As a parish priest my goal is to unite people with Christ, not only in this world but for their eternal lives as well. This work takes many different shapes throughout the year at our different parishes. At St. Mary in Waltham, where I serve as pastor with Father Fernando Vivas and Father Joseph Diem, we see great need and, like my brother priests across Greater Boston, we work hard to help meet those needs for our parishioners and our communities.
Among the greatest needs for so many is dealing with food insecurity. In cities and towns across the region, thousands of families are struggling to put food on the table. Thankfully, many of our parishes have stepped up to help meet this challenge. At St. Mary’s, we’re blessed to be able to work with an organization called Healthy Waltham, which provides meals for nearly 1,000 families twice a month.
For working families today, especially those in urban areas, providing safe and engaging after-school programs for children is essential for the well-being of the whole family. At St. Mary’s, we developed a safe after-school environment to help young children grow and bring them closer to Christ. Children in our program participate in sports. We give them a healthy snack. They receive help with their homework so their parents don’t have to worry about it and they can go to school the next day with confidence. We help with reading and language skills; we teach them games like chess. And then, through prayer, rosary, hymns, and holy Mass, we bring them God. As a result, children who thought they could never attend college are now doing so.
Attaining unity can best be achieved when we celebrate our diversity. At St. Mary’s, we offer Masses in English, Spanish, and Luganda — the language of Uganda. Several years ago, members of the local Ugandan community were looking for a place to gather. We welcomed them here at St. Mary’s, starting with a monthly Mass celebrated in their language with the assistance of a priest who was from Uganda. They would also have a community gathering so that the diaspora could come together, support one another, and exchange news. Today, we have a wonderful Ugandan choir and a weekly Mass in Luganda with a growing community from different towns across the archdiocese.
As priests, we seek to unite our parishioners to Christ, not only with their present day needs but with their destiny in the afterlife. When the pandemic broke out, we all pivoted. Here at St. Mary’s, we brought the Blessed Sacrament from our neighboring chapel through the city of Waltham, through its main streets, asking the Lord to bless and protect, not just the parishes, but all the citizens of Waltham. It’s our job as priests to strengthen our communities.
Priests are also human and we experience loss, pain, and sickness ourselves. We are also getting older. And our work in strengthening communities greatly depends on the support of Clergy Trust — to help keep us healthy and well, to ensure that we are cared for when we’re sick, and to provide comfort in our older years before we are called home to God.
Each year at Christmas, the generosity of our parishioners helps to fund the important work of Clergy Trust through our parish and online collections. On behalf of myself and my brother priests, I ask you to consider supporting Clergy Trust through the Christmas collection. Your generosity helps to ensure that, together, we can continue to bring Christ’s love and peace to those who need it most.
Thank you for your generosity to me, my fellow priests, and to all those who need help and care throughout our communities. And thank you for enabling me to continue to experience the great joy of being a priest. I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Christmas.
FATHER MICHAEL NOLAN IS PASTOR OF ST. MARY PARISH IN WALTHAM.