Catholic Free Press

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  • Feb
  • 20

Charity can begin at home

Posted By February 20, 2015 | 11:47 am | Featured Article #2, Lead Story #1

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

Putting our faith in action includes practicing the corporal works of mercy.
But there are no specific instructions as to where we’re supposed to do this.
For instance, we know that we’re supposed to feed the hungry. So, should we send our money to a faraway mission? Or, do we reserve some of our donations for people closer to home?
Some may ask, can we fulfill our obligation to feed the hungry, visit the sick and clothe the naked by supporting our diocesan Partners in Charity appeal?
And, with hundreds of organizations throughout the world working with the poor, why do we choose to get behind this local effort?
Here is one reason: Young people in our diocese are given the means to learn more about their faith.
Another reason is: The diocesan vocations program couldn’t run if Partners in Charity didn’t exist.
And, both the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are addressed by the agencies, offices and programs supported by Partners in Charity.
“Without the support, we’d simply have no priests,” said Vocations Director Father James S. Mazzone.
Father Mazzone said his ministry is fully funded by Partners in Charity. The bulk of his expenses are for seminary studies, which cover room, board and tuition for the 21 men now studying for the priesthood in the Worcester Diocese.
Other expenses include health insurance and travel, as well as the operational expenses of running the vocations office located in Holy Name of Jesus House of Studies, the rectory of the former Holy Name of Jesus Parish on Illinois Street in Worcester. The expenses also include his salary.Tom WillisWEB
Father Mazzone said he is very careful about how the money he receives is spent.
“Some vocations directors go to Rome every year to visit their seminarians,” he noted. “I don’t go because it’s too expensive.”
“Every penny that I spend, I do it very frugally,” he added. “I’m very conscious that all of this funding comes from the pockets of the faithful in our diocese.”
Partners in Charity gifts also go toward supporting  programs designed to reach out to men in the diocese who may be thinking about becoming a priest.
For instance, there’s a tradition of hosting monthly spaghetti suppers at the House of Studies for those discerning a call to the priesthood. There are also weekend vocation retreats for men who believe they may have a vocation.
Debbie Slavinskas, mother of Father Jonathan Slavinskas, associate pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Charlton, believes these programs are enormously helpful. She said her son knew he wanted to be a priest from a young age. The call strengthened when he was in high school. The year he was a senior, she noted, was also at the height of the sexual abuse scandal. So the fact that he was taking this path sometimes elicited a negative reaction.
“They don’t always receive positive comments about wanting to become a priest,” Mrs. Slavinskas noted, adding that her son was able to find a supportive environment at the monthly suppers and periodic retreats.
“It was nice to see the support then,” she said, referring to these events. “The support they’ve received through those programs is definitely beneficial for them.”
“It’s not an easy road by any means,” she said, explaining that most of the seminarians must study for six years after graduating from college. “It’s a long road for them, when you think of the schooling they have to go through.”
Mrs. Slavinskas said she greatly appreciates the fact that seminary tuition is covered by the vocations program. She said it would have been difficult otherwise, as she and her husband, at one time, had four children in college at the same time.
Partners in Charity supports 27 other organizations throughout the diocese, in addition to the Office for Vocations. Several of the recipients focus on education. The Catholic Schools Department oversees the diocesan elementary schools and the Central Catholic schools. Another ministry, the Office of Religious Education, assists parishes in developing strong religious education programs.
Partners in Charity advisory committee member Patricia Halpin believes it is essential to fund the schools, as well as the parish CCD programs.
“I’m passionate about supporting good religious education and good Catholic education,” she stated, noting that this is how the faith is passed from one generation to the next.
“You have to be taught about Jesus, and his teachings, and the Church’s role in the mission of Jesus,” she said. “Without education people do not know about Jesus.”
Mrs. Halpin is aware that some families cannot easily afford to send their children to a Catholic school. However, she pointed out, that financial aid is available.
“That’s why we need to have increased money for tuition assistance,” she added, one of the things Partners in Charity funds.
“I believe that people should pay their fair share, as determined by an outside source. Catholic education always represents a sacrifice. At the same time, it shouldn’t impoverish (families.)”
Donating to Partners in Charity is voluntary. Most of us get a letter from our pastor, just prior to Lent, asking us to consider supporting the appeal.
Mrs. Halpin said she realizes that many families are struggling, and they cannot give as much as they would like to Partners in Charity.
“You give what you can,” she stated. “Do what you can at the level you can do it.”
If money is not available, she suggested helping in some sort of volunteer capacity. “Or, pray for the success of the ministries,” she said.