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Normally people reach for their toolbox to fix a leaky kitchen faucet, but the leadership team at St. Patrick Parish in Lawrence is encouraging parishioners to reach for the toolbox to build their faith.
Members of the team present a large red plastic toolbox to each household that registers with the parish. On the outside of the box are stickers that say “St. Patrick Parish Catholic Toolbox” in three languages — English, Spanish and Vietnamese — and inside are religious items including a Bible, Catechism of the Catholic Church, a wooden crucifix with a stand and candle, rosaries for every household member, and a children’s Bible for families. Materials for different prayers are also included. All the materials are in the language appropriate for the parishioner.
Parishioners are also encouraged to keep other items like their family Bible, confirmation class items or baptismal candle in the toolbox.
“In our spiritual lives God really does give us basic tools to build our faith homes, to fix up our faith homes, and expand our faith homes,” said pastor Father Paul B. O’Brien, adding that the parish wanted to make these items available in the home of every parishioner.
So far, around 1,000 households have requested toolboxes and more requests come in every day. The parish was able to buy in bulk and is storing enough items for 2,500 households. St. Patrick’s received a grant from a family within the archdiocese for the items. The grant was an “incredible blessing” that made the Catholic toolbox project possible, he said.
Three years ago the leadership team at St. Patrick’s, which consists of parish, religious education and school staff members along with parents and teenagers, decided to find a more creative way to reach out to parishioners. Family faith formation events and other evangelical efforts were added, he said.
“An awful lot of parishes in the last decade have recognized that if our formation is not based on solid stuff, if it’s not based on the Scripture, if it’s not based on the teaching of the Church, it can only go so far,” said Father O’Brien, adding that many families do not even own a Bible.
Catholic households need faith tools at home as well in order for Catholics to grow in their faith, he added.
“We hope that when a couple is facing a family with their children, they’ll say, ‘Let’s pull out the Catechism,’” he said. “It’s the domestic church, my home where faith is fundamentally formed.”
The toolbox helps parishioners identify not only with the larger Church but with their parish as well, and everyone must register to receive a toolbox, regardless of how long they have been a parishioner, he added.
“If you’ve been here for 197 years or you’ve been here for one week, everybody is equal. Everyone is at the same point of saying, ‘I choose right now to be part of this parish community,’” he added.
“Everybody’s welcome. We are one family,” said Hosffman Ospino, the parish’s coordinator of Hispanic ministry. “Everyone received exactly the same. I think that reflects the unity.”
Ospino said the project is a great way for families to grow in faith at home and then celebrate that growth with their Catholic community.
“It’s a way to reconnect with the basic symbols of our faith. Particularly having these symbols at home, people will be able to read more of the scriptures, read the catechism, to pray the rosary,” he added.
Father O’Brien said the toolbox acts as a greeting but is just one aspect of welcoming at the parish, which has formed a welcoming committee. The committee, a group of volunteers, makes sure that every new parishioner meets with a member and receives information about the parish.
Welcoming is especially important now, during reconfiguration, he said, adding that Lawrence Sacred Heart Parish recently closed and many Catholics from the former parish have come to St. Patrick’s.
“One of the particularly exciting realities has been to see many, many, many, families from Sacred Heart registering for St. Patrick’s,” he said.
Dianne Jarvis, St. Patrick’s religious education coordinator who did much of the research in purchasing religious items, said people have been very excited about the toolboxes.
“There’s an enthusiasm you don’t always see in the Church, especially in a registration process,” she added.