Though the pandemic has forced some charitable works into hiatus, the Essex Catholic Community continues to serve neighbors in need.

And in non-Covid-restricted times, the parishes of Holy Family/St. Lawrence in Essex Junction and St. Pius X in Essex Center have plates overflowing with works of mercy.

Here is just a portion of the community’s menu of services: emergency aid, support for Dismas House for former prisoners, support for the meal program Essex Eats Out, a thanksgiving food drive, a Christmas “Giving Tree” to provide items for people in need, Christmas baskets for shut-ins and residents of a nursing home, help for people in prison, a prayer shawl ministry and Serve Our Neighbor Days.

“You can see that our parishioners are generous and are motivated by their Christian faith to reach out to those in need,” said Edmundite Father Charles Ranges. “As pastor, I encourage this activity since it is a part of the Corporal Works of Mercy.”

Margaret Judge, office manager/accountant, is responsible for the parishes’ emergency aid activity. Last year the food shelf had a request that came through the Jericho Elementary School for emergency dental work for a second grader. “It was a life-threatening situation, and we needed to raise $6,000 to help this child,” she recalled. “I reached out to our parishioners in the Essex Catholic Community and other resources, and we were able to come up with the entire amount,” she said.

Kevin Walker of St. Pius X Church, is a coordinator of the annual Christmas Giving Tree and Food Basket Program there. Parishioners are invited to purchase and wrap selected gifts for children and donate food for a Christmas turkey meal for families in the Essex, Jericho and Westford communities. This program is combined with a holiday food drive conducted by parish youth throughout the greater Essex area.

“This year, due to Covid-19 guidelines, we are modifying the program to provide gift cards in lieu of physical gifts and groceries,” he said. “I am thankful for the many blessings I have received in my life and believe one needs to demonstrate that gratefulness by serving others in need.”

According to Father Ranges, “The Catholic community is seen as people of service.”

—Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.