On Feb. 26, our Lenten journey begins with Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the 40 days of Lent dedicated to reflection, fasting, almsgiving, and good works in preparation for Easter. One concrete way we can prepare and share our gifts with others is to participate in the collection on Ash Wednesday to support the outreach work of Vermont Catholic Charities, including the Bishop deGoesbriand Grants for Human Advancement. These grants are awarded to Vermont non-profit organizations that are making a difference in the daily lives of people living in their communities.

Vermont Catholic Charities has been awarding Bishop deGoesbriand grants since 2011. To date, over 230 grants have been given out, totaling more than $480,000. What a wonderful expression of our faith — to serve others. Organizations receiving funding have included homeless shelters, right to life programs, and food programs for children and families.

Here are a few examples of how these grants impact the lives of Vermonters.

✦ The Upper Valley Haven in White River Junction received a grant to support the Seasonal Shelter, which helped 87 people stay out of the cold. One client stated, “When I arrived at the Haven I was broken. I felt frozen, totally overwhelmed by all my problems, but the Service Coordinator told me I could do anything.” Julio noticed a sign seeking help at the Mobil station near the Haven. Julio inquired, filled out an application, went on interview, and landed the job. Five weeks after starting work, Julio moved into an apartment with a roommate.

✦ Good Beginnings of Central Vermont received a grant to support its infant carriers and emergency assistance programs. The grant helped a total of 26 families, or 65 individuals (35 parents and 30 children).

✦ The Addison County Community Action Group (HOPE) received a grant to support its food shelf and financial assistance program. The agency commented, “Your support has a tremendous impact on our ability to respond to the needs of some of the most vulnerable in our county. Thank you for your continued commitment and support to our community.”

✦ The Catholic Center at UVM received a grant to buy food to prepare and serve community meals at the Salvation Army. One student commented, “To be part of the community of Burlington or any place we may live in the future, there cannot be an ignorance of the fact that many go without food, warmth, and shelter. It has been a joy and privilege to serve at the Salvation Army in Burlington.”

As we begin this Lenten journey together, we ask you to prayerfully consider participating in the Ash Wednesday collection – any gift, no matter the size, makes a difference. As a Catholic community, let’s continue to do Christ’s work here in Vermont and show Christ’s love to our neighbors in their times of need. By sharing our gifts with others, we prepare ourselves to celebrate the good news that Jesus Christ has risen.

— Mary Beth Pinard, executive director of Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.

—Originally published in the Feb. 15-21, 2020, issue of The Inland See.