus is trying to tell us. Whenever we see some small need, and we do what we can to meet that need, we are doing his will.” 

“The living of the Gospel is not something institutional. It is personal. It is the work of each of us in the parish. It is neighbor helping neighbor. We are all called to participate in the mission of the Church to bring God’s love to our world,” said Bishop Deeley, who thanked Catholic Charities Maine for the emphasis it places on parish social ministry. 

In addition to the $5,000 given to St. Anthony of Padua Parish, St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay received a $3,000 grant for its food pantry and blessing box, which together serve an estimated 100 people each week, a number that continues to grow.

 “The pantry and blessing box are an expression of love from the parish community to the broader community,” said Daniel Allen, parish social ministry coordinator. 

The money will be used to better organize the parish’s community center, so it can provide a larger amount and greater variety of food.

 Concelebrating the Mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church with Bishop Deeley was Bishop George Nkuo from the Diocese of Kumbo in Cameroon. There are currently 10 priests from Cameroon serving in Maine, and Bishop Nkuo is here to meet with them and to meet with Bishop Deeley.

“It is a pleasure, dear bishop, to welcome you once again to Maine and to thank you for your care of our people with your generous sharing of your priests,” Bishop Deeley said. “Bishop Nkuo reminds us of what the Gospel teaches. We have a concern for one another. Jesus calls us to care for each other. He, in sharing priests with us, is caring for the spiritual good of our people.” 

A reception was held following the Mass, during which the parishioners presented the bishop with a cake and a gift of Girl Scout cookies in celebration of his 50th jubilee as a priest, which he marked on July 14.

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