What some in the congregation are calling “unpretentious service” has become an all-too familiar Edmundite charism through the work of Fr. Charles Ranges, SSE. He’s pastor at St. Pius X and Holy Family - St. Lawrence Parishes in Essex Junction, Vermont.
Holy Family - Saint Lawrence Church parishioner Patrick Niggel said Fr. Charlie baptized his two children who are now four years and one year of age. “He does a lot to humanize the role of a priest,” Patrick said. “He is so authentic and has this warmth about him. He understands and he’s genuine.”
Over 90 volunteers showed up at St. Pius Parish Hall for prayers and assignments before heading out into the community on what they call “Serve Our Neighbor Day” on May 4. It’s an event held twice a year. They set out to rake yards, clean gutters, wash windows, and help with light construction at the homes of 16 people in the Essex area who are struggling in one way or another.
“I am proud of my parishioners when they do things like this,” Fr. Charlie said. “We, by virtue of our baptism and confirmation, are instruments for Christ’s love. This is a perfect example of that.”
Fr. Charlie knocked on the door of a parishioner who is in her 90s and had recently lost her husband. He patiently waited for her to answer as he took in the sights and sounds of spring. Red tulips boldly lined her front walkway. Pat O’Connor and his family were there, rakes in hand, sporting their bright blue “Serve Our Neighbor Day” t-shirts that read, “We are God’s co-workers, you are God’s field (1 Corinthians 3:9).”
“The essence of Christianity is service. It’s not just a bunch of piety. Our love for God is expressed through our love for neighbor. This is intentional service. It is service in the name of Jesus." ~Fr. Charles Ranges
Steve Garbarino, Havaleh Gangne and Elizabeth Messier raked another yard a few streets over for an elderly couple who were unable to tackle their extensive spring cleanup. Steve, a Saint Michael’s College alumnus, worked in campus ministry with the Edmundites for two decades. He said they were instrumental in helping him realize the importance of helping others. “They care about everyone, not just Catholics,” he said of the Edmundites. “They are inclusive and show us that everyone is important.”
Havaleh, also a St. Michael’s College graduate, added, “I love the way they live their faith. It is in service, kindness, inclusiveness and being loving. That is how they do everything.”
“Serve Our Neighbor Day” is a day to give back. Being a Christian means you have a purposeful life, Fr. Charlie said. “The essence of Christianity is service. It’s not just a bunch of piety. Our love for God is expressed through our love for neighbor. This is intentional service. It is service in the name of Jesus,” he said.
Sam and Georgie Tatro of Essex, married for 46 years, have been dedicated to St. Pius for just as long. After the work was complete, the day was celebrated with burgers and dogs hot off the barbecue. Sam said volunteering in this way is something he and his wife look forward to because it’s a chance to give back to a church that has been so good to them. “He’s always there for us,” Sam said of Fr. Ranges. “You should hear his homilies. They are straight from the heart.”
Joanne Nelson was there volunteering as well. She said she has known the Edmundites since the 1980s. “They do so much more than parish ministry,” she said. “Edmundites clearly attract a very ecumenical community through social needs in an incredibly inclusive way. They definitely know how to bring people together. Knowing them has left me a much better person in so many ways.”
For more information about The Society of Saint Edmund, our Edmundites, or choosing your vocation please visit www.SSE.org or call Fr. Lino Oropeza at (802) 654-2344 or email him at email@example.com.
The heart of the Society of Saint Edmund’s mission is serving where the need is greatest, a credo that has led us to four core ministries: Social Justice, Education, Spiritual Renewal and Pastoral Ministry. It is through these core ministries that we live out a faith-based life of service and make a real difference in people’s lives by bringing them closer to God.