Parishioners of Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Rochester and Bethel and Our Lady of the Angels in Randolph are “united in the Eucharist” with their parish priest, Father Scott Gratton, who is serving with the Vermont National Guard in Saudi Arabia.

They also are sending him regular care packages that include anything maple, because it is, after all, the Vermont National Guard.

In addition to the maple products, he has specifically asked for coffee, beef jerky, snacks, nuts, sunflower seeds and candy. “He does share with the rest of the unit, except for Sour Patch candies which are a favorite of his. Those he confesses to hoarding,” said Elizabeth Stuart, the parishes’ secretary. “We are doing this to support him, to let him know we are still thinking of him and are eagerly waiting for him to return, because it’s really the right thing to do and because he’s serving our Vermont National Guard.”

The Hospitality Committee at St. Anthony Church in Bethel is spearheading the parish-wide collection. Other packages are the responsibility of the two councils of the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas court of the two parishes.

“I think it helps us stay connected. We have the opportunity to provide something he can use in his ministry overseas. We can provide a touch of home to be both appreciated by Father Gratton and by the people he serves and serves with,” Stuart said.

In an April 7 letter from Saudi Arabia letter to parishioners, Father Gratton thanked them for their prayers, letters and packages; the soldiers smile when he shares the care packages from his parishioners.

He reminded parishioners they are united in the Eucharist and that “our strength comes from the Eucharist.”

“We care a great deal for Father Scott Gratton; we miss him; we are eagerly waiting for him to come back to us,” Stuart said. “We pray for him, and we are doing whatever else we can to support him and let him know he is missed and appreciated while he is absent from us.”

Those who want to contribute items for the packages may send them to Our Lady of the Angels Church, 43 Hebard Hill Road, PO Box 428, Randolph, VT 05060.