The Esther Residence in Saco was presented with the Matthew 25 Award from Bishop Robert Deeley during a Mass at Most Trinity Church on July 25. Courtesy of Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland

SACO — “Esther Residence saved my life.”

The moving sentiment comes from one of the many women who have seen their lives shift from incarceration and addiction to productivity and hope thanks to a loving program that offers respite and respect to individuals with nowhere left to turn.

Now in its 15th year, the Esther Residence in Saco received a prestigious Matthew 25 Award from Bishop Robert Deeley during a Mass at Most Holy Trinity Church, also in Saco, on Sunday, July 25.

“Sponsored by the Good Shepherd Sisters, such a beautiful part of your community, the Esther Residence is a special project with a wonderful mission,” Bishop Deeley told the assembly. “It provides a safe, nurturing community for women who are recovering from adverse circumstances. Some are coming out of prison, some from treatment centers. At Esther Residence, they find care grounded in the respect and dignity every person possesses. The residents of this mission are supported in working towards staying sober, finding full-time employment, attending counseling, and receiving adult education to enable them to transition to living independently so that they can have a more satisfying life.”

Given by Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry program, Matthew 25 Awards are given to assist programs in expanding their capacity to serve more people or to develop a new social ministry. Ministries that receive the awards must be directly serving vulnerable people in need, regardless of faith affiliation, and adhering to the principles of the Bible verse Matthew: 25 (“I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink…”).

“The accompanying grant of $5,000 will be used to provide parenting skills training to the women who live for a time at Esther Residence,” said Deacon Frank Daggett of Parish Social Ministry.

The training is just a small part of the limitless support and assistance offered at the residence which, in many cases, serves as a lifeline to women in great need.

“Women at the residence are homeless, often having been separated from their children,” said Sister Joanne Roy, SCIM, director of Esther Residence. “The residents are supported in working towards staying sober, finding full-time employment, attending counseling, and receiving adult education to enable them to transition to independence living so that they can reunite with their children.”

“This ministry is most necessary and deserving of support from Catholic Charities Maine’s Parish Social Ministry,” said Fr. Timothy Nadeau, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish. “The effects of this award to Esther Residence will be multiplied so many times over and increase charity among individuals, parishioners, and the diocesan family as a whole. This ministry is a teaching example to those intimately involved and everyone who hears and knows the work done in Christ’s name and heart.”

Founded in 2006, the residence has been operated and guided by the Good Shepherd Sisters with invaluable help from its dedicated volunteers, all willing to trade their time and talent for providing a path forward for these women.

It is powerful work repeated at parishes across Maine as Catholics participate in the mission of the Church by bringing love and mercy to our world.

“There is enormous good that is done in our diocese through the works in our parishes,” said Bishop Deeley on Sunday. “We lift up a few of those programs in these special Matthew 25 Awards but we know that there are many more. It is a wonderful reminder of all the ways in which so many people in our diocese are trying to nurture hope in our world by bringing God’s love to the suffering of those around them in our local communities. It is what we are called to do as a community, a Church centered in the Eucharist, God’s gift of life, and eternal life to those who follow Jesus. We pray that we might all entrust to the Lord Jesus what we have and who we are so that he might be able to help us to create the civilization of love Jesus came to establish.”