Randy Zaicko‘s decline began about five years ago with the deaths of loved ones. Consumed by addiction and homelessness, he found himself outside on a bitterly cold February night in 2017 lying on a bench waiting for a bed in the detox unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
He had hit bottom.
“I clearly remember the day…I just stayed there and prayed,” said Zaicko, who had enjoyed an uneventful, middle-class life with his parents and two older siblings.
The 39-year-old culinary arts school graduate prayed that if he could get through the night, he would give his life to God.
Zaicko was admitted to the hospital the next morning, and upon discharge was accepted as a client of the Helping Up Mission, a Christian outreach based in Baltimore that helps men recovering from addiction and homelessness.
Zaicko was one of about 70 Helping Up Mission clients who attended a special Easter Sunday Mass celebrated by Bishop Denis J. Madden April 1 at the mission. He and others gave thanks for the change in their lives on the same day Christians around the world celebrated the miracle of Christ’s resurrection.
In his homily, Bishop Madden referred to the resurrection, and how everyone can use it as example for their own lives.
“What things in our lives are dead in many ways?” Bishop Madden asked. “What things are in our lives that we would like to rise up from?”
At times, the bishop said, some may think nothing short of a miracle can help them.
“With God,” he asserted, “that’s not so very difficult.”
Zaicko, who served as the lector at the Easter Mass, is an example of how God can change lives.
Raised in Our Lady of Fatima Church in East Baltimore, Zaicko had fallen away from the church as a young adult. Now sober, he was confirmed at St. Leo the Great Church in Little Italy at the Easter Vigil, and is now considering the priesthood. After graduating in February from the yearlong Helping Up program, he is currently an intern with the Helping Up Mission treatment office and is involved with its spiritual life team.
Sharing “the secret” of Easter, Bishop Madden said the more we forget about ourselves, and look toward helping others, we’ll enjoy a peaceful and happy life.
By doing so, the urban vicar said, “we can rise up out of that death we have in ourselves. He (God) takes us by the hand. He takes us from that place (despair). That is what the Lord does on Easter.”
During the Mass, hymns included “Because He Lives“ and “Jesus Christ Has Risen Today,” were played with fitting imperfection by a Helping Up Mission client who learned to play by ear.
Bishop Madden’s message didn’t go unnoticed by Brian Hanline, a 55-year-old client who said he suffered a work injury as a plumber. He eventually became addicted to pain killers following two back surgeries. Hanline, a Dundalk resident, entered the Helping Up Mission program two weeks ago following a fentanyl overdose.
The Easter Mass was “special,” said Hanline, who once attended Our Lady of Hope Church in Dundalk.
“God gives everything I need to get through the day,” Hanline said. “Take it one day at a time.”
According to Deacon Jim Longenecker, who is assigned to St. Ignatius Church, Hickory, and is the Helping Up Mission’s chief relationship officer, Bishop Madden’s Easter Mass rose out of his Ash Wednesday visit during Lent.
“It was a humble service meeting the men where they are,” Deacon Longenecker said.
The clients were humbled, Deacon Longenecker said, that instead of visiting more prominent places throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Bishop Madden chose to spend Easter with them.
Following Mass, Helping Up Mission clients were treated to their annual Easter meal of ham, vegetables, mashed potatoes and dessert.
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