Year of Mercy, season of giving get early start with Heart of Christmas, other projects
Tuesday, December 15, 2015 Christina Cabrera Jarro
MIAMI | The season of giving began early this year in the Archdiocese of Miami — and in a way, so did the Year of Mercy.
- A $2,500 donation from the Anthony Abraham Foundation yielded 100 gift cards, worth $25 each, for families who needed help at Thanksgiving.
- In early December, a combination of funds from Archbishop Thomas Wenski and local Catholics resulted in 20 gift cards — also worth $25 each — that were used to buy gifts for children in the Unaccompanied Minors Program. That’s a Catholic Charitiesprogram that cares for immigrant children, up to the age of 23, who arrive in the U.S. without a parent or a guardian.
- And just before Christmas, the archdiocese distributed $40,000 worth of gift cards to 113 local families, as part of its fourth annual Heart of Christmas project. The money comes from Archbishop Wenski’s personal charity fund.
Photographer: COURTESY PHOTO
St. Mary Magdalen parishioner Mercedes Rodriguez reacts to receiving a 0 Heart of Christmas gift card from her pastor, Father Bernard Kirlin. Rodriguez, 73, is part of a family of two adults and three children trying to make ends meet on one part time job.
The 113 recipients were nominated by their pastors at more than a dozen churches, as well as agencies such as Catholic Charities, Catholic Health Services, Respect Life, the HOPE Outreach Center, and the Instituto Pedro Arrupe at the Centro de Espiritualidad Ignaciana (Ignatian Spirituality Center).
What sets these families apart — aside from their often desperate, heartbreaking needs — is that they nevertheless find a way to give back to their communities.
Juxtaposed with brief blurbs recounting their struggles — cancer and disabilities, in children and adults; lonely elderly, living without immediate family on very low incomes; single mothers, single fathers, and orphans; families without a place to call home; immigrants with newborns trying to build their lives anew — are ways in which they serve others and the Church: at Mass on Sundays, as acolytes, lectors and extraordinary ministers of holy Communion; in youth groups and Cub Scouts; by visiting patients in nursing homes; even by taking on the roles of foster parents for children and young adult refugees.
The Heart of Christmas project gave each applicant a gift card that certainly won’t alleviate all their burdens, but will help to bring some seasonal cheer: $500 for 80 families, and $50 for 33 more. The gift cards are sent to the parishes or agencies that nominated the recipients, and the pastors or staff give them to each family.
In December 2012, the first year of the program, $20,000 worth of gift cards were given out to 40 families. The amount rose to $27,500 for 55 families in 2013; and to $37,500 for 100 families in 2014.
“Everything we’re doing is about the Year of Mercy,” said Katie Blanco, chief development officer and president of the archdiocese’s Development Corporation, which organizes the Heart of Christmas project each year. “These are people in need who came to the Church for help, and the Church helped.”