FALL RIVER — The 81st annual Catholic Appeal “Journeying Together in Faith and Love” has raised $3 million to date, with three weeks remaining in the annual campaign, which ends on Thursday, June 30. There is still time to make a gift or pledge in support of the many agencies and apostolates that carry out the work of the Church throughout the Diocese of Fall River, assisting tens of thousands each year. 

Cynthia Stead, Program Manager of the diocesan Guild for the Blind, is shown here with a special gift from the Vatican to the Perkins School for the Blind: a rare, full size replica of the head of Michelangelo’s ‘David,’ which will be a centerpiece in a planned sculpture garden honoring Helen Keller. 

Gifts to the Appeal directly support the Guild for the Blind, one of the many programs offered for persons with disabilities through Catholic Social Services. The Guild helps visually impaired individuals across the diocese keep, strengthen, and recover their faith through prayer, support, and fellowship. 

Blindness, and the challenges associated with vision impairment, are an increasingly significant issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control, without effective interventions, cases of age-related macular degeneration will increase by 100 percent and cases of vision impairment and blindness will increase by 150 percent by the year 2050. 

Those struggling with vision loss face a barrage of physical, psychological, and emotional hurdles every day. The Guild provides these individuals with spiritual fellowship and comfort they may not find elsewhere. 

“The most important thing about the Guild for the Blind is that it allows people to pray together. It helps people keep, and possibly recover, their faith,” said Cynthia Stead, Program Manager of the Guild for the Blind. “Small, everyday problems can become the biggest issues; together, they can begin to eat away at one’s spiritual health. In this way, the spiritual and the practical can be very inter-connected. The Guild is here to help with both.” 

The Guild offers telephone-based Rosaries on the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Following the Rosary, participants take part in discussions that help reduce feelings of isolation and offer suggestions for easing commonly-shared, everyday challenges. Topics run the gamut and often cover adaptive aids to help people continue their daily routines. “Technological advances can help, but only if you know about them,” said Stead.

Stead recalled a discussion group in which a woman with glaucoma mentioned she was having trouble brushing her teeth: it was difficult to make visual distinctions between a white sink, white toothpaste, and white toothbrush bristles. Creative problem-solving kicked into high gear, as members of the discussion group offered their own unique solutions. “She ended up receiving three different recommendations to help her accomplish this daily task,” Stead said. 

Anyone can participate in the telephone Rosary by dialing 1-774-462-3143 and entering PIN 8916. There is no limit to the number of callers and greater participation from across the diocese is always welcome. Future goals for the Guild include help with housing applications and providing more forms of everyday assistance. 

For more information about the Guild for the Blind and how to participate in the telephone Rosary, please contact Cynthia Stead by emailing cstead@cssdioc.org or calling 508-771-6771.

Contributions to the Catholic Appeal, which runs through June 30, may be made either through a one-time donation or through monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual pledges. Donations may be mailed to the Catholic Appeal office, 450 Highland Ave., Fall River, MA 02720, made online at www.GiveFRDiocese.org, or dropped off at any parish in the diocese. Please contact the Catholic Appeal office at 508-675-1311 with any questions.