Father Matthew Williams, St. John the Baptist and St. Joseph's, Quincy, MA
Submitted by: Melissa A. Silvia
Fr. Matt has worked tirelessly for our Parish Collaborative, going above and beyond to lead his flock through the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic, beginning in March when churches were closed. With the assistance of the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth, Fr. Matt was able to open up one of our collaborative churches, using all required safety and social distancing measure, to provide Parishioners with daily opportunities to participate in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Shortly thereafter, Fr. Matt implemented a Drive Through Confession program to provide the Sacrament of Reconciliation by stationing priests, including himself, (rain or shine), in their cars to hear confessions while adhering to social distancing guidelines.
Within one week, Fr. Matt was able to gain 1000 subscribers to his YouTube Channel. As a result, mobile live streams of daily & weekend masses plus daily Holy Hours provided an opportunity for our two parishes in Quincy, MA and fellow Catholic You Tube subscribers to feel connected to vital church services and inspired by Fr. Matt's powerful homilies. In addition to live streaming masses and Holy Hours, Fr. Matt created 1-minute "Homily Highlights" that were featured on his You Tube Channel. These quick, and easy to share videos provided insight into daily Gospel readings to help parishioners gain a deeper understanding of scripture. *(Please log on to: https://www.youtube.com/user/FrMatt2003
With the assistance of our Parish Youth Minister, Fr. Matt and his team were able to provide a "Virtual Hunger Retreat", via Zoom, on Good Friday and Holy Saturday for high school students enrolled in our Youth Group. 50+ students participated in 30 hours of fasting from food and cell phones, with opportunities to grow in their faith through guest speakers and small group activities. Through their efforts, the students were able to raise over $5000 in one hour during their retreat for a grand total of $12,000 for the St. Joseph's food pantry In addition, students gathered donations of food and toiletries that were delivered by parish volunteers to those in need throughout our community.
For several weeks, on Saturday evenings, Fr. Matt led a "Born in the Spirit" retreat, via Zoom, with a group of adult parish members that included prayers, praise & worship, and Christian music. This retreat aims to invite participants into a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit that will flow into a life of worship.
Fr. Matt was featured on WCVB Channel 5's evening news broadcast regarding all the appropriate measures that had been put in place to allow parishioners to attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and be able to pray and worship in a safe, clean and socially distanced based environment. In addition, Fr. Matt was featured on WFXT 25 in Boston, Catholic TV and in the Financial Times of the United Kingdom because of the very successful "Drive Through Confession" program spearheaded by Fr. Matt.
To celebrate the Anniversary of Fr. Matt's Ordination, several members of our Parish Collaborative participated in a surprise video, speaking about what an amazing Man of God he is! During the pandemic, before the churches could open for masses, Fr. Matt had giant white bows placed on the front doors of the parishes as a gesture to remind parishioners: "we love you, we miss you"
When our parishes were allowed to re-open in late May, Fr. Matt made sure all guidelines were in place and enforced to create a safe environment for all mass attendees. Both of the 4:00 pm masses at our two collaborative churches were set aside for Seniors only, with limited attendance due to social distancing mandates. An online registration system was created to allow parishioners the opportunity to reserve seats for a mass of their choice, to ensure that limited seating guidelines were being enforced. Alternating rows of pews were taped off to ensure social distancing requirements were met. Additionally, all mass attendees were required to wear masks that covered their noses and mouths'
At the time our Parish collaborative was allowed to reopen, we were one of only 22 parishes out of 280 in the Archdiocese of Boston that opened in May, all because of our St. J's Cares Team and our many volunteers, all led in the spirit by our beloved Pastor Fr. Matt. Our Parishes and Fr. Matt were featured in the Catholic publication "The Pilot" based on being one of a few parishes that had re-opened.
In June, at a town-hall meeting virtual event, Fr. Matt introduced the next Parish Collaborative initiative call "The JOY Movement": Jesus, Others, You! Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and The JOY Movement was born out of a desire to inspire people in our parishes to become engaged members and disciples of Christ by serving and being served. "Make Jesus the center of your lives through the sacrifice of prayer and praise daily". Fr. Matt reminded us that we are called to be stewards of the gifts that God has given us: Our Time, Talent and Treasure. He encouraged and inspired parishioners to be good stewards of their treasure through sacrificial giving, by tithing 10% of income back to the church to help raise ore beloved parishes out of the red and into the black, Like many parishes, the Covid pandemic created serious financial hardships for individuals, families, businesses and Churches alike. An on-line giving platform was created to provide parishioners with an easy and convenient way to make weekly donations to the church.
Another significant component of The JOY Movement was a 54 day Rosary to our Blessed Mother to seek Heaven to bless our parishes with enough donations to keep our church doors open for years to come. As a result of increased tithing and the Blessed mother's prayers & intercessions, our parish collaborative received many generous donations that have made a positive impact on the parish's budgets.
Fr. Matt personally made robo-calls to 885 seniors in our collaborative parish community to make them aware that our church doors are open and both 4:00 pm masses are reserved for seniors only. In addition, a Saint J's Cares email address was created for parishioners to submit prayer petitions and feedback. Fr. Matt and his team created a Flock Note weekly digital news letter that is emailed to 660 parishioners, keeping them well informed on everything that is happening or is going to happen at our parish collaborative. Fr. Matt led his team in a mailing campaign that included a bulk mailing of 2600 envelopes that included a letter from Fr. Matt, a Divine Mercy prayer card and information on what is happening at our collaborative parishes.
As word quickly spread through the Catholic community, Fr. Matt received invitations to speak at webinars that included 1000 Pastors, Church Leaders and Youth Ministry Leaders, all eager to learn how things went after re-opening our collaborative parishes.
I will end this portion of the nomination with a YouTube video that highlights all the amazing accomplishments during the pandemic, made possible by the hard work and dedication of our AMAZING Pastor, Fr. Matt Williams.
Pastor Matthew Williams is the reason why my husband & I decided to become Parishioners at the St. John's/St. Joe's Collaborative in Quincy, MA. His immense love, dedication and countless hours of hard work has truly transformed our collaborative into a very special place that is warm and welcoming to all. Fr. Matt's homilies are THE most passionate and inspirational homilies many of us parishioners have ever heard. You cannot attend a mass led by Fr. Matt and not be deeply influenced by his messages...they are life altering. He guides us, through his powerful words, towards living a holy life, dedicated to God the Father, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Blessed mother and the Holy Spirit. My faith life was almost non-existent, until Jesus led me to Fr. Matt. Through his inspiration, my faith life has been completely transformed to a life fully dedicated to Our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. Praise God!
Because Fr. Matt fully and completely exemplifies, in everything he does, humanitarian service to others. One recent example is his decision to share a portion of a very large and generous donation with a parish family who recently lost everything during a severe and devastating house fire. Fr, Matt goes above and beyond his responsibilities as Pastor to lovingly and generously care for the members of his parish family and people in need within our community.
Fr. Matt is so respected, admired and loved by his parishioners that there is always a line of people waiting outside the church just to have the opportunity to speak with him personally!