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News item date:
Thursday, April 10, 2014
By Kaitlyn Guzik (Director of Community Development)Holy Family parishioner Arthur Alves Souza celebrated his 10th birthdaywith a costume party in March. In lieu of gifts, Arthur and his parents,Cloves and Sarita Silva Souza, requested that contributions be madeto The Haitian Project.
Less than one year after current Volunteer, Natàlia Soares introduced her home parish to The Haitian Project (THP), the Brazilian community at Holy Family Parish in Lowell, MA, has raised over $5,000.00 on behalf of THP and its Louverture Cleary School (LCS).
When Natàlia Soares was ten-years-old, her family moved from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil to the Boston area. Natàlia and her family have been active members of her parish for as long as she can remember. Natàlia, who graduated with a degree in elementary and special education from Providence College in 2013, put her gifts to use by teaching CCD classes and leading the parish youth group. Her father, Alvaro Soares, is currently preparing to become a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Boston.
After her acceptance into THP’s Volunteer program last summer, Natàlia immediately sought to involve her parish. “They are my spiritual family and I knew that, just like my biological family, they would support me every step of the way, and that they would be joyful to see the fruits of their formation through me,” Natàlia explained.
Father Jonas Christal serves the Brazilian community at Holy Family. He says Mass in Portuguese on a regular basis at the parish while pursuing a graduate degree at Boston College. His dissertation examines the renunciation of possessions in the Gospel of Mark. Fr. Christal encouraged Natàlia to share her plans to serve with the parish by speaking after Mass. Her parents, Alvaro and Carla Soares, hosted a get-together for their friends and family, also to raise money for THP.
As the religious education classes at Holy Family took on the subject of social justice and charity later in the fall, the children remembered Natàlia’s involvement and selected THP as the beneficiary of their dízimo (tithes). At their annual Christmas pageant, Fr. Christal encouraged the parents to set a good example for their children and took up a special collection at the event for THP. “It was beautiful to see,” he recalled, “our parishioners wanting to share and to make a contribution – especially considering their incomes. Many of them work in very difficult jobs… Natàlia’s experience is very much in tune with what we are talking about in the parish. This is the message of Pope Francis, that we lead a simple life and that we work for those who are most in need.”
Giovanna Adão coordinates religious education at Holy Family. A native of Brazil, she says that the first generation children in her community, including her own, can’t help but take U.S. standards of living for granted. “They have no idea what it was like in Brazil,” she commented, “I hope that by learning more about Haiti and [LCS], that they can understand a little better. And learn more about the Church’s teachings.” Throughout the year, students in the religious education program at Holy Family will continue to set aside their dízimo and send their savings to THP.
Most recently, Arthur Alves Souza celebrated his tenth birthday with friends and family at the Portuguese Club in Lowell. In lieu of gifts, Arthur and his parents, Cloves and Sarita requested that guests make a contribution to THP. His birthday party raised over $1,000 on behalf of the Project.
The importance of THP’s supporting parishes cannot be understated. From THP’s founding parish, St. Joseph’s in Providence, RI to the dozens of parishes from across the U.S. who have lent their prayers, time and financial support in the 27 years since, all have been instrumental in forming young men and women who are working to rebuild Haiti from within.