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Religious education students present Fr. Scott Euvrard with a paper chain representing their works of mercy.
One Million? Let's Count on It.
By Joan Lamar (May 13, 2016)
One million works of mercy in one year! That's the challenge Fr. Scott Euvrard posed to his parishioners at Holy Family and Star of the Sea parishes in Amesbury and Salisbury, Massachusetts, for this extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Before the start of the Jubilee on Dec. 8, he and his staff discussed ways their parishes could celebrate this Year of Mercy. They initially proposed doing 10,000 works of mercy. But, as they started to think about all the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, Fr. Scott thought "go big or go home." That's where the idea of one million works of mercy was born.
"We wanted to make all our parishioners, young and old, aware of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy and then suggest ways they can make the practice of these works a habit and a reality in their own lives," said Fr. Scott.
Father Scott's intent in this effort is to make a visible link between the works of mercy and the Catholic faith — more specifically, to the Eucharist. "At the center of the faith is the Mass," he said, "and central to the Mass is the Eucharist. We want to connect the works of mercy so that they flow from the Eucharist. How can we bring the love of Christ that we receive at the Eucharistic table into the lives of people who aren't here?"
Before the parishes began their sizable task, some brainstorming and catechesis were in order. Father Scott hosted several meetings for children and adults, and from there, the parishioners set about their task at the start of the Jubilee Year. His parishes, which comprise a total of 1,800 households, had reached a combined 30,000 works of mercy by the end of March. Many parishioners are doing works of mercy every day on their own, Fr. Scott said. Others are doing group projects, such as serving meals to the needy.
Both parishes are seeing an increase in the monthly food collection. Some of the religious education students are now doing research on giving drink to the thirsty and are trying to find ways to provide clean water in other parts of the world. Father Scott even tells the parishioners he visits in nursing homes that they can participate in the works of mercy, too, by praying for the dead.
And the million works of mercy idea is spreading! Parishes as far away as Hawaii are joining in. Father Chris Malatesta, pastor at St. Agnes parish in Dalton, Massachusetts, heard about what Fr. Scott was doing and asked if he could "borrow" this idea. He then approached his fellow pastors and presented the idea of trying to do one million works of mercy collectively in Berkshire County. It was warmly received.
So far, St. Agnes in Dalton, which has 1,700 families, has recorded 33,000 works of mercy. And 15,000 of these works of mercy are from the children! He said many parishioners are helping out in the food pantry — many more than normal. Parishioners are also visiting
nursing homes and the homebound. His deacon recently organized a special Mass at Berkshire County Corrections.
"This is the most exciting thing I have ever done as a priest," Fr. Chris said.
When he overhears children asking their parents at the grocery store, "Is this a work of mercy?" he knows this effort has captured their imaginations. "This million works of mercy effort is bearing fruit because people are talking about it and it is touching hearts."