By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

AMBLER – This past Lent, St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Ambler, Montgomery County, raised more than $9,000 for the purchase and distribution of Lifestraw portable personal water purifiers for the poor of Sierra Leone.

The parish was formally thanked in late September at a Mass at St. Anthony Church celebrated by Archbishop George Antonysamy, papal nuncio to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Gambia. Concelebrants inclulded Archbishop Edward Tamba Charles, Archbishop of Freetown and Bo in Sierra Leone, and Msgr. Stephen P. McHenry, pastor of St. Anthony Parish.

“Our gathering is one family,” said Archbishop Antonysamy. “We are the children of one God. He is called ‘Father’ to you and to me.”

Through the provision of water purifiers, the faithful of St. Anthony have shown their love and concern for the poor, and the plight of those in need is improving, Archbishop Charles said.

“We are grateful to the parish priests and to all the parishioners,” Archbishop Charles said. “We are all one family, one family of God.”

Under the leadership of Msgr. McHenry, the project was coordinated by Barbara Daly, the parish services director at St. Anthony.

The prelates, who visited the United States in late September, further showed their appreciation by naming Msgr. McHenry and Daly honorary citizens of Sierra Leone.

According to Daly, the straws, which cost $5 each, remove waterborne bacteria, making fresh water instantly available. It is uncanny, she said, that one water purifier – which provides drinkable water for one year – costs the equivalent of five 10-ounce bottles of water.

The project underscored the responsibility of reaching out to those in need throughout the universal Church.

“The universal Church is more than just your parish or more than just your Archdiocese,” Daly said. “We really are obligated to do what we can.”

That message was well-received at St. Anthony, added Daly, who was “amazed” and “astounded” by the project’s success.

Noting that the portable personal water purifiers must be replaced after a year, Daly said St. Anthony Parish is available to assist other Catholic parishes, groups or inspaniduals who are interested in sponsoring the cause on their own.

Nearly eight years after the end of a brutal 11-year civil war, Archbishop Charles said most people who fled Sierra Leone have returned to the country, although they struggle to survive amid a shattered economy.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or