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June 25, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 17
 

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photo: Mary’s Joy volunteers from left are Ruth Williams, Beth Browne (placing blanket in gift box), and Rose Carreiro.A simple devotion honoring Mary’s Joy

At Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Norfolk, Mary’s Joy is quite literally bigger than a bread box.

“One day, I truly heard this little whisper: ‘Mary’s joy is Jesus,’” said founder Kathryn Thro.

She was wrapping up her RCIA studies and was being received into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2004 when it first came to her.

“It wasn’t long after I got this idea of a shoebox, and Father Joe [Metzger, III, pastor] and Sister Regina [Stupak, DRE] let me put them out so people could fill them for us to donate back to charities,” Mrs. Thro explained.

What began eight years ago in the social hall with people adopting 20 shoe boxes with a wish list of needs soon took over its own little corner of the library. Today it makes the most of a sunnier space in one of the larger classrooms, where more than 200 baskets are made each year.

Shoeboxes are “adopted,” filled with items on a “Wish List” and returned filled.

All the new gifts are then used to make baskets for shut-ins, people recovering in hospitals or at home, new moms, migrant workers, and so much more.

“Bread boxes” in the parish kitchen gather donations of food as well. The ministry has also become known for their “Mary’s Joy Baby Shower” in a Bag, for mothers in distress and/or living in shelters. The baby shower bags are filled with diapers, wipes, baby toys, new clothing and as always is done in honor of our “Our Lady who inspires us.”

Given to anyone in need, these items find their way through others’ hands including walk-in requests from friends or family members, through Catholic Charities, even Sacred Heart Church on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

A visit there in 2005 inspired a connection there that continues to bless both parishes today.

A year-long effort, Mary’s Joy fills in the gaps of other drives and supports those that are active during busier seasons. Whatever and whenever there is need for gifts, Mary’s Joy fills that need with toiletries, baby gifts, clothing, food, and household items. They even have made street bags to help Catholic workers serving people in a breakfast line, and offering them warm hats, scarves, crackers and tissues.

One of the added benefits for Mary’s Joy volunteers is that it is a ministry without meetings. When there is a need for a “Wrap Party,” emails go out to about 35-40 people and there is an occasional shout-out in the hall between Masses for volunteers. That’s all there is to it.

“We like to say it’s Mary’s Joy, not Mary’s job,” said Kathryn who recently made her first oblation, as a Novice Oblate of St. Benedict.

People from other parishes have asked Kathryn how to start a Mary’s Joy ministry of their own.

“It’s not complicated,” she said. “It just takes a dedicated core of people, and it needs to be a special devotion to Our Lady.

“She truly put her blessing on this. It is that simple.”

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