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Assumption gives charity a personal touch

Area boyscouts have been camping at camp Wehinahpay for generations. Roswell's troop 149 is sponsored by Assumption Catholic Church, 2808 North Kentucky Avenue. The church also sponsors cub scouts and girl scouts. (Submitted Photo)

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“True charity requires courage: let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need.” Pope Francis tweeted this message on Sep. 21, 2013.

Father Joe Pacquing of Assumption Catholic Church could not possibly agree more.
“Service is central to the way I was brought up and to the way that I work,” Pacquing said. “I often get invitations to join various benevolent groups in town. Sometimes I’m able to work with them, sometimes I’m not, but I’m always glad to see how well the different benevolent groups of Roswell work together.”
In his six years with Assumption, Pacquing has enjoyed watching his congregation increase their service outreach.
“I’ve seen an increase in outreach work,” he said. “The food for funerals is only three years old. We used to have one person doing prison ministry, but about five years ago we got 25 volunteers.”
The church reaches out in service in a variety of ways.
“We have prison ministry,” Pacquing said, “which we do at the Roswell correctional facility. One evening each week we have prison ministry volunteers who visit the brothers, and facilitate a chapel service. It’s mostly a bible study.
“Also once a month we have a celebration of the Eucharist for them. We provide treats as permitted by the facility administrators. We also provide copies of the bible as requested.”
Pacquing has a favorite part of the prison outreach.
“Around Christmastime,” he said, “one of my favorite things we do, is for the last five years we have Las Posadas. It is a custom in South America where they tell the story of Mary and Joseph seeking lodging. We also walk along the cells singing carols.”
Prisoners aren’t the only shut-ins they reach out to.
“We have the ministry for the sick and the homebound,” Pacquing said. “Our purpose is to give some time to those who are sick and can’t get out. Give them somebody to talk to, to minister to their loneliness, to give good news and encouragement through God’s word. Mostly, we listen to them. We pray with them of course. We are always warmly welcomed. We have a group that visits them weekly.”
When one of the people they visit needs help, they try to be there for them.
“One recently asked if someone could get them to Albuquerque,” Pacquing said. “and when we asked the congregation somebody immediately volunteered.”
The food for funerals program was the genius product of one of Assumption’s parishioners.
“We have a group of parishioners who thought it would be helpful to feed people after a funeral,” Pacquing said. “We have a website where volunteers can sign up to bring a specific dish. There is always plenty of food, and at the end all the food is packed up and sent home with the grieving family.”
The young people of the church have their own ways to contribute.
“Assumption Youth distributes frozen turkeys to people in need for Thanksgiving day,” Pacquing said, “raises funds for the Rice Bowl Project and they visit and entertain residents of assisted living facilities.”

If the donations aren’t sufficient, parishioners have been known to make up the difference.
“Some turkeys are donated,” he said. “Also, parents of the youth group have been known to buy turkeys if there aren’t enough.”
In the spring the church youth work to help an international outreach program.
“The Rice Bowl Project is a help for poor communities in the United States and in South America,” Pacquing said. “Every kid who is a member of the youth group has a box to be filled with money. They ask family, friends and others to help them fill the box with coins and bills. Then they take it to the Rice Bowl Project where an organizer will use it to buy rice.”
The young people also help assuage loneliness and boredom at assisted living facilities.
“They sing and perform for the residents,” he said. “Often they bring treats as well.”
There is an international outreach that Pacquing has seen the benefit of time after time.
“Couples in our church, through Unbound, adopt children in need via sponsorship,” he said. “I have noticed that after a year of sponsorship the pictures of the children show them to be healthier. They also start talking about their dreams.”
A long established Catholic charity also has their support.
“St. Vincent De Paul has many projects to help the poor including a day labor program,” Pacquing said. “They provide clothing and some financial means for those in need.”
Some of the wealthier members of the church do private outreach.
“We have some families in the church who have some means,” Pacquing said, “who reach out to help people in need in a variety of ways. Among other things, they’ve helped people with immigration fees.”
Pacquing encourages his parishioners to get first-hand knowledge of the power of sacrifice.
“We encourage our members to make a specific sacrifice that they then share with the needy,” he said, “so that when they no longer enjoy some thing, they can see it improving someone else’s lives.”
Volunteerism is encouraged.
“We have volunteers who regularly work with the community kitchen and we take donations to give to them,” Pacquing said. “ Some make crocheted mats from grocery bags to help the homeless. The good samaritan program collects groceries for people in need.”
Sometimes all they need to do is hold a bit of space.
“We provide meeting space for Alcoholics Anonymous,” he said, “and we sponsor a Boyscout troop, Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts. We also have a prayer service for teens in the New Mexico youth ChalleNGe. We keep it ecumenical though rather than focusing on just our faith.”
With Father Joe Pacquing at the head of Assumption Catholic Church’s ministries, outreach is pretty much a sure thing.
As Pope Francis put it “Contributions are great, but charity needs a personal touch.”
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.