The members of this group at The Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Morrisville could be called Good Samaritans, or even Good SAMs.

That’s because they do the work of the Social Action Ministry — known as SAM — and assist those in need, even outside the parish community.

“We all have Christ in our hearts, and when we help others … it’s really Christ working through us. We are His hands and feet,” commented Mary Elfer, parish ministries coordinator. “It’s Christ within us that connect us to one another.”

Throughout the Catholic Church in Vermont, parishioners are reaching out to their neighbors in need through social outreach programs like SAM.

“Their faith drives them to do it,” commented Deacon Tom Cooney, a member of the ministry.

In Lamoille County, SAM connects people in need with necessary services, helps to support a community breakfast, provides emergency financial assistance, distributes Thanksgiving baskets, provides hot meals in winter to residents of low-income senior housing, donates to two local food shelves and collaborates with the Morrisville Rotary on an annual coat giveaway (for which the ministry purchases a dozen new children’s coats).

Most recipients are not Catholic, Elfer said, noting that the ministry is a mission of the parish; parishioners generously donate to it. “It’s important to see Christ in each other and the suffering Christ in those who suffer and to align ourselves with Christ through that suffering.”

She mentioned one man who received three phone cards through SAM, gifts Elfer was told will give him a new lease on life.

“Our hearts are raised up in helping each other,” she said.

Ramona Audet, a member of the Social Action Ministry, commented, “It makes you feel so good when you help somebody. People are so thankful.”

Pam Kozikowski, a parishioner of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Williston, said that parish is involved in a variety of outreach work including a ministry to senior citizens, support of the local food shelf, a winter coat drive, participation in Operation Christmas Child, support of Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminster, Christmas gifts for clients of Howard Center in Burlington and support of Joseph’s House in Burlington. “It’s important for the community to know that we care and that we’re there for them,” she said. “We try to reach out to people so they know [the parish] is a warm, safe place to go and if they have been away from the Church for a while this is where they want to come back to.”

The goal of these outreach ministries, Kozikowski said, is “to spread joy, love and warmth.”

Connie Cooney, a member of SAM, said persons engaged in such work are living out the Gospel. “Jesus told us to love one another, and when you love one another, you take care of one another. And this is what we do.”

Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.