St. Anthony Shrine jumps in to Mass and Cass mess

St. Anthony Shrine is part of the solution to today’s tent ban along the long-neglected Mass and Cass encampment.

“We’re going to get people into programs and change their lives,” said Fr. Thomas Conway, executive director of St. Anthony Shrine. “They just need a trained social worker to give them a little push.”

That’s where the Shrine’s Mary Ann Ponti, director of outreach programs at St. Anthony Shrine, goes to work.

“God bless Mary Ann,” said Conway. “She’s working on the mayor’s teams and is spending part of the week over on Mass and Cass.”

The Shrine, located in Downtown Crossing on Arch Street, has been a respite for the soul and for the hungry for decades. The friars and staff hold their annual fundraising gala tonight and donations go to missions like the one along Mass and Cass.

Conway said there’s no one answer to the opioid epidemic — seen in its raw reality in the encampment — but you have to begin with each individual.

“The answer is walking into a group of people and talking to each person. One you tell to ‘go home.’ Someone else needs help with heroin addiction or needs Alcoholics Anonymous; some need to go to Pine Street while others who have a warrant out on them need to go to court,” he added.

Conway said while the rest of Boston networks, some aren’t that adept at asking for help or seeing there’s a way out off the streets.

The Shrine is one place that has always been a beacon for those who don’t get much light in their life. Today will be a difficult transition for some along Mass and Cass — and the Shrine will once again be part of the solution.

To donate to the Shrine, go their website at

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