Pennies From Heaven

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Matthew Harty’s memory inspires donations.

“There is no footprint too small to leave an imprint on this world.”

Matthew Harty lost his battle with mitochondrial disease shortly after his 8th birthday in 2013, but he is still leaving an imprint today.

“Matthew continues to make a difference,” said Angela Harty, Matthew’s grandma. “People still think about him. I feel like he’s not forgotten.”

Someone is leaving coins, beach stones, and other items on a statue that was dedicated to the son of Paul and Sarah Harty of North Andover, MA, at the Star of the Sea Chapel in Salisbury, MA, or the “brown church” as Matthew liked to call it.

“We have no idea who is doing it. Everything is specifically placed,” said Angela, who believes it’s someone who is thinking of Matthew.

Matthew will never be forgotten in this seaside town. “He made everyone smile at church,” Angela said. “Everyone there loved him. He touched a lot of lives.”

One of the lives he touched deeply was Father Louis Palmieri’s. Father Lou was pastor at Star of the Sea Parish and Star of the Sea Chapel from 2010-14, and he met Matthew through Angela and Michael Harty in 2011.

Father Lou and Matthew had a special connection. “I knew him three years, but it was a nice three years.”

Angela said that every Sunday, Matthew would ask: “Are we going to see Father Lou? Are we going to the brown church?”

“He was always smiling,” Father Lou said. “I never saw him not smile.”

Matthew saw joy in everything. “He gave you joy by experiencing his joy,” Father Lou said. ”It was just incredible. He was just a beautiful child.”

Father Lou was very taken by Matthew’s passing. It was his idea to get a statue in Matthew’s memory. “I felt I had to do something,” he said.

He particularly liked a statue of Jesus holding two children. He had a catalog for Angela to look through to pick what she liked. She had suggested an Eternal Flame, but Father Lou told her he wanted a statue. When Angela picked the same statue Father Lou picked, they knew it was meant to be. The statue was engraved with: “There is no footprint too small to leave an imprint on this world.”

The statue, on a granite base, is located between the two entryways into the chapel. It was dedicated in May 2014.

Father Lou hadn’t heard about the coins and beach stones being left at the statue but feels that it means that Matthew is still raising awareness and still having an impact on people.

“We never lose those that we give to God; they are always with us,” said Father Lou, who is now pastor at the Quincy (MA) Catholic Collaborative of Saint Mary, Sacred Heart, Saint Ann parishes.

“Matthew was a gift from God. As painful as it was, that gift was returned to God.”

Right before Christmas, Angela and Matthew’s sister, Gabby, collected the money from the statue to donate to MitoAction. They left a laminated note to let the donor know where the money is going.

Matthew loved the “brown church.” The chapel is very old, not very ornate, small, quaint, and comforting, Angela said. It’s only open in the summer because it has no heat. The seats are uncomfortable but that never bothered Matthew because he always sat on grandpa Mike’s lap.

“Everyone knew Matthew, especially at the beach,” Father Lou said. “He was friendly with everyone.”

Angela and Father Lou both recalled the same story about Matthew and the “brown church.”

Angela said that Matthew wanted to go to the brown church but she didn’t think it would be open. But when they got there, Father Lou was just finishing some work in the chapel.

“He wanted to go into the chapel,” Father Lou said. “I opened it for them. I felt it was important to him; it was his brown church.”

And it still is.