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.”

The service project, which included bake sales, pork pie sales, and “Angel tags” raised over $20,000 which is now on its way to the hospital. Hundreds of “Angel tags” were placed on large Christmas trees at each parish church and at St. James School in Biddeford during Advent 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 explained the great need at the hospital and invited those taking a tag to help the cause.

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 inspired hundreds of parishioners a half a world away.

“People were so generous,” said Fr. Nadeau. “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.”