Parishioners of Blessed Sacrament Roman Catholic Church of Walpole, Massachusetts sent as a “Christmas down payment” $35,000 in funds donated by parishioners to the Catholic community of Pass Christian, Mississippi to help rebuild their beloved church of St. Paul’s, which was seriously damaged by Hurricane Katrina three and a half months ago. Pass Christian, a small town on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, was ground zero for the eye of the hurricane. Under the leadership of its pastor, Fr. Tim Kelleher, Blessed Sacrament agreed to adopt St. Paul’s Church to assist the people of Pass Christian restore who many have described as the center of their community.
In October, a group of parishioners of Blessed Sacrament, led by Fr. Kelleher, traveled to Pass Christian to visit their "adopted" parish of St. Paul's and view the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina. The Blessed Sacrament delegation met with Fr. Dennis Carver, St. Paul's pastor, toured the town, and participated in a Mass, celebrated for the first time since the hurricane in the heavily damaged structure which up until Katrina served as Church for 900 families. At the Mass, Fr. Kelleher presented the people of St. Paul's a San Damiano Cross, blessed in Rome and Assisi, which memorializes God's call to St. Francis to rebuild His Church. In presenting the Cross, Fr. Kelleher spoke of the physical disaster suffered by St. Paul's and the spiritual disaster suffered by Blessed Sacrament due to the abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of Boston, and pledged to work together to renew both parishes through prayer, financial assistance and fellowship.
On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, Fr. Carver and two his parishioners, Jim and Laura Currie whose home was destroyed by Katrina, were honored guests at a first ever Thanksgiving pot-luck feast hosted by the Blessed Sacrament parish in its school gymnasium. The feast was attended by over 300 people, and was supported by over 70 volunteers, including school children, the Knights of Columbus, and retirees. The feast celebrated the many blessings God has bestowed on the parish, and featured personal witness by the Curries and Fr. Carver of their stories and the needs of St. Paul’s. It also featured a 9-minute video presentation showing the destruction the Pass Christian community’s hopes for the future. The video was was produced by two of Blessed Sacrament’s parishioners, Deacon Rey Spadoni and Gerry Nelson, and is now available for viewing on Blessed Sacrament’s web site, www.BlessedSacrament.org/PassChristian.
The feast launched Blessed Sacrament’s fundraising drive to help to rebuild the church. Its goal is to raise $125,000 with contributions of $250 per family. On Thursday, December 22, 2005, Fr. Kelleher announced that the parish has raised $35,000 which he was forwarding to St. Paul’s church as a “Christmas down payment.” Fr. Kelleher said, “I am very pleased but not surprised at the generosity that our parishioners have shown. It is a privilege for me, on behalf of the parish, to send to our brothers and sisters in Pass
Christian this donation in celebration of our Lord and Savior’s birth. We hope to send more in the near future as our fundraising efforts continue.” The funds will be used, in part, for emergency repairs to the existing remaining structure so that it can be used as a temporary church until a new one can be designed and built.