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Generosity of Spirit at St. Thomas Parish

St. Thomas Parish volunteer Louise Mathews signs greeting cards as part of the parish social concerns efforts. (Vermont Catholic/Cori Fugere Urban) St. Thomas Parish volunteer Louise Mathews signs greeting cards as part of the parish social concerns efforts.
Delivering groceries, providing clothing, distributing holiday gifts, assisting new mothers and sending cheerful greeting cards are just some of the ways members of St. Thomas Church in Underhill Center are looking out for their neighbors and letting them know someone cares.
“Love of God is very important in this community,” and it is manifested in works of charity and social action, commented Laura Wells, the parish director of religious education.
The Eucharist nourishes people in their service, she said. “You can see those people coming every week [to Mass] opening their hearts and minds and eyes to the world” and its needs.
One of the parish volunteers is Louise Mathews, a retired case worker whose church activities include chairing the yard sale, coordinating the Ladies Group (which provides Christmas gifts to a local family in need) and helping send holiday greeting cards to the sick and shut-ins and to married couples on their anniversary.
The greeting card ministry sends about 500 cards a year; cards are donated, and the parish purchases the stamps. “We want them to know they are not forgotten,” Mathews said.
Each weekend parishioners bring non-perishable food to Mass; children bring some items to the altar during the offertory. Thus “the children get the sense that not every child has as much to eat as they have,” Mathews commented.
Some parishioners bring food to the church during the week, and what is donated goes to the Essex, Jericho, Underhill Ecumenical Ministry food shelf, where several parishioners volunteer.
The religious education program sponsors annual food and fruit baskets at Christmas and Easter, and confirmation students work on a host of social action activities including emergency relief, Operation Christmas Child, Vermont
Catholic Youth Serve projects and the COTS walk for the homeless.
The active Knights of Columbus St. Thomas Council #7810 contributes to the wellbeing of others through fundraisers that allow the Knights to donate to organizations like the local fire department, Special Olympics and a shelter for homeless veterans. They have donated to Christmas food baskets and helped someone get a service dog and someone else get a hearing aid.
St. Thomas parishioners support the prolife cause with donations to the Baby Bottle Campaign to benefit Aspire Together in Burlington and St. Albans, and they support Vermont Catholic Charities Advent Appeal for persons in need.
After the parish tag and rummage sales, clothing is donated to agencies that help veterans, military families, infants, refugees and others.
One organization pays cash for leftover clothing, and the funds the parish gets go to help people in Indonesia, said Sharon Leonard, a Finance Council member and rummage sale chair.
Parishioners also support the Jim Farrington emergency fund to help people throughout the year who need help.
“There is a generosity of spirit here,” Wells said. “People really open their hearts to their neighbor.”

Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
Vermont Catholic Magazine © 2016 Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington