By Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Anchor Correspondent
RAYNHAM, Mass. — There is a call to action around the diocese, as the caring, hard-working and generous folks of our parishes gather in support of the ministries of the Diocese of Fall River. Their mission is to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and comfort the sorrowful because it’s what they do.
“Tonight is the first of three kickoff events,” said Catholic Charities Appeal director James A. Campbell at the Stoneforge Tavern & Publick House. “It’s a tradition for all the local parishes to promote the campaign.”
The informational session for the Taunton-Attleboro deaneries featured talks by Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., and director of Campus Ministries Father David C. Frederici, as well as the premiere of the video, “It’s What We Do.”
“It’s truly good to be here with all of you,” said Bishop da Cunha. “This is my first time sharing this moment with you as we kick off our campaign for Catholic Charities. I am so happy to see so many people who share their talents, time and resources.”
The bishop said that his route to Fall River was long — one with many turns.
“But from the moment I arrived here, I have felt so much at home, so very welcomed by all the priests, deacons and religious, and the people wherever I go,” he said. “I tell them I really am at home here because I know God sent me here.”
He said that he thanked God for the wonderful gift when he first received his appointment as Bishop of Fall River.
“People told me how lucky I was to come to this beautiful diocese where they have Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket,” he recalled. “But as I began going around visiting the parishes, schools and institutions, and seeing the wonderful work by Catholic Social Services, I discovered our diocese has many poor and needy. I found many facing serious difficulties, as well as our own diocese facing serious financial challenges. And so my perception changed, but I was not sad or disappointed.”
According to the bishop, the Catholic Charities Appeal is an opportunity to share our gifts and serve one another.
“God became poor to enrich us with His poverty,” he said. “No one is too poor who has something to give, and no one is so rich who doesn’t need anything. Our wealth is not made of material things but of the faith, talent and the generosity of our people.”
Then he issued a challenge.
“Imagine what we could do together if our resources were even greater,” he said. “The Appeal is primarily driven by the parishes, and the enthusiasm of each parishioner is an expression of our common responsibility. No matter how large or small our contribution may be, we can, with this one act, live our faith by helping others experience the same love of God that blesses us.”
Father Frederici, who oversees campus ministry at the five colleges in our diocese, also expressed the importance of Catholic Charities in reaching out to young people.
He said that it was through the example, presence and leadership of the campus minister at his alma mater, Worcester State University, a passion was awakened in him for the Christian faith; and his vocation began to solidify.
“I love being a priest,” he added.
So when he was offered the opportunity at UMass Dartmouth, he said he “jumped at the chance.” He explained that 85 percent of the students identified as Catholic are not aware of Church teachings, and of the remaining 15 percent, 90 percent will stop going to church their freshman year.
He said that they initiated a five-year plan of outreach to change these statistics so that college students develop a relationship with Jesus Christ, receive the Sacraments, study Scripture, perform community service and perhaps discern a vocation.
After the bombing at the Boston Marathon in 2013, UMass Dartmouth was evacuated while law enforcement searched for the bomber, a student at the university. During the crisis the Catholic community on campus and from afar came together.
“The students prayed the Rosary during the evacuation, and I received messages by email, phone, Twitter and Facebook,” he said, which offered prayers and support. “We belong to a Universal Church, and we are a stronger university.”
One-hundred percent of the funding at the five colleges comes from Catholic Charities.
“I thank you for helping bring us Christ in a time of crisis and pain,” said Father Frederici. “Pray for the staff of our campus ministry programs. Pray for our students. A majority of them will remain here after college, beginning careers and families.”
The 16-minute video presentation featured an introduction by Bishop da Cunha.
“I have come to know and love the people God has placed in my care,” said the bishop, who praised the caregivers and sought solace for the needy. “May we never abandon the poor and less fortunate.”
There were also interviews with people who serve in the diocese and those who are served by them. Some of the ministries highlighted were hospital chaplaincy, campus ministry, transitional housing, TV Mass for the sick and homebound, Permanent Diaconate, Adoption By Choice, pregnancy counseling, Marriage preparation, soup kitchens, CYO, Hispanic apostolate and immigrant assistance.
“For those parishes that have not signed up (for the DVD), we encourage you to do so,” said Campbell. “This is worthy of being shown or uploaded to the parish website.”