Maine parish helps community regardless of creed or ethnicity
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
James Tokos describes his domain, the town of Maine in Broome County, as a “very rural setting” — agriculture, lots of open fields, backroads. It also sprouts universal aid.
For example, Most Holy Rosary Church, the town, and the local school all helped raise more than $30,000 to buy a specially equipped van for a boy with cerebral palsy. And in the last few weeks, four families in the area were hit by fires. MHR’s Benevolent Committee gave each family a $500 check to get them back on their feet.
Recently a family in Granby needed to buy a specially equipped van for two brothers with muscular dystrophy and their mom; Catholic Sun readers from all over the diocese were among those who contributed more than $20,000, which included $300 from the Benevolent Committee.
“It’s a great, great committee,” said Tokos, who is the town supervisor, a fifth-grade teacher at Maine Memorial Elementary School, and the director of religious education for MHR.
In one case, Deacon Gary DiLallo identified an MHR parishioner who needed fuel oil, so the committee paid for the oil-tank fill-up.
The Benevolent Committee helps non-parishioners too, regardless of creed or ethnicity. Tokos, who is in the third year of his four-year deacon formation, said: “That’s truly who we are as Catholics. … We’re community oriented. … It’s about extending the body of Christ into the town of Maine.”
One “unified endeavor” that was an overwhelming joy to him was helping to fund the special van for Cooper Knapick, 11, of Maine. Last August, MHR’s youth ministry sponsored a chicken barbecue that raised $5,120 for Cooper, including a $1,000 donation from the Benevolent Committee. Barbecue helpers included the West Endicott Lions Club.
BIG DAY IN THE PARK
In October, the Maine community purchased Cooper’s white 2012 Chrysler Town & Country van in Syracuse. Mathews Auto Group of Vestal undercoated the van for free.
A week after its arrival, Cooper and his family showed up with the van in Maine’s town park to celebrate and to thank everybody for contributing.
The van, which has 50,000 miles on it, is a “huge benefit for everybody” in the family, said Cooper’s dad, Joe Knapick. He drives a car and his wife, Laura, drives their other van, a 2008 Kia. To prolong its usefulness, they drive the white van only when they are transporting Cooper to events such as track and cross-country races run by his sister, Mikenzie, 13.
When the side door of the van opens, the electronic lift comes out. Cooper and his wheelchair go onto the ramp, which then raises and puts him inside the van; then the door closes automatically.
Such wonders flow from Mark 12:31, in the view of MHR Youth Minister Kim Hayden: “‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Cooper’s “spirit and personality motivated a whole community to fundraise,” Hayden said.
She added: “It was an amazing opportunity for us to do good. The hospitality of our Benevolent Committee, the unwavering support and guidance from our leaders, Pastor Clarence Rumble, Pastor (in residence) Clarence Cerwonka, Deacon Gary DiLallo, and James Tokos all set the tone for our success.”
Her daughter Zoe Hayden, a member of MHR’s youth group, said, “It was so nice to see that at Most Holy Rosary we help so many other people.”
“We are a very community-minded parish, No. 1,” said Deacon DiLallo. “We tithe 10 percent of our collection each week to the community.” Every year, tithing totals close to $25,000 that the Benevolent Committee gives away. “God blesses us so we can do things like this,” the deacon said.
Renee Stastny, MHR’s office manager, said the committee gives money to those in need, and “the Lord certainly does bless us right back.”
ASSISTING THE NURSE
The Benevolent Committee’s five or so members meet every six weeks. The panel generally makes monetary donations and occasionally purchases supplies for the nurse at Maine Memorial Elementary School to use for the pupils.
Recipients of multiple donations from the committee over the years include Maine Memorial Elementary, A Room to Heal, Mercy House of the Southern Tier, and Wide Horizons Preschool.
The panel also works with MHR’s Human Development Committee, which gives out food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The committee also assists another local church by supplying extra toiletry items for food baskets at Eastertime.
“It’s nice to be able to give back and help,” said Melissa Vicari, chairperson for the Benevolent Committee.
“Any time there’s someone in need, they’re always on their game as far as helping out,” van recipient Joe Knapick said of MHR.
Having benefited from that parish’s generosity, he responds in kind. At his job at Weis Markets in Binghamton, he saves egg boxes for MHR’s Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas gift packages. It beats paying for new cardboard boxes.
“It’s a good community, there’s no doubt about it,” Joe said.
He added: “The big thing is everybody helping everybody.”
Benevolent Committee’s list: ‘Our tithes to God’
Submitted by Deacon | Gary DiLallo
Proverbs 3:9-10 tells us to “honor the Lord with your wealth, with first fruits of all your produce; then will your barns be filled with plenty, with new wine your vats will overflow.”
The world and everything in it truly belongs to the Lord and God is so good to us and blesses us with abundance. We at Most Holy Rosary Church in Maine are reminded in many Scripture passages that we are to help others with our finances, both individually and collectively as a parish.
Hebrews 13:16 says: “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have.”
Listed below are many of the agencies that we support with the parish’s tithe:
Mother Teresa’s Cupboard
Maine Memorial Elementary School
Tioga County Open Door Mission
Sister Salome — water well in Uganda
TJ Watson Elementary School fourth-grade school project —water well in Sudan
Southern Tier Food Bank
Broome County Council of Churches
A Room to Heal
Horizons Nursery School—scholarship
Maine Summer Rec Program
Maine Ecumenical Vacation Bible School
Parishioners in need (several)
Greene Area Churches—Food Pantry
Cortland-Chenango Rural Services
Newman Catholic Community
Maine Federated Church Help Fund
Harvest for Hunger Campaign
Boy Scouts of America — Summer Camp Program
Maine-Endwell M-EALS Program
Deacon DiLallo is the pastoral associate for Most Holy Rosary Church, Maine.