Little donor with a generous spirit is Catholic Strong

Written by Peter Sanchez

Among all of the generous donors to Saint Padre Pio’s Catholic Strong campaign here, 9-year-old Theresa Thomas just might be the youngest to help ensure a bright future for tomorrow’s South Jersey Catholics.

Theresa Thomas, 9, who donated a portion of the money she received when making her first Communion last year to the parish Catholic Strong campaign, stands with her father, Antony. Photo by Peter G. Sánchez

Theresa, a third grader at nearby Saint Mary School, contributed a portion of the money she received last spring as gifts after making her first holy Communion.

“She was inspired by the video” shown during the parish’s campaign push last spring, said her father, Antony.

The diocesan-wide Catholic Strong initiative is seeking to secure a minimum of $50 million that will be of primary benefit to its parishes. As 70 percent of the funds raised by each parish will be allocated for its own needs, 30 percent will go to funding the diocese’s coordination and support of various ministries.

“I wanted to give to my church,” Theresa explains.

A spirit of generosity and giving back is a strong value in the Thomas household. Both products of Catholic education, Antony and his wife, Maryann, have raised their two daughters, 16-year-old Catherine and Theresa, with a strong desire to help others.

The family has volunteered at such places as Villa Raffaela in Pleasantville and Bishop McCarthy Residence in Vineland, giving their time and presence to the sick. As well, Maryann and Antony are catechists at Saint Padre Pio, and Antony, a Third Degree Knight of Columbus, also serves as a lector and Eucharistic minister.

“My wife and I wanted to expose our daughters to helping others, and seeing that what we get is what we give,” Antony says. “We experience Christ, and we are called to share him with others.”

A few years ago, Catherine donated to Catholic Charities. Now seeing his youngest, Theresa, give her own treasure in a time of need, Antony couldn’t be more pleased.

“It’s nice when you can see Christ living in others, especially in your kids. For a parent, there’s no greater joy than that,” he knows.

For Theresa, the possibility exists that, soon, this just won’t be a one-time gift. “It felt so good the first time; I have a good feeling in my heart. Maybe I will give again soon?”

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