Not-your-ordinary-newspaper-carriers share good news of The CFP
By Tanya Connor
How do you get your Catholic Free Press?
Perhaps it comes in the mail, because you subscribed or someone subscribed for you. Maybe it was a gift from your pastor, to thank you for how you serve the parish.
Perhaps you pick up a copy where you live or worship. But do you know how those copies get there? Take a look behind the scenes, at some dedicated bearers of God’s word.
• It’s Friday morning. Three bundles of 125 copies of the week’s edition have been delivered to The Catholic Free Press office in Worcester.
Soon Louis Tripodi, an 84-year-old from St. Stephen Parish in Worcester, arrives for his 65 copies. He takes them to St. Vincent Hospital, CareOne at Millbury and sometimes Eisenberg Assisted Living.
He says he started going to visit the hospital, nursing homes and shut-ins years ago, taking copies of the newspaper from St. Stephen’s, along with rosaries, and bulletins from Grafton Hill parishes. He did it as his mission for the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Seeing the hospital didn’t have enough newspapers, more than a year ago he contacted The Catholic Free Press, which offered him additional copies.
At the hospital he leaves a couple copies with grateful information desk personnel and more copies with the pastoral care department to put out at Our Lady of Providence Chapel.
The pastoral care department gives him names of patients, he says, and he takes them religious material and the newspaper, which is very popular with them.
On Saturdays he takes the Eucharist and remaining newspapers to patients at CareOne at Millbury, described as a sub-acute rehabilitation facility.
Delivering paper for 20 years
Also busy on Fridays are Leroy Manning, 79, and his wife, Joan, 77, of St. John, Guardian of Our Lady Parish in Clinton. At the rectory they pick up the parish’s 50-some copies of The Catholic Free Press. One is for them, a few are for the rectory, and the rest are put out at the church and at nearby housing facilities: Presentation House, Chestnut Street Senior Housing and Prescott Mill Apartments.
To help finance the paper, parishes are each assessed a certain number of subscriptions – their quota – which is a fraction of the number of parishioners. Each parish may keep for its own ministry $11 of each of the $30 subscriptions its parishioners pay, after they meet their quota.
If not enough people subscribe to meet the quota, the parish pays for the rest of the subscriptions, which are sometimes placed at church entrances for visitors, or used for parishioners who can’t afford to buy a subscription, or sent to parish volunteers as a gift of thanks for their service.
More than 20 years ago, Mrs. Manning says, she asked Father Thomas V. Walsh, then pastor, what their parish did with the extra copies no one took from the church. He said they were thrown away.
Hating to see them wasted, Mrs. Manning started taking them to senior and low-income housing facilities.
Some residents can’t get out to Mass, she says, and she thinks they deserve to get the paper. Some find out about television Masses through the paper. When papers don’t come in, they’re disappointed.
“A lot of the elderly, they don’t have computers,” she says. “A lot of the elderly want the printed paper.”
She says many people love The Catholic Free Press, wait for it, and share it others. And for those with no visitors, “it makes them feel like they’re more part of society.”
Some people initially asked if she could come to their apartments. She recalls how one woman read “every bit of that paper” and another enjoyed the paper – and her visit.
Those people have died, but she continues leaving papers in common areas, with a staff member or at the door of the housing facilities.
When her husband had surgery in 2000, Father Walsh gave him the sacrament of the sick, she says. That moved him to start attending Mass – and help her deliver papers.
“I love people,” Mrs. Manning says, when asked if she likes delivering papers. “I love to make them smile and make them happy. … I’ll never stop unless they stop the paper.” Or she’s too sick – and then she’ll have her husband or daughter do it.
At the housing facilities the Mannings pick up any leftover copies of the previous week’s paper and put them in a literature rack in the church basement, along with about 25 copies of the new edition. Even the old copies disappear, Mrs. Manning says; people who missed one want it.
She says she brings her copy to the church when she’s finished with it. When another woman saw her doing that, she started doing it too. That way more people could enjoy it. Sometimes Mrs. Manning gives their copy to a neighbor instead.
She says she hopes people in other parishes will deliver The Catholic Free Press too.
“In the city they could bring them to nursing homes, they could bring them every place,” she says. “It catches on” with residents, and she thinks facilities would readily grant permission for the papers to be distributed.
Father Miguel A. Pagán, now a chaplain at St. Vincent Hospital, initially suggested an article about the Mannings, whom he saw in action when he was associate pastor in Clinton.
“They have been faithful to this ministry through the years,” he said. “ I think they are great promoters of the CFP to others and would give a great example to whomever would read about them. … They are faithful to the Mass as well. All their ministry flows from the Mass.”