From Our Pastor ~ August 24, 2014

Dear Good People of Saint Mary,

We’ve had a family (a man and two small children) visiting us at weekend Masses begging
outside the church for months, now. Over this time, I’ve been approached by many people, some who have said they shouldn’t be there, some who have told me they actually borrowed money from others to give to them because, even though they have a nice car and don’t look that desperate, the children shouldn’t be on the street. Of course, compassionate people feel bad for them. We have repeatedly told them that if they stay on the property that we will call the police. As soon as I am told they are outside they take off faster than I can get out there to run them off.

My alarm went off when two things happened: 1) they began to tell people that “Father said it was okay that we stand out here and beg,” and 2) “No cash? That’s okay, we take checks.” We have looked into these people – there are quite a number of them – and discovered that they have been going to churches all over the diocese for months. They are actually Romanian (real gypsies) who work for companies (the mob) in Romania who have now saturated Europe, and who have now bought them plane tickets to come to get money from parishes in the United States. One pastor in northern Virginia said that these companies in Eastern Europe actually look on line for the parishes in the US with the biggest collections, then send people here to take advantage of them. If you’ve ever been robbed by gypsies outside of churches in Europe (Rome, in particular),
you will know whom we’re talking about.

Please do not be taken advantage of, and do not let them take advantage of your charity that should be directed to legitimate need. Here is how “Father” would like you to respond. Just call the police. Don’t tell them you are going to call the police, because they will be gone before the police arrive, and then will be back next week. It is never a good idea to give anyone cash, anyway, but especially not a check to someone you don’t know. Their bosses will have your name, address, maybe phone number and bank account number.

This is probably a good time to talk about how we can best address the issue of begging and homelessness. And scams. Saint Mary is very deeply committed to supporting local agencies who address issues of hunger and homelessness. With community dinners, and the spectrum of Micah ministries, Saint Mary and area churches provide daily meals, shelter from the cold, visitors’ services in the form of food, clothing, facilities, a program for respite care following medical procedures, job assistance, rapid re-housing and career counseling. Anything people need is available through these agencies and all people need to do is ask. The homeless shelter is far less helpful due to strict eligibility requirements, but that is also a community resource. No one should need to beg, please, tell them of our parish commitment and invite them to look into what is offered. By providing these agencies with our resources, we know that our generosity is getting to the people for whom it is intended, where help is really needed.

We are happy to say that over the past decade Saint Mary has been a tithing parish, that is to say, that between 12 and 15% of the collections that pass through Saint Mary have gone to the poor and those in need. Your generosity to the parish automatically assures that 12 to 15% of your charitable donations provide for the poor and other legitimate charities and local agencies. We regularly support all of them.

The Micah Welcome Center is on Princess Anne Street next to the Baptist Church and
is there to provide care for people in difficult situations. The parish office can let you know where the daily breakfasts and dinners are prepared for anyone who doesn’t have a meal today. If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to ask our staff. Let people know where they can really find help, and stop those who would take advantage of your kindness.

May God bless you,

Fr. Don