Newsletter, November 21, 2019


Some years ago the popular spiritual writer, Henri Nouwen, took a leave from his position at Yale Divinity School and went to Peru for a year. Nouwen worked and lived among the poor in the outskirts of Lima. Upon his return, he wrote a best selling book entitled, GRACIAS. He titled the book “Thank You” because he found the sentiment of gratitude so prevalent among the
poor that he was both astonished and edified. Fr. Nouwen witnessed the poverty and sufferings of the Peruvian people while at the same time seeing their sense of gratitude for everything.

The word “gracias” permeated not only their life style but also their view of life and God. Often the “gracias” was spoken as “Gracias a Dios”. The simplest act was completed with a prayer of thanks to God. Fr. Nouwen laid bare the irony that those who have little are often very grateful, while those who have much more, are often less grateful.  Naturally one would think
the reverse would be true. In fact, the irony is often carried even to the
extremes: sometimes those who have abundance want more and feel entitled to more, and those with very little are grateful.

This week, we North Americans celebrate one of the most cherished of our national holidays, Thanksgiving. Surely, we are a blessed people. And it has been my experience that most Americans embrace this holiday with a deeply sincere sense of gratitude.  Our gratitude is felt at many levels: to family, loved ones, our nation and most importantly, to God.  All of us agree that the day is very important. Like you, I recall memories of childhood celebrations that I cherish – memories of families coming together and, at a table laden with abundance, pausing in a formal and beautiful way to thank God for all blessings. 

Our reality is that the day comes and goes and the busyness of life can so distract us that our sense of gratitude can become dulled. We can fall into the trap of forgetting and not acknowledging God’s blessings in our life. The worries and challenges can draw us away from the truth that we are first and foremost God’s most precious children and blessed beyond measure. When I re-capture this truth, suddenly everything is reordered. I see things in a new light, priorities are re-established and my sense of the rightness of seeing God as the giver of so much is both freeing and humbling.

This Thursday we will gather with our loved ones. Even in the midst of the worries and challenges of these times, we know we have so much for which to be grateful. I will spend this beautiful day with the Rostro de Cristo community in Guayaquil, Ecuador. There, with 14 North American volunteer missionaries and 20 high school students from St. Pope John Paul II High School in Hyannis, we will have Mass together followed by dinner. Turkey is hard to find in the tropics, so we will likely have chicken! But the sentiments will be as profound as ever, as we echo Gracias – Thanks be to God – for all we have and especially for the love that surrounds us and gives us hope.

Fr. Ronan

Coping With Grief

For those who find rejoicing difficult this time of year Christmas is indeed a time for rejoicing, but it is also about the cross and the promise we’ve been given because of Christ’s Resurrection.  When all of the messages around us are telling us that we should be joyful and celebratory, please know that it is normal to feel sad, especially this time of year, when we have lost loved ones or are experiencing any kind of difficulty. 

While some may tell us to “get over it,” Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

On Saturday, December 14 at 10AM at the Parish Center on 46 Winthrop Street we will gather to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas, to pray for those we miss and for ourselves, allowing the God of all consolation to comfort us in our sorrow. In order to plan for this service, we ask that you RSVP by calling the Parish Center, 617-242-4664,  by Wednesday, December 11th.


Six Tips for Coping with Grief During the Holidays

Talk about your Loved One – Don’t be afraid to mention your loved one when you’re at a party or with friends and family. Often people are reluctant to mention the deceased because they are afraid to ‘upset’ you. They don’t realize that your loved one is always on your mind and that it’s healthy to reminisce. Be the one to share memories and to encourage conversation.


Express your Feelings – Holding in pent up emotion is not healthy. If you want to cry, let yourself cry. If you need to express anger, write in a journal. Try creative arts to express the many feelings you’re experiencing. Use online sites to connect with other grievers and talk about your feelings. Letting yourself feel the pain and then finding expression for that pain is an important aspect to healing.


Light a Candle – Light a memorial candle at the holiday dinner table to honor the light of your loved one. Remember that although their physical form has gone, they are very much still a part of your life. Hold that love close to your heart and remember that your life has been enriched by their love.


Shop and Share – A frequent sadness for grievers is not being able to shop for their loved one. Try going shopping for things that you might have purchased for your dear one and then donating those items to a homeless shelter, a hospital, or a charity.


Cut Yourself Slack – Be extremely gentle and kind to yourself. If you don’t feel like going to a party, don’t go. If you don’t want to send cards, then don’t send them. Do the absolute minimum necessary for you to celebrate the holidays. Grieving is exhausting and you simply won’t have extra energy to expend. When possible, ask friends and neighbors to help you with tasks that feel overwhelming. Try to do your shopping on-line. Set your bar low and give yourself permission to take it easy.


Simple Pleasures – Even if your heart is broken, you can look for simple pleasures to savor. See if you can find one tiny thing each day for which you can be grateful. Notice your health, your loved ones who are still living, even small sensory pleasures like tastes, smells, and sounds. Try shining the focus of your attention on small things in your life that bring you some happiness.

Using these tips will hopefully help ease you through the holidays. Remember that grieving is one of the most universal of all experiences – you are not alone.

Cheverus Awards

I am very pleased to share with you that Cardinal Seάn O’Malley has announced that Tom MacDonald, Director of Social Ministry at our Parish, will receive the Cheverus Award. The ceremony will take place at 2:00 o’clock at Holy Cross Cathedral on Sunday, November 24. The Cheverus Medal is awarded to a person who has served the parish well over an extended period of time and has done so in a quiet, unassuming and, perhaps, unrecognized fashion.

When I arrived in Charlestown, Tom was business manager at St. Catherine of Siena Parish. While he did many things at the Parish, he also began Harvest on Vine (HoV), our emergency food pantry.  Over these past years, HoV has grown a great deal serving hundreds of families in need in our Town. Tom’s ongoing presence at the food pantry and in the Social Ministry Office is a constant source of help and support in our community,

Tom is the fifth member of our Parish to be honored by the Cheverus Medal. Four other very distinguished parishioners have been honored over these past 10 years: Bob Rooney, Judy Burton, and Bill King, along with Sr. Nancy Citro, SNDdeN.

I am most grateful to these exceptional recipients and even more to the countless parishioners who so generously and selflessly support the daily life of this wonderful parish!

In the bicentennial year of the Archdiocese of Boston (2008), Cardinal Séan instituted the Cheverus Award medals. The oval-shaped, silver medal bears the image of Bishop Jean-Louis Anne Magdelaine Lefebvre de Cheverus. On the reverse side is Bishop Cheverus’ coat of arms and episcopal motto “diligamus nos invicem” (let us love one another). Bishop Cheverus was the founding Bishop of Boston and led the diocese from 1808 until his return to France in 1824.

The Parish Food Pantry, Harvest on Vine, provides Thanksgiving meals to many families in our community in need. Last year Harvest on Vine fed over 800 Charlestown families, and expects to do the same this year. Harvest on Vine needs our support – a donation of $35 will provide a family with a complete Thanksgiving dinner, including a turkey, potatoes, squash, rolls, green beans, peas, carrots, apple cider, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, pie, and a roasting pan. The goal is to provide a great meal for a family Thanksgiving – a holiday when everyone should have enough to eat.

Donations in any amount are welcome! To make an online donation (via credit card or PayPal), go to the Parish website,, click on the DONATE button (lower left corner of homepage), then select “Harvest on Vine” in the drop-down menu. If you prefer to pay by check, please make it payable to “Harvest on Vine,” and mail your check or drop it off at the St. Mary – St. Catherine’s Parish Office, 46 Winthrop Street, Charlestown, MA 02129.

The Thanksgiving dinners will be distributed on Tuesday, November 26, at 2 p.m. at Harvest on Vine, 49 Vine Street (just off of Bunker Hill Street). If you would like to volunteer to help on the 26th, please arrive by 1 p.m. Due to the large number of people involved, only people ages 16 and older should volunteer. In addition to needing volunteers to help distribute the dinners, Harvest on Vine also needs volunteers with cars to help transport people and dinners to their homes.

Many people are looking for a way to help during the holidays. Please forward this to any of your friends! Any questions, please email Harvest on Vine’s director, Tom MacDonald, at . Harvest on Vine is extremely thankful for our support. Happy Thanksgiving!

A note from the organ loft…

St. Augustine is often quoted as saying “he who sings, prays twice”. I am a firm believer in that philosophy and would like to invite any and all parishioners to share their talents with the music ministry here at St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena. We as Christians are called to make a joyful noise in song and praise and what better way to do just that than by joining us at the 10:30 or 6pm mass. Singing or playing during the Liturgy is an excellent way to give back to the church. Not only is it an exciting way to uplift the Liturgy, but it brings us closer to God and his word.

No prior singing ability or instrumental musical training is needed. All I ask is that you come with an eager mind and an open heart and the rest we will learn along the way! I will be in the back of the church after each mass this weekend to sign anyone up and answer any questions you may have.


Matthew Arnold, Director of Music