Giving back for the many blessings God gives us

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Father Marty Goetz and two youths from Sacred Heart Parish in Newton look over gifts for a family of seven in need. The parish adopted the family in Newton for Christmas.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

NEWTON — A grandmother of a family of seven experiencing a difficult time in their lives called Sacred Heart Parish wondering if the parish might help her loved ones this Christmas. That call led to the parish adopting the anonymous family, with each of 69 faith formation students filling the family’s wish list and providing the makings for a Christmas food basket.

“This is an opportunity to give back for the many blessings God has given us,” said Father Marty Goetz, the parish’s pastor. The family’s dad accepted the offer with gratitude but asked for anonymity. He provided a wish list for the children “but didn’t ask for anything for his wife or himself, so we added them to the list,” said Michelle Miller, the parish’s new Stewardship coordinator.

Each of the 69 students in faith formation classes (K-8) received a randomly assigned orange card with an item to purchase. Students in grades kindergarten through six were to purchase non-food items, such as clothing, while students in grades seven and eight were to purchase items for the Christmas food basket. “The wish list had very few toys, mostly the family wanted clothing or practical items,” Miller said. The list included a few recreation-related wishes: a bicycle, soccer ball and volleyball.

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To their amazement, identical twin brothers Charlie and Max Allen, sixth-graders at Berg Middle School in Newton, received a card to purchase two sweatshirts (same color) for identical twin girls! “I looked at the (card) and said, ‘Oh my gosh! This is cool,’” Charlie told The Catholic Messenger. Their common bond as twins creates a special connection, Max said. “They know what you’re going through as a twin … sharing a lot of stuff (that’s the first thing), seeing each other every day and having a best friend by your side and always having someone to talk to.”

Max and Charlie’s family also has seven members, another connection. Charlie and Max’s mom, Emily, did the shopping. She said, “‘is it OK to get pink sweatshirts?’ and we both said yes,” Charlie said. The twins say this Christmas project has an impact on how they approach the season this year.

Charlie

“I just think it will help me to be thankful for what I have and to be more humble with what I have,” Charlie said. “It’s giving back to others.” He wonders, “What if I have a connection with them (the adopted family’s members) or have talked to them before?”

Max

Max hopes that the family lives a good life and that they can see how God blesses them. “God is blessing them with a gift and blessing them on this earth … it’s a blessing that God came to earth.” Max also hopes that he will “see God in what he’s given me, the family and the friends he has given me.”

Quinn Soppe, a fifth-grader at BMS, said, “It’s pretty cool we get to help people that need things.” The family member assigned to her could be a teenage boy, Quinn’s mom, Brooke Soppe, figures, based on the size of the hoodie requested. Brooke did the shopping but “I asked (Quinn), ‘What colors should I get?’” Quinn said, “I told her to get blue because I think it’s a pretty cool color and a lot of people like it.”

Brooke, who teaches fifth-grade faith formation at Sacred Heart, purchased two hoodies and dinner rolls because “I have three kids involved in the project.” The other two are daughters Ella, seven, and Zoey, 13.

“I’m hoping they get what they need and that they have a very special Christmas and that they’re happy with what they get,” Quinn said of the Christmas family. She thinks the project “will make me feel a lot more grateful and appreciative for what I get.”

Faith formation students brought their gifts unwrapped to religious education class Dec. 13, filling up multiple bins. Miller said their adopted family’s parents wanted to wrap the gifts. “I wish I could be there to see the smiles on their faces on Christmas morning.”

She does not know whether the family belongs to a faith community. “Who knows, maybe the family will want to visit Sacred Heart Church and eventually become members?”

Miller believes the Christmas project, along with the giving tree in the gathering space and a Thanksgiving meal that the parish helped to serve to people who are homeless “are a few ways to show the community that the Church cares about them.”


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