MCAN receives Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award

By Becky Aubut
Anchor Staff

DORCHESTER, Mass. — Earlier this year, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops awarded the 2016 Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award to the Massachusetts Communities Action Network ( 


MCAN is a statewide network of congregation-based community organizing groups in 10 cities across Massachusetts. MCAN accepted the award on behalf of each of its local affiliates: the Essex County Community Organization, Brockton Interfaith Community, Pioneer Valley Project, Worcester Interfaith, United Interfaith Action, and the Youth Jobs Coalition. 

Sister Margaret Cafferty, for whom the award is named, was an educator, community organizer and social justice leader who pioneered new models of building community and addressing poverty. She successfully cultivated partnerships with labor, government, business and the academic community in the pursuit of justice, while always remaining grounded in the communities with whom she worked to serve and empower. In that same spirit, the Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award is presented annually to a group or individual working on the margins that has demonstrated outstanding witness to Catholic values and action on behalf of justice.  

“MCAN’s organizing and leadership development work on social justice issues in Massachusetts over the past 30 years exemplifies the values that Sister Margaret Cafferty stood for,” Ralph McCloud, CCHD director, stated. “We are pleased to recognize their exemplary work with this award.” 

Under the leadership of its founding director, Lew Finfer, MCAN has been supporting, training, and developing leaders at the grassroots level since 1984.  It has developed seven faith-based community improvement organizations that work in cities across the state, and one statewide affordable housing organization. MCAN is a network of faith-based community organizations in Massachusetts working for economic and racial justice. Within MCAN, there are local organizations in Boston, Brockton, Lynn/North Shore, New Bedford, Fall River, Springfield and Worcester. MCAN is an affiliate of the PICO National Network (

Finfer told The Anchor that the Archdiocese of Boston Catholic Charities nominated MCAN for the award, and that MCAN’s partnership with its affiliates has sown many positive seeds of social justice. That work also includes the role that UIA played in the recent referendum in the minimum fair wages in Massachusetts.

“UIA played a major role in the minimum wage laws and passage of earned sick time referendum which enabled more than 900,000 people who didn’t get sick days in their job, to get up to five sick days a year,” said Finfer.

Throughout the fall of 2013 and 2014, UIA participated in the Raise Me Up ballot initiative campaign to raise the minimum wage in Massachusetts and bring earned sick time to all workers. In the first stage of the campaign, Raise Up Massachusetts gathered more than 285,000 signatures, surpassing its original goal of 200,000 signatures. During this time, 36 congregations in the Fall River, New Bedford, and Dartmouth areas gathered approximately 18,000 signatures for the campaign. In 2016, UIA will be joining MCAN and Raise Up in the Fair Share Amendment Campaign (

The constitutional amendment would create an additional tax of four percentage points on annual income above $1 million. The new revenue generated by the tax could only be spent on quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation. To ensure that the tax continues to apply only to the highest-income residents, the $1 million threshold would be adjusted each year to reflect cost-of-living increases.

“It’s a several-year process; it won’t go to the ballot until 2018. It has to be approved by 50 of 200 legislators this year and next year. It would raise $1.8 billion which would go to our public schools, make state colleges affordable and for transportation work on roads and add to the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority service,” said Finfer. 

And while their work is not over, Finfer said that being the lone 2016 recipient of the prestigious award was an overwhelming experience:  “I think our members were excited and humbled to receive such an award. They’ve worked hard for many years for social justice issues and obviously you feel honored that your work is recognized by a group that is looking [at groups] from the whole country, and finding that what UIA and our sister-groups did was worthy of this recognition.”

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts