St. Lucy, St. Augustine Lent giving program encourages community involvement
St. Clair Shores — Giving alms to the poor is an act as old as the church itself.
Jesus commanded his disciples to give to the poor, and throughout the church’s history, gathering resources for the less fortunate has been a priority.
But during Lent, that priority is highlighted, as Catholics through prayer and fasting call to mind those less fortunate and make an extra effort during the Lenten season to stand in solidarity with the poor.
For the final story in the #LiveYourBestLent series, The Michigan Catholic highlights the work of Fr. James Commyn, whose current and former parishes, St. Lucy in St. Clair Shores and St. Augustine in Richmond, respectively, take up a second collection during Mass for a parish Lenten giving program.
“It was a program that started in my last assignment at St. Augustine’s in Richmond by Donna Belli, the Christian Service Program leader there,” Fr. Commyn said. “We do it every Lent, taking up a separate collection for the six Sundays of Lent and then usually we do it for an extra Sunday on Easter.”
Fr. Commyn said all the money is pooled together, then an alms committee is assembled with someone from the Christian service commission, the finance council, Fr. Commyn and two parishioners chosen at-large.
“We try to get two different people from the parish every year,” said Fr. Commyn. “We usually meet sometime before Pentecost and spend an evening together to discuss and divide up the money.”
In 2016, St. Lucy donated approximately $5,000 to 16 different nonprofits, and in 2015, the parish gave away $6,400.
Some examples of nonprofit beneficiaries of last year’s Lenten collection include: Macomb Food Program, Good Shepherd Coalition, St. Margret’s McWarm Program, Gianna House, St. Pio’s Baby Closet, World Water Relief, Hope Smiles and World Medical Relief.
Belli, chairperson of the Christian Service commission at St. Lucy, says the group tries to spread out the money and impact of the program as much as possible.
“We try to give to local, national and international, making it all well-rounded,” Belli said. “We get requests during the year, dividing up the committee and looking up the company or agency and try to discern which specific needs we can meet.”
Sal and Debbie Lamilza served on the Lenten giving committee in 2015, an experience Sal said made him and his wife feel “more involved with the parish.
“We were nominated or recommended by somebody in the parish, probably an anonymous person,” Sal Lamilza said. “We never served on a committee or parish council before, but we and some other people in the community who were new brought a fresh perspective on places in need in the area.”
Lamilza said opening the committee to the “everyday parishioner” helps the parish reach out to the community and makes the people in the pews feel more involved in the parish’s Lenten project.
“This program recognizes the people in the church, getting them to interact with the parish directly,” Lamilza said. “It also promotes future endeavors, because you feel more involved. It creates a more personal feeling with the parish. To me, it seems we try to do a lot of good with the limited amount of resources we have, and people respond to that.”
As part of The Michigan Catholic’s #LiveYourBestLent campaign, we offered readers a chance to purchase a subscription to The Michigan Catholic and give a subscription to a person in need. The Michigan Catholic reached out to a reader who participated in the alms-giving initiative to ask for whom and why did they purchase a subscription this Lent.
“My wife and I were coming out of Mass at the seminary and we saw the display there,” said Chris Rizik of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Northville, who bought a subscription for his mother-in-law, Betty Grik of Plymouth. “There is a lot of bad news and information that goes into our bodies. We felt like, this is something we do want to put in our bodies. We got a subscription for ourselves, and we thought my mother-in-law would enjoy it too.
“One thing we are doing to live our best Lent is to continuously reflect, reserving more time for perpetual adoration. Making more of a commitment to not let the day get away from me without praying.”
This is the third of three articles about the three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. For more #LiveYourBestLent content, visit. www.themichigancatholic.org/lent.
The Michigan Catholic on Facebook: Four tips for a joyful Easter
You’ve lived your best Lent, now get ready to live your best Easter! Follow The Michigan Catholic on Facebook to see a short video with four quick tips for entering into a joyful Easter season from Fr. Patrick Gonyeau, regional coordinator for evangelization for the Archdiocese of Detroit. And don’t forget to pick up the next issue of The Michigan Catholic to find more ways to feed your faith during this holy season.