'From there, we went to Pine Street Inn (12/24) to visit with the people there.' Pilot photo/CardinalSeansBlog.org
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Each year, close to Christmas, I visit some of the prisons. Last Thursday (12/21) I visited MCI Framingham, a women's prison, where Sister Maureen Clark, CSJ, has been the chaplain for many years. She does such wonderful work there. I also greeted several seminarians from St. John's who are working with her as part of their formation program. During the visit we confirmed and gave the Eucharist to one woman. At the Mass we celebrated, there was a group of volunteers who helped with the music. After the Mass we had an encounter with the women at the pre-release center. We sang some Christmas carols, gave them a little reflection on Christmas and had a dialogue.
Funeral Mass for Margarete MacNeice
The next day (12/22) I attended the Funeral Mass of Margarete MacNeice at St. Gerard's in Canton. Margarete and her husband John are very dear friends of mine and of so many people in the community. They have been so generous with so many causes in the Church. Margarete was from Germany and met John there when he was a GI soldier. After the war they got married and came to live in the United States. Theirs was a beautiful marriage and were very much in love with each other, and it was so obvious always, they were so close.
Pine Street Inn
From there, we went to Pine Street Inn (12/24) to visit with the people there. I am always impressed to see all the volunteers who I recognized from previous years and many take their children to volunteer. They see this as a very important event in their family's lives to show their children the situation of homeless people in the community and make them develop a connection to the Pine Street Inn, which is poised to celebrate 50 years. Monsignor Kelly was one of the founders and they do a wonderful job there. They also have a catering company that is a source of employment for homeless people which provides food for different events. During my visit I distributed food, visited with the people and thanked the volunteers.
Visit to St. Francis House
Later in the morning (12/25) I visited St. Francis House where we had a Christmas service. Father Bob Kickham's two nephews and niece provide the music every year for us. There were many people at St. Francis due to complete white-out conditions outside driving more homeless people into the shelters.
While greeting the people beforehand I spoke to two homeless women who gave beautiful testimonies of their faith and desire for God's peace to come into the world and to overcome divisions and violence. It was very touching to hear their spontaneous testimony. Then we had the service, which was a scripture service with a sermon and Christmas carols. Also there I met with the volunteers and thanked them for their support.
Homelessness is a very serious and complex problem. It's not the problem of the people running Pine Street Inn or St. Francis House but instead a problem of society. There are so many different factors that contribute to homelessness including gentrification and income inequality, failure to take care of people with mental problems and addiction, lack of housing... many different factors contribute to this very serious and growing problem in our society.
By visiting the shelters at Christmas I hope to raise consciousness in the community that all of us need to be more involved, looking for solutions for these brothers and sisters of ours who are on the streets.