BRIDGEPORT—The Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier was December 3, and ordinarily, it might be a day to celebrate one of the most important missionaries in the history of the Catholic Church.
And it certainly was that. But for a select group of people, it was also a day to learn, listen and take action.
On this saint’s feast day, members of the St. Francis Xavier Fund for Missionary Parishes committee took a whirlwind tour of three parishes benefitting from the fund. Throughout the day, committee members were able to see the work the fund had already accomplished, and what work still remained.
The committee’s first stop was St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Bridgeport. Father Rolando Torres, the parish’s pastor, gave committee members a tour of the parish’s facilities, including the adoration chapel, the religious education spaces, the rectory and the sanctuary itself.
According to Father Torres, the St. Francis Xavier Fund was instrumental in upgrading the parish office’s technology. This was done through a technology and communications grant provided by the fund.
Father Torres mentioned the main challenge the parish was facing at that moment was space. Many children had signed up to take religious education classes, but some had to be turned away simply because the parish didn’t have the space to accommodate them all.
An “easy” fix might be to hold the classes on multiple days throughout the week. But Father Torres noted the community St. Mary’s serves is largely one of immigrants. According to him, parishioners are usually working Monday through Saturday. As a result, Masses, religious education and nearly everything else the parish offers needed to be accomplished on one day: Sunday.
Following the tour of St. Mary’s, committee members attended Mass at St. Augustine Cathedral. The cathedral and its sister parish, St. Patrick Church, are two other communities that benefit from the St. Francis Xavier Fund. Mass was concelebrated by Father Juan Gabriel Acosta, pastor of The Cathedral Parish, and Father Aberlardo Vasquez, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish.
After Mass, many of the St. Francis Xavier Fund committee members gathered at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, where Father Vasquez hosted lunch for them and several clergy members, including Father Acosta, Fr. Alexis Moronta of St. George Parish, and Father Ivanildo Dos Santos and Deacon David Rivera, both of St. Charles.
The lunch was an opportunity for those brought together by the fund to discuss their successes, their challenges and the work that still needed to be done.
Brian Young, one of the co-founders of the St. Francis Xavier Fund, reaffirmed his commitment to the fund’s mission. To him, the fund’s mission was twofold, and required collaboration. It was the priests’ obligation to bring people into the pews, and it was the committee’s obligation to make sure the pews—and other parish needs—were there when the parish community needed it.
But one other key element to the St. Francis Xavier Fund is collaboration and connection among brothers and sisters in Christ. According to many of the fund’s committee members, it does no good to just write a check and send it to a parish in need. Donors need to understand what challenges parishes face, and as a result, they can understand where their efforts are needed most.
This was echoed by Father Moronta, another missionary parish pastor. He said he was “sick” of emails, and thought connection and progress were best fostered by having conversations and understanding the person on the other side.
But if the lunch between those connected by the St. Francis Xavier Fund was any indication, collaboration and kinship is something they have in abundance. And it was clear they were committed to making their connection to each other not only continue, but flourish, in the years to come.
(For more information visit: www.foundationsinfaith.org)
By Rose Brennan