ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

It’s All for the Lord

Retired couple make a full-time job of helping the needy

When Cecilia and Frank Mazzoni, originally from Sacred Heart Parish in Vineland, N.J., were looking for a retirement home in Arizona, it was important to them that they be near a church. They were fortunate in their choice since their parish in Sun City West has not one but two churches: Our Lady of Lourdes and Prince of Peace.

The reason for the two churches, she says, is the burgeoning number of Catholics choosing this community for their retirement. Our Lady of Lourdes, which opened in 1979, seats about 1,000; the capacity of Prince of Peace, which opened more recently, is 1,600. There are seven weekend Masses and daily Masses are conveniently scheduled during the week.

With many parts of the country facing a priest shortage, Sun City West does not have this problem, Mrs. Mazzoni says. Many priests also have chosen to retire in the area, and they are on call to celebrate Mass and administer the sacraments.

While Mr. and Mrs. Mazzoni, both in their 90’s, no longer drive, there are volunteers who take them to Sunday Mass. Mrs. Mazzoni also attends daily Mass, and on Tuesdays she participates in a holy hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

When asked which church she attends, she replies with a laugh, “Wherever the driver is going.”

There is a strong tradition of devotion to the church and sacraments in Mrs. Mazzoni’s family. She recalls her grandfather telling her he walked six miles to church in New Jersey, and rainy or snowy weather never prevented him from attending Mass.

Another tradition that Mrs. Mazzoni carries on is her mother’s support of CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association), a papal agency serving the churches and peoples of the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Mrs. Mazzoni remembers her mother browsing through Catholic magazines and newspapers and reading ads that described the work of CNEWA. Among them were requests for support of churches, schools and seminaries. Mother and children would tick off projects that appealed to them and send off a small contribution.

Mrs. Mazzoni credits her mother with instilling in her children a sense of caring for the less fortunate.

Mrs. Mazzoni continues this charitable giving, and she and her husband have contributed to the building of two churches in India. Mrs. Mazzoni’s good works were shared by her late sister Catherine Cresci, a church organist in New Jersey parishes. She had performed professionally for such notables as Terence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York; Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, the famous “television priest,” and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mrs. Mazzoni cherishes letters of appreciation written by them to Miss Cresci.

While Mrs. Mazzoni is reluctant to talk about her own giving, she is enthusiastic about the contributions of her sister Catherine, who also had taught music privately. Mrs. Mazzoni said her sister’s joy “was giving back to the church that she served through her music.” Or, how Catherine explained it to Cecilia, “If you have a gift, you must share it.”

Taking a lesson from Mother Teresa, Miss Cresci was interested in helping the “poorest of the poor,” and this she did through CNEWA, says Mrs. Mazzoni. Over the years, Miss Cresci financed some 12 churches in India. She also supported seminarians, novices and needy children until her death in 1998.

One of Mr. and Mrs. Mazzoni’s latest gift was a generous contribution to the Godano Street Children program, a project that aids children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, who have been abandoned by their families. The program gives the boys and girls temporary shelter; they are taught basic skills that will enable them to hold jobs and they receive health education.

The brain child of an Ethiopian man, the project exemplifies CNEWA’s mission in helping people assist the needy in their own countries.

Mr. and Mrs. Mazzoni keep up-to-date on the affairs of the church. They are heartsick over the recent scandals besetting the church. She feels especially sorry for the priests who have remained faithful. But she feels the church will be a stronger institution for its ordeal.

They admire Pope John Paul II tremendously and are amazed at his stamina as he continues to travel around the world, despite his own infirmities.

Mrs. Mazzoni was born in New Jersey. Her family settled the Vineland area and she reports that the “vine” in Vineland refers to grapevines from their native Italy. She and her sisters, Catherine and Mariann, and brothers, Louis and Joseph, attended Sacred Heart School.

Mrs. Mazzoni worked in a small bank, the Tradesmen Bank, where she met her future husband. As a newly-wed, Mrs. Mazzoni had stopped working, but when she became bored staying home – the couple have no children – she landed a job in her local post office.

After several mergers, her husband’s bank became part of Chase Manhattan. Mr. Mazzoni retired as a vice president. They have been living in Sun City West for 25 years. They celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary on 27 November 2003.

Although they miss the seasonal changes of the Northeast, they enjoy the warmth of the Southwest. As with many retired couples, they have sorted through their priorities. High on their list is charitable giving through CNEWA. “It’s almost a full-time job,” says Mrs. Mazzoni. “There are so many projects to choose from: the children – whom we especially want to help – and the young men and women who want to become priests and nuns.”

Whatever they choose to do, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that their contributions are fulfilling the dreams of a young man or woman.

Miss Humanitzki is Feature Writer at CNEWA.

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