Jul 8, 2014

Montague Catholic Social Ministries celebrates 20th anniversary



By Tim Lindop
(Photos courtesy of MCSM)


TURNERS FALLS – Montague Catholic Social Services (MCSM) celebrated its 20th birthday on June 27, complete with balloons and birthday cake, in front of its offices on the corner of Third Avenue and Avenue A, here.

“We are celebrating our twentieth anniversary with a birthday party with the community, because we really wanted to thank people who have helped us and participated with the ministry over the last twenty years,” said Susan Mareneck, MCSM’s executive director.

Local business also helped celebrate MCSM’s birthday, with Jake’s Tavern and Grill providing discount passes for meals and Twisters, the corner ice cream store known for its 1950s motif, handing out the ice cream.

MCSM, a social service agency, was founded in 1994, when the town was listed in a state report as having the highest rate of domestic violence per capita of any community in Massachusetts. 

Two local priests, Father Stanley J. Askamit and the late Father Roland Renaud, who then were co-pastors of the former St. Anne and St. Mary of the Assumption parishes in Turners Falls, wrote to local communities of women religious, asking for help in ministering to local residents. The Sisters of St. Joseph responded, starting a play group in St. Anne’s.

“When families came in to use the playgroup they (the Sisters of St. Joseph) would ask them, ‘What do you need?’ And they would tell them and, out of that, all the different ministries we have had over the years have grown,” said Mareneck.

MCSM does home visits in support of women and their children, provides basic emergency services and has a women’s center, play groups and many other programs. Recently, they added a men’s group for fathers. 

“We were only really reaching half of the families,” Mareneck said. “So now we have a group that meets on Fridays… They are men, who have children; some of them come from Franklin County Correctional (Center), others come from the neighborhood, and they meet together and talk about being fathers and how important that is.”

“One of the greatest things about Montague Catholic Social Ministries is it is a place where people can come after they had been bruised and they have an opportunity to heal and develop confidence and to try and regain their lives,” said Father Aksamit, who now is pastor of Our Lady of Peace Parish in Turners Falls, which was formed form the merger of three former parishes there.

Father Askamit said he believes strongly that MCSM makes a difference. He related a story of a woman he had never met before coming up to him as he stepped through the door of the agency. 

“She said, ‘Thank you for helping to found this place. It saved my life.’ She was able to turn her life around and that just made me feel wonderful,” he said.

Mareneck said she has been impressed with the MCSM clients and staff members. “The people we serve and the people we work with here have taught me so much. It is really amazing. I am really blessed.”