By Kenneth J. Souza
MASHPEE, Mass. — While people continue to adapt to the “new normal” in response to COVID-19, there are people throughout the diocese who find themselves in the same predicament they were in before the pandemic — struggling just to feed their families. And the Coronavirus has only exacerbated the problem.
Thankfully, dedicated members of Christ the King Parish in Mashpee have remained focused on providing for those in need through their Matthew 25 Fund, which was established two years ago to serve the poor in the local community.
According to pastor Father Edward J. Healey, when the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul chapter was advised by the national office in 2018 to become an autonomous charitable entity to legally separate themselves from the parish, it created a dilemma in how to handle fundraising moving forward.
“It did not seem prudent to put all these funds under the control of an organization now no longer legally affiliated with the parish, which ultimately had to take direction from its national and district officers,” Father Healey told The Anchor. “Christ the King had long-established ministries to serve the local poor — in particular the weekly food pantry and the financial help given to those in need of housing, utilities, or transportation — and these had traditionally been funded and managed by the parish St. Vincent de Paul Conference.”
To ensure that the money raised for these charitable efforts would remain in the parish and go directly to the local community, Father Healey said they established the Matthew 25 Fund.
“The title is a reference to the chapter in the Gospel of Matthew in which we are reminded that as disciples of Jesus, we are to recognize and serve Him in those who are in need,” Father Healey said. “The Matthew 25 Fund receives all monies raised by or donated to the parish for the care of the poor and distributes them under the guidance of a board of advisors, reimbursing the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul and the Knights of Columbus for any costs incurred by them.”
Father Healey said the Matthew 25 Fund has partnered with the parish’s two charitable arms — the St. Vincent de Paul Conference and the Knights of Columbus — which both “share with the parish a deep sense of the Christian duty to be of service to the poor” in the Mashpee area.
“Matthew 25 provides a way for the parish to be a good steward of the money entrusted to it for charitable works in the local community,” Father Healey said. “Although these two organizations are legally autonomous from the parish, their members are well-prepared and disposed to organize and staff various parish ministries for the poor and remain hard at work in efforts such as the thrift shop, which helps raise money for charity, and at the weekly food pantry.”
When COVID-19 forced the shutdown of churches and important ancillary ministries, Father Healey said one parishioner’s generous donation inspired others to pitch in.
Michael Vining, a seasonal parishioner from Stoneham, contributed $10,000 to the Matthew 25 Fund to “keep feeding people who may be facing difficult times due to loss of income from their jobs which they could no longer work,” Father Healey said.
“He also challenged others to donate with the hopes that at least $100,000 could be raised to support these good works being done by the parish to serve those in need,” he said.
Within a month, Vining’s challenge prompted another $67,602 in donations to the Matthew 25 Fund. At press time, $1,805 in additional donations was reported in the latest bulletin. This outpouring of generosity has enabled the parish to continue operating its food pantry every Wednesday during the pandemic.
According to Dick Reilly, coordinator of the Christ the King Parish Food Pantry, they have continued to receive food from the Greater Boston Food Bank every Tuesday that is picked up at the Falmouth Service Center.
“The Greater Boston Food Bank drop ships it there for us, saving a trip to Boston,” Reilly told The Anchor. “We have increased to our maximum weight limit of 5,500 pounds every week and are going through almost all of that delivery every Wednesday — especially the meats and dairy, because we try to give as much variety as possible to give our clients enough food for five days of meals for each household member.”
During the month of April, the Christ the King Food Pantry provided about 22,981 pounds of food, worth more than $59,000. At a recent distribution, it was estimated that 95 families and more than 224 family members benefited from the food pantry.
Of course, given current social distancing requirements, adjustments had to be made to the weekly food pantry distribution.
“Our clients pick out the food items they want from a prepared list of choices: from soup, cereal, tomato products, pasta, rice, canned veggies, fruit, beans, and household items,” Reilly said. “We have changed completely to a drive-up system where we load two bags with canned and packaged foods, then add paper products, sundries, fresh vegetables, meats and dairy. There’s no choice for the clients, but we have to maintain as little contact as possible. It’s a big change, but it is really the only way to do it.”
Reilly praised the dedication of parish volunteers, who have continued to work despite the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Our volunteers continue to be amazing,” he said. “They are dauntless in trying to help those who need such a service. More than 194 volunteer hours were logged recently. This includes the unloading of the Greater Boston Food Bank delivery truck on Tuesday, the Wednesday crew — packers, greeters, loaders, traffic controllers and ‘runners’ — and administrative tasks done during the week.”
Father Healey said he hopes they can reach the $100,000 goal that Vining has set, since reliable sources of funds for the food pantry in the past have been curtailed due to the Coronavirus.
“Proceeds from the annual CTK Classic Golf Tournament held at Willowbend Country Club each September and a portion of the profits from the Christ the King Thrift Shop would support the food pantry,” Father Healey said. “But as during the pandemic the thrift shop has been closed and the possibility of a golf tournament is uncertain, it is hoped that the remaining $22,000-plus to be raised from Michael Vining’s challenge will be realized so as to ensure that the parish can continue to help meet the needs of those who are struggling to get by under these present circumstances.”
Donations to the Christ the King Parish Matthew 25 Fund can be made online at https://christthekingparishmashpee.aware3.net/give/, or mailed to:
Christ the King Parish, 5 Jobs Fishing Road, P.O. Box 1800, Mashpee Mass. 02649.