SACO — For a parish service project this Advent, staff at Good Shepherd Parish (Most Holy Trinity Church, Saco; St. Joseph Church, Biddeford; St. Margaret Church, Old Orchard Beach; St. Philip Church, Lyman) expanded its thinking to serving the universal Church, specifically, a group of people in need over 5,000 miles away.

“We wanted to offer some desperately needed financial support to Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem,” said Fr. Timothy Nadeau, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish. “This Catholic hospital is just 1,500 steps away from the manger where Jesus was born. It’s also the only hospital in the area that can properly handle premature and problematic births, and every woman wants to deliver a healthy child so many women travel hundreds of miles to give birth at Holy Family. Some of them come from desperately poor conditions unlike anything you or I could imagine.”

The parish was so excited to begin lending a helping hand, its Advent service project actually got underway in the fall.

“We organized four large bake sales at each parish church on the weekend of Oct. 22-23,” said Fr. Nadeau. “It took contributions from parishioners, the Knights of Columbus, staff, and our Social Justice and Peace Commission.”

And in November, parishioners prepared 150 pork pies that sold for $20 each. All the proceeds from the bake sale and the pork pie fundraiser went to the Holy Family Hospital project.

During Advent, the “Angel Tags” have taken center stage as hundreds of tags hang from large Christmas trees at each parish church and at St. James School in Biddeford with pictures of staff and babies who are being helped, like Hanna, who was born at 26 weeks and was rushed to the hospital as it is the only one in the area that can provide lifesaving care to babies under 34 weeks old. The tags also explain the great need at the hospital, further challenged by the pandemic, food insecurity, and unemployment.

“Despite all that, it’s the safety net for a million people,” said Fr. Nadeau. “The tags have an envelope for checks and money contributions that will come to parish and be added to the Holy Family Hospital fund that will be sent to the hospital.”

The hospital is an oasis of tranquility and love in the midst of a war-torn area, providing care no matter a patient’s religion or ability to pay, realities that have inspired hundreds of parishioners a half a world away.

“This is a wonderful cause and people are being so generous with their support,” said Fr. Nadeau. “We often forget what Christmas is about. We get involved in decorating the tree and buying presents and taking our little ones to see Santa. We must not forget baby Jesus is the reason for this season. One way to honor Him is by making sure that all the babies born in Bethlehem get the best possible care. We are fortunate to live in a country with the best doctors and nurses and hospitals in the world. These donations will help make sure the babies born in Bethlehem are beautiful and healthy.”

If you are able to contribute to the Good Shepherd Parish initiative, contact the parish at 207-282-3321. To offer financial support to the hospital directly, visit Finances and Donations – Holy Family Hospital Bethlehem (holyfamilyhospital-bethlehem.org).