40th Anniversary Celebration

Can you believe it? It has been forty years since that day in October 1979 when Kathy and I,  listening to Fr. Paul Tougas, director of the Permanent Diaconate Program, ask for volunteers to help in sponsoring a Vietnamese family, looked at each other and said, “Yes.”  We have been saying “yes” ever since.

Now it is time for us to pause and celebrate what the Lord has done for us. In looking back, it is unbelievable the gift of grace that has poured down upon our work. It is staggering. The number of people we had the honor to serve, the piles and piles of Christmas gifts distributed, the thousands and thousands of pounds of food given, the hundreds of candidates for citizenship tutored and most important of all, the thousands of volunteers who came to help others, and this is just for starters.

For this celebration, we are going to start with Mass and follow it with a sit-down dinner, followed by a sharing by some of the people whom we helped. Then we are going to pass out thank you gifts to many of the people who helped us get this far.

Our hope is that you will save the date, October 26, 2019, and make plans to come to Saint Joan of Arc Church,570 Lincoln Street, Worcester MA  01605 and celebrate with us starting at 11:00 A.M. and finishing up with coffee and until 4:00 P.M. Please R.S.V.P. by email – mailbox@urbanmissionaries.com or telephone 508-831-7455. This is a free-will offering event.

Saint Anthony’s Prayer

(Hi everyone! This is Jeffrey Hall. For a change of pace, I thought I would include an article from my point of view about my work as our Retail Operations Manager. I’m happy to share my first article on the web blog, and I hope you all enjoy!)

We were in the middle of a heatwave, furiously sorting through clothes when it happened. Our back store operations employee approached me at the end of her shift, and just by the look on her face, I could tell something was wrong. “I think I lost my phone,” she said. Immediately, I felt my stomach drop to the region somewhere around my ankles. She had been working in the back of the store all day, and if she misplaced it there, we were in trouble.

If you’ve ever visited 242 Canterbury street, you may have been impressed by the general organization and cleanliness in the front of the store. We receive basketfuls of donations every week, and quite a lot of furniture as well. It is no easy task to sort through it and prepare it all for people in need, but the store staff works together to get it done every day. 

It is no stretch, however, to say that the front store is neater and more organized than back store operations. Back store operations are where all the incoming donations go, and as a result, if we have an influx of clothing or other donations, it can become somewhat messy while we prepare it all for the front store. Well, on this particular fine, muggy Thursday we had a massive amount of clothing, and our brave back store employee had just finished going through a great deal of it with a little volunteer help.

We had probably gone through thirty or forty large trash bags of clothing this shift, and now our teammate’s phone could be in any one of them. Right away, I sent her to search her car, while I gave a general lookover of the back store. I was really only delaying the inevitable; I was hoping that the phone could be found with a minimum of mess. No such luck or this would have been a very short article.

She quickly came back from searching her car, not having found her phone, and I told her that I had also had no luck. Slowly, reluctantly, we looked over at the looming mountain of clothing bags we had earlier sorted through. Wordlessly, we started tearing them open. Bags of clothing came apart at the speed of sound, the volunteer who had helped us earlier joined in, and we started to make quick work of our impossible task.

We quickly developed a system where I would take the bags down off the carts, Our back store employee would open them and dump them out, and our volunteer would pat the clothing down searching for the phone. As quick as we worked, it was simply too much. It had taken us all day to neatly arrange that pile, and while breaking things down is easier than building them, we were staring down the end of the back store employee’s shift.

After bringing down the tenth or so bag of clothing, I began to feel a certainty that we were going about this all wrong. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew deep in my heart we were never going to find that phone in those bags. I suddenly had a memory of my mother telling me all about Saint Anthony, who helps to find things that are lost. My mother loves to pray for Saint Anthony’s intervention, and I cannot even count the number of times she has successfully prayed for his aid.

However, I always had difficulty seeking out help with what I always told myself were problems to small to concern anyone else, especially Saint Anthony, who I assumed must be too busy for me to bother with a lost key or wallet. Now though, I was really desperate, a lot of good work was being undone, and my back store employee was noticeably distraught over the loss of her phone. Given the circumstances, I thought, maybe it would be ok to ask Saint Anthony this time. 

To my horror, I realized I had completely forgotten the Saint Anthony prayer my mother had taught me, and that I heard several times a year every year of my life so far. I racked my brain, but it just wasn’t coming. So, I just thought about Saint Anthony and tried to tell him that I was in dire need of finding this particular lost thing. After my prayer, I realized that while I had given the back store a general look over, the main table had become covered in incoming donations over the course of the day.

I told the back store employee to search the table, while the volunteer and I continued searching the bags. Minutes later, we heard a triumphant cry and turned to see the employee holding her phone over her head. We had found it!

So there you have it, I think I learned that day that there is no prayer too small and that the act of reaching out to God and His Saints for the small things in your life just shows how complete your trust is in Him. If you get into the habit of leaving the small things to Him, then you have taken the first steps to build the habit of leaving the big things to Him as well.

I’ll leave off by wishing you all a great prayer life, and hoping that you all remember to build the habit of reaching out for the small things. I’ll also leave you with the prayer to Saint Anthony (which I had to ask my mother for and received an earful for) just in case you wish to start with this miraculous and beloved Saint. 

“Blessed Saint Anthony,

please come around.

Something is lost,

but now must be found.”