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WATERTOWN -- Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley visited local parishes during the weekend of March 7-8 to mark the launch of the Archdiocese of Boston's annual Catholic Appeal.
In the evening of March 7, he visited St. Jude Church in Waltham. In the morning of March 8, he celebrated Mass at St. Patrick Church, which, along with Sacred Heart Church, is part of the Watertown Catholic Collaborative.
In his homily at St. Patrick Church, Cardinal O'Malley talked about the "geography" of Lent. He pointed out that the Gospel reading of the previous Sunday, the first Sunday of Lent, tells of Jesus fasting in the desert, while the Gospel of March 8 recounts the story of Jesus taking Peter, James and John up Mount Tabor. There, they witness his Transfiguration and hear the voice of God say, "This is my beloved son. Listen to him."
"That's a very important Lenten message for all of us. Lent is about listening, listening to the Word of God and putting it into practice in our lives," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He went on to say that Lent is about "going into the desert, climbing the mountain with Jesus, to listen to him and to glimpse his unfailing love and presence in our lives."
Cardinal O'Malley also spoke about the importance of almsgiving during Lent, which he connected with the Catholic Appeal.
"Our diocesan Appeal is about making sacrifice to do the works of mercy and the works of evangelization," he said.
The Catholic Appeal makes up almost 50 percent of the archdiocese's budget, supporting 51 central ministries, 110 Catholic schools, and 283 parishes.
At the end of the Mass, Katherine Zuccala, who has been a member of Sacred Heart Parish for 30 years, spoke to the assembly about how she and her family have benefited from programs funded by the Catholic Appeal.
"We may not be aware of certain programs and services if we're not using them at this particular time in our lives. But they are there, ready to step in at a moment's notice when we do need them. And when we need them, we really need them," Zuccala said.
She described her family's recent experiences. Her mother, who was "healthy and active" until she was 90, had a serious stroke, which left her unable to speak or attend Mass.
When someone is unable to receive the sacraments or be active in the community, Zuccala said, "The diocesan nursing ministry and hospital chaplaincy services are there to step in quickly and bridge that sudden and wrenching gap."
More recently, Zuccala's sister suffered an aneurism. Zuccala said she and her other sister benefited greatly from the ministry of the chaplain at the hospital.
"Their support and guidance was helpful beyond words," she said.
Zuccala also spoke about her daughter, who is an altar server and was recently nominated to participate in Discipleship Week, the archdiocese's leadership conference for high school students. The conference, which is scheduled to take place in June, is directly assisted by the Catholic Appeal.
"The Catholic Appeal will help her and many other teens from our collaborative and beyond by providing programs that bring youth together throughout the diocese in faith and fun and to grow in holiness," she said.
Zuccala assured her fellow parishioners that even small donations are important, and acknowledged that families' different circumstances will determine how much financial support they can give. She said that if each person contributed even a small amount, "together we can make a real difference."
"Our individual families coming together into one is what our faith is all about," Zuccala said.