With so much grim Church news crackling over the wires, here’s something to lift the heart.
From South Coast Today in Massachusetts:
A little church in a small town, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church was facing tough times. The congregation was dwindling, and Mass attendance was at an all-time low. The empty confessional was collecting dust, and donations were dismal.
But then the unthinkable happened.
Today, St. Francis Xavier is one of the most vibrant parishes in the diocese with standing-room only Masses, confessional lines, a busload of parishioners participating in the March for Life, and an abundance of freewill donations that will make them debt-free by April.
“Jesus is on the property,” said Mary Cardoza, the spark that inflamed the parish. “We are a church on fire.”
Brought up in a Catholic family, Mary Cardoza attended Catholic schools.
“I had one foot in the world and one foot in the Church,” she said.
But although she fulfilled her Sunday obligation, she never participated in church activities and often rebelled against the laws of the Church.
“I was always a zombie Catholic,” she said laughing.
When she turned 40, she decided it was time to cultivate a relationship with God.
“You only go to Him when you are in trouble,” she said.
She began meeting with a group for moms after church, who began teaching her about the faith.
It was on a group pilgrimage to the Divine Mercy Chapel in Stockbridge, where she had a life-changing experience. A message board of activities listed “Eucharistic Adoration”.
“What’s Adoration?” she asked the group. “Jesus is really in the Eucharist,” they answered. “But what do you do?” she asked. “You talk to Him,” they said. “Okay, so I go in there, kneel down and something happens — a spiritual experience. I’m on fire for an hour,’ she said.” I knew without a doubt Jesus was in the Eucharist. He was real. We were connected.”
Back at home, she had no idea what to do with her newfound faith.
After Sunday Mass, her pastor, the Rev. Daniel Lacroix, asked her to attend a Stewardship Committee meeting.
“So I go to this meeting, and it is the most depressing meeting I’ve ever been to,” she said. “They start telling me all the stuff that is wrong — church attendance and collections were down; no one was going to Confession; not many people were attending church activities. I go home and cry.”
But then, she said her prayers were answered with the solution to all that ailed her parish.
“I go back to Father Dan and tell him I have the answer — Adoration,” she said.
Lacroix offered her the use of a little room in the church basement, an exit hall to the elevator, but he had no funds to spare.
Shortly after, Cardoza received a phone call from a neighbor who had a package for her. It contained step-by-step instructions on how to start Adoration in your church.
“Her uncle had mailed it to her 10 years prior,” said Cardoza. “She had kept it until she found out about me.”
The next problem was that they needed kneelers, which cost about $500 each.
She received a call from another friend, who had started up a conversation with a woman wearing a Divine Mercy pin at Dunkin Donuts. When her friend mentioned that her church needed kneelers, the lady gave her a number to call.
“I called the number, and the Franciscans Sisters of the Immaculate in Fairhaven told me to pick up four kneelers that night,” Cardoza said.
Now, all they needed were adorers.
Cardoza spoke to the parishioners at all the Masses that weekend. She needed adorers to serve one-hour increments from Friday at 9:30 a.m. through Saturday at 3 p.m.
“Personally, I think Adoration is the best kept secret,” she told them. “I give Him all my problems; He gives me answers. I give Him all my fears; He gives me peace beyond any human understanding. I give Him my tears; He gives me joy. If you’re looking for a place to refuel with God’s graces to get through another hectic week, then Adoration is the place to be.”
Fifty people signed up.
And that was just the beginning. Read the rest.