Ten years ago, I lost my mother who was my best friend in so many ways. The experience of losing a parent challenges us all in very different ways. For me, I wanted to find support in my parish. After Mass one day, I walked to the sacristy to introduce myself to the newly appointed pastor, Father Stephen Donohoe, and ask for help. Although he did not know of any bereavement groups, he wrote my name and contact information. To my complete surprise, before I arrived home, he sent me an email with resources. That encounter began a pivotal friendship for our family.
From that first meeting, Father Donohoe became a transformative presence in our family. He accompanied us on our journey of faith inviting all of us to participate more in the life of the parish. My children became altar servers and cantors. My husband joined the parish committee for IT and communications. We invited him to join us at our family's important celebrations. Father Donohoe led us closer to Christ through an example of humility and prayer.
In the parish community, we all saw this seemingly quiet man become an agent for Christ. He inspired us with his reverence for the sacraments, his compelling homilies and his welcoming nature. He leveraged his experience in parishes as well as the military where he accompanied our troops in Iraq as a chaplain. Although he had many gifts in ministry, Father Donohoe's counsel was always simple: stay close to Jesus!
After more than seven years in our parish community, Father Donohoe moved to his next assignment. While it was difficult to lose such an important leader, he always pointed us to Christ and away from himself. Last year, we had the opportunity to attend the Mass in honor of Father Donohoe's 25th anniversary of ordination. We went in support of the man who worked hard to minister to our family as pastor. When we arrived at the Church, we were amazed seeing so many other people like us who knew Father Donohoe in a previous assignment. As the Mass went on, each of us realized the far-reaching effects of this man's decision to embrace a vocation to the priesthood.
Despite the challenges parish priests face today, Father Donohoe continues to provide exceptional pastoral care. He stands with us in his ministry embracing the call to serve. He embodies the tenderness Pope Francis talks about. While we wonder what life would be like without wonderful priests like Father Donohoe, all of us have an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in their lives.
During Masses on Sept. 15 and 16, parishes across the Archdiocese of Boston will take up a special second collection to support the health and well-being of our priests. All the proceeds go to the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust, a ministry of the archdiocese that cares for all active and senior diocesan priests in good standing. Their team of healthcare professionals provides care that allows our priests to live out their life-long vocation.
Amid all the challenges facing our Church today, financial support for priests is an important sign of gratitude for all that they do. I ask you to join my family in support of the good men like Father Donohoe who stand with us on our journey of faith.
KATHY MCMILLAN AND HER HUSBAND, STEVE, ARE LONGTIME PARISHIONERS AT ST. MARY PARISH IN CHELMSFORD.
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