LUMEN GENTIUM AWARDS

Steward of faith helps mothers with nowhere to turn

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PROVIDENCE — “And to everyone to whom much has been given, much shall be required from him” is Barbara Papitto’s credo in fact, in action and in prayer.

Papitto and her husband, Ralph Papitto, the former chief executive officer of Nortek Corp., are among the state’s wealthiest Catholics and share their riches generously to support the stewardship and administration of the Diocese of Providence, ranking among the largest givers to their parish, Holy Apostles Church, to St. Mary Academy — Bay View and in support of their own Papitto Foundation that funds a reading-test program in Providence schools that distributes scholarships.

Papitto, 62, is an accountant who holds a master’s degree in accounting from Bryant University that she has put to the use of her St. Francis Xavier High School alma mater’s alumni association’s scholarship fund, ensuring its future. When a bequest for $65,000 was received by the group, they turned to Papitto.

“She keeps us going,” said Dr. Margaret Mathias, who nominated Papitto for the Lumen Gentium Award.

“We would not have known where to turn with the bequest. It said that it had to be part of a foundation, so that when we no longer exist the money must go back to benefit the diocese. Stewardship means maximizing your benefits so you can do more with it. Because of Barbara, who is our treasurer, we will be able to give one or two scholarships a year from now on.”

It is for such work that Papitto was selected to receive a Lumen Gentium Award in the category of Administration and Stewardship.

As far as Papitto is concerned, her recommendation to the alumnae that they deposit the money in the Catholic Foundation of Rhode Island was both prudent and beneficial to not only the scholarship fund but to the church as well.

Catholic Foundation of Rhode Island procures and builds endowment funds while serving as a permanent organization for the management and administration of funds given to the Diocese of Providence.

But, Papitto has decided that she just doesn’t want to write a check or provide advice to any one of the several diocesan programs where she is involved: Tuesdays at Re-Focus, which serves adults with differing physical and developmental needs, where she tutors a 24-year-old woman; Wednesdays at the diocese’s Gabriel Project, where they assist women who are either pregnant or have young children by providing them with infant clothes, diapers or other necessities; Fridays walking on the sidewalk and praying the rosary aloud in front of Women’s Medical Center of Rhode Island at 1725 Broad St.

On a recent Friday as Papitto is walking and praying the third decade of the rosary quietly aloud she stops after completing a Hail Mary and runs to a car that is pulling out of the abortion clinic parking lot.

Papitto’s left arm is outstretched and she is holding rosary beads made of white plastic and she approaches the driver’s side window of the vehicle. The young woman driver lowers her car window and asks what Papitto is offering.

“My belief is that a baby is a gift from God, and that taking that baby’s life is murder,” Papitto recounted. “I just don’t know how many women driving in will see us praying and then change their minds.”

For the women leaving the abortion clinic, Papitto and others praying outside know a cold truth that will follow the decision to terminate their pregnancies.

“They are going to be dramatically affected by killing their baby,” Papitto said. The pro-life advocates offer the women who’ve decided to go through with an abortion information about Rachel’s Vineyard, an organization that provides weekend retreats for women who have had abortions and others who have been hurt by abortion.

“We try to stop them from going in,” Papitto said, stating the goal of those who pray on the sidewalk.

“But, they escort the women in quickly. We try to give the mothers pamphlets from the Life Center on Atwells Avenue. They can go there and for free they receive an ultrasound and we can see if they will reconsider.”

“Barbara is a woman of faith who lives the message of Christ,” Dr. Mathias said. “She shares her time and talent helping others.”

Papitto, a communicant at Holy Apostles Church, Cranston, was also nominated for other categories in the Lumen Gentium nomination process that cited her pro-life work and her volunteerism.

“If I am going to join in, I am going to be there and participate,” she said, summing up her approach to stewardship and administration.