Friday, January 1, 2010

Feeding the Poor is Priest's Mission

JOHN SLADEWSKI/The Standard-Times The Rev. Gabriel Healy, SS.CC. of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, founder of Damien's Place food pantry, is the Wareham Man of the Year.
Wareham, Mass: - His dream was to become a missionary serving in foreign lands, but instead he made SouthCoast his mission field and feeding its poor his life's work. For his compassion and devotion to the poor, the Rev. Gabriel Healy, SS.CC. of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, is the 2009 Wareham Man of the Year. Nominations for the award came from the community and members of the newspaper staff. Recipients were selected by a newsroom committee.
Healy said he was born with a "missionary heart." The Dorchester native became aware of his special calling in elementary school when a missionary spoke to his class about foreign missions.
"I was so excited and that feeling has never left me," he said. "Even now as I reflect on 52 years, my heart still beats with the desire to serve God."
In high school, Healy read about the life of Father Damien de Veuster, the Roman Catholic missionary who ministered to lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. "It gave content and depth to that sense of mission and nurtured in me the desire to belong to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts," he said. "To this congregation I was called, and from this congregation I was almost separated."
In seminary, Healy's studies were interrupted by illness and he went home for surgery. The superior wrote to him urging him to stay home and recover; however, the letter he actually received told him to return. When he arrived, the superior conceded; and he continued his studies. "There was never any doubt in my mind that God's will was reflected in the letter I received, and here I am," Healy said. "This was a deciding point in my vocation, and it made me feel deeply then, as I do now, that there are never any accidents with God."
Following ordination, he was filled with anticipation as he waited for his first missionary assignment, which could take him anywhere in the world. A fellow priest was sent to Japan, and Healy longed to go there. But he learned he was going to teach in California because of his frail health.
Over the years, Healy would serve locally as the congregation's vocation director, assistant novice master, novice master, treasurer, director of development and mission animator, as well as pastor of St. Anthony's Church in Mattapoisett and of Holy Trinity Church in Harwich.
At Holy Trinity, Healy, with the help of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, established The Family Pantry to serve the poor on Cape Cod. It has since been renamed Gabriel's Place in his honor.
In 1992, he opened a second food pantry, Damien's Place, in Wareham, as an outreach of the Sacred Hearts Retreat Center. "The pantries now serve thousands of hungry families," said Father Thomas McElroy, SS.CC., who serves as co-director. "Father Gabe is the person behind the scenes, buying food, begging food, improving the pantry's outreach. ... No one would suspect that this quiet, joy-filled man was the reason for so many hungry people having their needs fulfilled."
An octogenarian, Healy can still be found on Saturday mornings at Damien's Place.
"I love the poor. They need to be loved," he said. "If you believe that what you are doing is God's will, life becomes a series of opportunities — of trying to be or become what God has found in you. Only God looks deep enough, long enough and hard enough to see who we are, then with patience, love and forgiveness guides those who keep his covenant to the promise of a life fulfilled."
No responsibility or liability shall attach itself to either myself or to the blogspot ‘Mozlink’ for any or all of the articles/images placed here. The placing of an article does not necessarily imply that I agree or accept the contents of the article as being necessarily factual in theology, dogma or otherwise.

No comments: