PORTLAND — Two Maine parishes have been named recipients of Matthew 25 Awards which include grants ranging from $3,000 to $5,000. The awards, which are presented by Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry program, are given to parishes to assist them in expanding their capacity to serve more people or to develop a new social ministry. The ministries receiving the awards must be directly serving vulnerable people in need, regardless of faith affiliation, and adhering to the principles of the Bible verse Matthew: 25 (“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink…”).

Good Shepherd Parish (Most Holy Trinity Church, Saco; St. Joseph Church, Biddeford; St. Margaret Church, Old Orchard Beach; St. Philip Church, Lyman; St. Brendan Chapel, Biddeford Pool) has been awarded a grant of $5,000 for Esther Residence, a home in Saco for women who are leaving incarceration or a treatment program due to substance abuse. The residence is operated by the Good Shepherd Sisters (Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) in Biddeford and provides a safe, nurturing community that is based on respect and dignity. Women at the residence are homeless, often having been separated from their children. The residents are supported in working towards staying sober, finding full-time employment, attending counseling, and receiving adult education to enable them to transition to independence living so that they can reunite with their children.

The grant will allow for an increase in resident support and education related to parenting and family stressors, which include experiencing profound trauma like separation from children and recovery from substance abuse. Additional outside professional consultation on individual resident cases will be offered.

“Without grant funding, we would not be able to offer this support at this time,” said Sister Joanne Roy, SCIM, director of Esther Residence. “We are grateful.”

“This ministry is most necessary and deserving of support from Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry,” said Fr. Timothy Nadeau, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish. “The effects of this award to Esther Residence will be multiplied so many times over and increase charity among individuals, parishioners, and the diocesan family as a whole. This ministry is a teaching example to those intimately involved and everyone who hears and knows the work done in Christ’s name and heart.”

St. Joseph Parish in Farmington and St. Rose of Lima Parish in Jay have been awarded a $3,000 grant to support the parishes’ meal initiatives that serve thousands of local people in need each month. The St. Joseph Nutrition Center in Farmington feeds the hungry of Franklin County by preparing and serving takeout meals each week for those in need, providing a 24/7 “Blessing Box” outside of the building for people to come and take groceries, hosting educational events regarding proper nutrition and cooking techniques, and maintaining a walk-in food pantry inside the building. The center is run by volunteers. St. Rose of Lima Parish, which shares parish social ministry planning and resources with St. Joseph, also offers several different community food assistance programs from its parish hall in Jay, including a separate “Blessing Box,” a takeout meal on Fridays, and a self-serve refrigerator with food located inside the entryway to the hall that is stocked with perishable food items.

“Providing self-serve, anonymous food access at both parishes helps reduce the stigma often associated with asking for free food. Our primary need for further growing our capacity to serve is additional refrigeration and freezer space,” said Max Becher, director of parish social ministry at both parishes. “We often receive food donations in unpredictable and large quantities and are limited in what we can receive by our storage infrastructure.”

“I am so grateful for the work of Parish Social Ministry in our diocese,” said Bishop Robert Deeley. “The help it offers, including the Matthew 25 Awards, reminds us that we are all called to participate in the mission of the Church, bringing love and mercy to our world. These programs and so many others are devoted to spreading the message of the Gospel. They serve as wonderful examples of the ways in which people in our diocese are bringing God’s love to those in need.”

For more information about the many Parish Social Ministry programs assisting throughout Maine and ways that you can help, visit www.ccmaine.org/parish-social-ministry.