Category Archives: Christmas & Lent

News from the Service Commission’s Christmas & Lent program

Our 2018 Collaborative Lenten Gift – Special Second Collection March 17-18

We invite you to participate in this outreach to our little NPH brothers and sisters in Miacatlán. Donations are accepted with our second collection this weekend, by mail to the parish office, or online: 

We thank you for your support, it is appreciated and will make a difference in the children’s lives.  For more information, please visit our Lenten Gift page.

An Update from NPH Mexico: Since the Earthquake…

February 26, 2018 – Mexico: Hipólito is a 9-year-old boy studying 3rd grade. September 19, 2017, will be a day he will never forget.

“That afternoon we were all very still, we already knew that something serious had happened. My friends and I only heard that the old chapel was badly damaged, and also the schools and the dining hall.

Our caregivers explained to us what had just happened and tried to make sure everyone was calm, because there were some children who were crying. They were nervous or maybe scared, I guess. 

I remember there was no electricity that night and the whole hacienda (home) was very dark.  Since our dormitories weren’t safe to sleep in, we all slept together outside so we would not be afraid, and some of us had candles.

Starting that day, school was suspended for a few weeks. The teachers were at the home to carry out activities with the children to distract them. The psychologists gave support workshops to all the kids so that they could express their feelings, and they gave them reading materials and did relaxation exercises.

The dining hall and kitchen had to be closed. We created a temporary dining hall and kitchen under large tents in the main courtyard.


After a few weeks, classes resumed under tarps with blackboards hanging on the sides.

“At the beginning, we liked having classes there, it was something different. But after a while we got bored, it was hot even under the tarps. Besides, since everyone passed by, it was easier to be distracted and to start chatting with friends,” says Hipólito of his experience in outdoors classes.


Fortunately, the schools have already been repaired and our children returned to their classrooms on January 31. “I am happy because we can have ‘normal’ classes now. We spent several months like that, and we thought it would take much longer to go back to our classrooms because they were very damaged.”

NPH Mexico has taken big steps since the earthquake—thanks to generous donors—to help the children return to their classrooms. There is still a great need to repair the dining hall and kitchen as more than 400 children continue to eat outside.

Some of the children’s dormitories still need repairs, and many other structural issues to our home still need to be addressed. For the time being, we will continue rebuilding our facilities so that our children enjoy their days with dignity, and above all, in safe spaces.

The Collection for our Lenten gift will be taken up at all Masses next weekend March 17 & 18. As we embrace the three-fold Lenten discipline of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we invite you to participate in this outreach to our little brothers and sisters in Miacatlán.

For more information, please visit our Lenten Gift page.

A Devastating Earthquake

Last week, we identified the rebuilding of the boys’ and girls’ dormitories at the NPH facility in Miacatlan, Mexico as the project to which we would dedicate this year’s Lenten gift from the Saint John-Saint Paul Collaborative. As in all of the homes sponsored by NPH, the children being cared for in Miacatlan have had tough childhoods. Many have lived in dangerous or unsanitary conditions, begged or scavenged for food, suffered abuse, or had no stable family life, and have lacked proper nutrition and health care.

Imagine how thrilled each of these children must have felt when brought to the loving and familial atmosphere of Casa San Salvador in Miacatlan, which is 77 miles southwest of Mexico City. The Casa is an old converted sugar plantation and serves more than 400 children. Always bustling with activity, its facilities are extensive and offer a small town feel. The home features girls’ and boys’ dormitories, a healthcare clinic, a primary school, a kitchen, a cafeteria, athletic facilities, a library, and a chapel.

This wonderful environment has been compromised by the 7.1 magnitude earthquake of last September. In the middle school boys’ dormitory, there are serious cracks needing repair before it is safe for them to return.

Currently, 160 boys are living in another dormitory in a space only fit for 80. The girls’ dormitory needs repair to its sewage system before the rainy season begins. During significantly rainy days, eight inches of rain have been building up outside of their dormitory, resulting in over an inch of water coming into their rooms.

There are so many needy causes that need attention today that we had no shortage of opportunities from which to choose a recipient. However, the Service Commission chose NPH in Miacatlan both to have an immediate impact for good and also to further the relationship begun last year that has resulted in so many families in the Collaborative sponsoring a young boy or girl. As we embrace the three-fold Lenten discipline of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we invite you to participate in this outreach to our little brothers and sisters in Miacatlan.

For more information, please visit our Lenten Gift page.

Announcing Our 2018 Collaborative Lenten Gift

Over the fall of 2017, our Collaborative heard much about Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, (NPH), as we had visitors from NPH Guatemala. Many families hosted our NPH friends, and even more families signed up to sponsor children. This year, the St. John-St. Paul Collaborative has selected NPH Mexico for our 2018 Lenten gift.

On September 19, a devastating 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck Central Mexico. The earthquake struck very close to NPH’s homes and schools in Miacatlán. Thankfully, none of children, volunteers or staff were harmed, but estimates of the damage to their facilities were significant.

Specifically, we will be contributing towards the rebuilding of the boys and girls dormitories. We hope to help NPH Mexico restore its facilities so they can continue their mission of transforming young people’s lives.

The Story of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos

In 1954, more than six decades ago, in Cuernavaca, Mexico a young and hungry boy stole money from a church collection box in order to purchase food. He was arrested and due to receive a harsh sentence for his crime. However, the newly ordained priest of the church, Father William B. Wasson, asked the court to show mercy. He requested custody of the boy so that he could provide for the boy’s needs, and the judge accepted. Throughout that year, Father Wasson received 32 more boys, and Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos was born.

Since then, NPH has been transforming the lives of thousands of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children. One of the unique features of NPH is that when they accept one child into the home, they take all siblings so that the sense of family continues. It is not considered an orphanage; it is more like a large family. NPH provides a safe home and a loving forever family that offers security, vital nutrition, comprehensive healthcare, an education, and vocational training to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. Currently, there are over 3,200 children in nine NPH homes in Latin American countries.

For more information, please visit our Lenten Gift page.

Help Make Wishes Come True!

Christmas Wish and TreeSome children wish upon a star. This year, about 400 children will wish upon the caring generosity of our parish community through the St. John Christmas Wish program, which has been making wishes come true since 1993. Needed clothing and a special Christmas wish gift will go to youngsters in our own parish and in parishes in Roxbury, Lowell and Brockton.

You can help make wishes come true by:

  • Sponsoring a child or family – fulfilling specific clothing and gift requests
  • Helping us shop – for children who have not been matched with sponsors
  • Making a financial donation – to be used to purchase clothing or gifts for children who have not been matched with sponsors

Save time by signing up as a Sponsor or Shopper online:  Christmas Wish Sign-Up  

Financial donations can also be made online:  Donate Now! 
(Anyone can make a one-time donation to Christmas Wish – no need to set up an account!)  

Forms and Checks (payable to St. John Parish, please indicate Christmas Wish in the memo) may be mailed to: St. John Parish, 39 Washington St., Wellesley, MA 02481 or dropped at the SJSP Collaborative Administrative Offices in the Parish Center. (39 Washington St. Business hours: Monday-Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm)

Questions?  Please contact Liz Corcoran or Sarah Connolly, or call the Parish Office at 781-235-0045.

Our Collaborative Lenten Gift Special Collection – April 1-2

Bakhita_cropThis is the weekend to share in the extraordinary ministry of Bakhita House through our Lenten Gift! Once again, this is our opportunity, as individuals and as a community, to respond to the need before us and help ease the suffering of human trafficking. Over the years, we have tried to direct our Lenten Gift to an immediate, urgent situation, and this is what exists now at Bakhita House.

At Masses this Weekend: Donations can be made during the special second collection at all Masses at St. John and St. Paul this weekend. Please make checks payable to your parish (“St. John Parish” or “St. Paul Parish”), noting “Lenten Gift 2017” in the memo; we will total funds received from all sources and present one check to Bakhita House.

By Mail or at the Office: Donations may also be mailed to the Collaborative Business Office (39 Washington St. Wellesley, MA 02481) or dropped at either parish office during business hours.

Online: You can make a secure, online donation using ParishPay. (Anyone can make a secure, one-time donation with a credit card. No need to set up an account – just click Start Giving!)

Week 4 – How Can We Help?

Over the past three weeks, we have begun to learn about the tragedy of human trafficking and the healing work of The Bakhita House.  If you have found yourself thinking “I had no idea” while reading these stories over the past few weeks, you are not alone. There is very little awareness among most people in this country that human trafficking even exists, let alone in the United States; when it is recognized, it is usually thought of as something that happens in other places, to other people who are very different from us.  It is startling to learn that the 41 women served by The Bakhita House since it opened in 2011 were rescued from trafficking situations here in the Boston area, and that while some were brought here from other countries, the majority were born in the U.S.  So, now that we know, how can we help?

sisterThe current staff of The Bakhita House includes five religious sisters from three different religious orders, who work in pairs to be able to staff the house 24-7. The staff coordinates a team of over 30 volunteers from a variety of religious congregations as well as lay volunteers, who are critical to the mission of The Bakhita House. Volunteers provide a range of services to guests, including transportation, on-site life skills and social skills training, and tutoring. Volunteers also help engage in advocacy efforts and in fundraising. Volunteers receive training and are encouraged to be non-judgmental in their interactions with guests, providing an additional layer of care, support, and community at Bakhita House.  If you might be interested in helping as a volunteer or advocate, please visit the website for more details and contact information:

Financial donations enable The Bakhita House to provide emotional support, food, shelter, and clothing, as well as an environment that assists guests to rebuild their lives, and help as they transition to a new and stable life beyond the shelter. Next weekend, April 1-2, we will take up a collaborative-wide special second collection for our Lenten Gift, which will allow each of us to share in easing the suffering, and to answer Lent’s clarion call to love extravagantly.

For more information, please visit our Lenten Gift page.

Week Three – Voices from Bakhita House

This week we have ‘witness statements’; the first one is from a parishioner who is a physician who works at Massachusetts General Hospital, and volunteers at the MGH/Freedom Clinic one day/week. The MGH Freedom Clinic was launched in April, 2015 to care for victims and survivors of human trafficking in the Boston area. The Clinic offers free primary and preventative care for victims and survivors of human trafficking ages 13 years and older.

“I have been privileged to meet the residents of Bakhita house as patients. Through my work as a primary care physician at the MGH Freedom clinic I see many young women who have found refuge at Bakhita house. Their feelings are a mix of fear and relief. For some they have come straight off the streets – extracted from the hands of an abusing trafficker. For others – they have been saved from servitude in a job they were never paid for and worked 7 days a week. All are damaged. They have a deep mistrust in the health system because often times they may have been seen by a nurse or doctor who failed to see the signs that they were victimized.”

“One young woman had come to the US to work as a nanny. She had her passport taken away as soon as she arrived and the host family neglected to pay her, for months. She worked 14 hour days and was given no time off. She had hoped to make some money to send home to her family in the Philippines, but was unable to even communicate with them as her phone was taken away too. Thanks to her own savvy – this young woman called the Human Trafficking hotline (1-888-373-7888) and was freed. She stayed at Bakhita House where the nuns provided a loving home while she healed from her ordeal. She is now living in her own apartment, working a paying job, and sending money home to her family.”

“Another young woman, a New England native, was part of a forced prostitution ring. She was freed thanks to local law enforcement cracking the case and was brought to Bakhita House. She is still fragile. Her past life included opioid addiction and she is now trying to leave that behind. I work with wonderful counselors who also help these women recover from their trauma. The journey to recovery is long.”

“I treat sore throats and asthma flares, nightmares and addiction, and have learned volumes about the vulnerabilities and needs of this special population, all from the survivors themselves. I am continually impressed by their grace and strength. For many, faith plays a role in the ongoing hope. As one survivor writes: ‘To Love is to Believe. May we so love as to believe!'”

The second statement is from a guest at the Bakhita House. It attests to the unique ambiance of the house, created by the wonderful sisters who provide 24/7 coverage at the house, every day of the year.

“The Bakhita safe house is a one of a kind, as are the women who run it. They can be tough as nails and yet offer a soft place to land. They are well prepared for the challenge of working with girls like us: the ups and the downs that we go through are challenging! Some days we can be angry and defensive and some days we just need a shoulder to cry on; some days we want to run away or give up. When I moved in, they made me realize I was now a part of something – I became like family to them. When I need something they are a phone call away.”

“I honestly don’t think I would be where I am today without them. When you come out of a situation like being trafficked, you are skeptical of everyone, but you can count on the women who staff Bakhita House. And anyone they trust I trust! The volunteers they select are the cream of the crop. If you let them, they’ll be with you every step of the way no matter how scary it can be. This isn’t a shelter this is a family & I hope it never dies.”  Rhonda (not actual name)


Week Two – What Is The Bakhita House?

In 2001, when 800 leaders of congregations of Catholic sisters from 77 different countries gathered in Rome, the Sisters from Asia and Africa raised awareness about the phenomenon of human trafficking and the suffering of its victims. In 2007, the Boston unit of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) established an Anti-Trafficking Coalition. A year later, Boston (LCWR) established a task force and met with law enforcement and social agency personnel to learn how to help trafficked women. The Sisters learned that the greatest need for these women was a safe house. In October, 2011 Bakhita House (BH) opened. At the time it was the first and only safe house in New England for victims of human trafficking. It is supported and funded by 21 religious congregations including two congregations long associated with St. Paul’s and St. John’s: the Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Notre Dame.

sisterThe Bakhita Community, staffed by a core community of live-in Catholic Sisters and several volunteers, provides emotional support, clothing, food and shelter and services for victims of both domestic and international trafficking. The community’s goal is straightforward: namely, to create a home for these women with unconditional love. Remember, the victims of trafficking have been deeply traumatized and have absolutely no support system so the Sisters, in effect, become family to these young women. Ultimately the Bahkita Community creates an environment that assists guests to rebuild their lives; in effect to transition ‘up and out’.

roomIt starts with providing comfortable private rooms and convenient accommodations. The community has protocols and rules that focus on safety and confidentiality, all in a warm and caring environment. The community emphasizes and validates the guests’ strengths, adaptations and resilience. BH has adopted an empowerment model that enables guests to experience a renewed sense of control in their lives. Working with a case manager, each guest creates her own goals.

During its six years of operation, BH has cared for 41 young women; most of whom have been sexually exploited. The House can accommodate up to 3 guests at a time and the length of stay varies and can extend for up to 1 year. An important part of the stay is to integrate the women back into society and toward this end the Sisters help the women find jobs. BH is conveniently located near the T and Bus Lines for easy access to job opportunities. The Sisters are also responsible for connecting the women to critical and comprehensive services from government and social service organizations. In addition to paying rent for BH and purchasing/preparing meals for the House, the Sisters provide cell phones, monthly bus and T passes and other sundry expenses for the women.

When each guest is ready, the Sisters help them transition back into an independent life. To help ease the financial burdens of starting life anew, the Sisters provide the first and last month rents for each guest, as well as locating donated furniture and other needs for apartment living. Not surprisingly, the Sisters stay in touch with the guests once they are living independently and continue to provide emotional and financial support to the best of their ability.

Please visit our 2017 Collaborative Lenten Gift page for more information.

To learn more about Bakhita House, please visit their website:

Week One – What is Human Trafficking?

SlaveryHuman trafficking, the modern day practice of slavery, can be described most simply as “activities involved when one person obtains or holds another person in compelled service”. The term trafficking in persons can be misleading because the emphasis is on the transaction aspect, but the crime is enslavement and exploitation of people, day after day for months or even years. Traffickers use force, fraud, or coercion to control other people for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex or forcing them to provide labor services against their will. All trafficking victims share one essential experience – the loss of freedom.

According to the United Nations’ ‘Global Report on Trafficking in Persons’ (2016), the victims of trafficking include: women (51%), girls (20%), boys (8%) and men (21%). Many people associate trafficking with transnational operations, but the fact is that most exploitation takes place close to home. In most cases, the victims and the traffickers often have the same background, and may even be related.

The Catholic Church has long spoken out against human trafficking. In July 2016, Pope Francis said: “Human trafficking is an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge upon the body of Christ. It is a crime against humanity.” He went on to say that those who suffer from forms of modern slavery are “the least among us” and that all people are called to renew their commitment to improving the human condition.

josephineBakhita House is named after St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita who was born in 1869 in the Darfur region of the Sudan. In 1877, when she was eight years old, she was kidnapped by Arab slave traders and spent the next 12 years enslaved. Eventually she was brought to Italy – and her freedom – through the help of the Canossian Daughters of Charity. She took her final vows in 1896 and for the next 42 years dedicated her life to sharing her testament of deliverance from slavery and comforting the poor and suffering. She died on February 8, 1947.

In 1958, the process of canonization began for Josephine under Pope John XXIII. On December 1st, 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her venerable. Sadly, the news of her beatification in 1992 was censored in Sudan. But just nine months later, Pope John Paul II visited Sudan and honored her publicly. He canonized her on October 1, 2000.

The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has organized an anti trafficking program and considers trafficking an assault on the dignity of every person. USCCB has designated February 8th as an annual Day of Prayer for Victims and Survivors of Human Trafficking. February 8th is the Feast Day of St. Josephine Margaret Bakhita.