Service, because we're Catholic

As Bishop Paul S. Loverde often says, “We don’t serve people because they are Catholic, we serve people because we are Catholic.”

 

Transforming lives through loving service is what Christians are called to do. And this beautiful vision of evangelizing the poor comes directly from Christ’s actions and words. He gave us the commandment to love God and our neighbor as ourselves.

 

Who is our neighbor? Jesus tells us in the parable of the Good Samaritan that the unfortunate man moaning in the ditch is our neighbor. He urges us to get off the main highway and help this man even though we are busy, even though the wine and oil we brought was for other uses, even though we only have one donkey to transport us, and even though we have to pay to house him in the inn.

 

The mission of Catholic Charities of the Arlington Diocese is to help people make that turn from the busy highway and attend to the weary so transformation of the helper and helped can begin.

 

Because we are Catholic and we want to encounter Christ, to think and act as He does, we serve the disenfranchised and the vulnerable, from the baby in the womb, to others in rural, urban and suburban neighborhoods. CCDA seeks to bring Christ to those living in despair just as He did when he preached and healed and ministered to the sick, forlorn and demon-possessed during the thousand days of his active ministry in Jerusalem and Galilee. This is what Pope Francis is calling us to when he speaks of the church as a field hospital.

 

Because CCDA encounters men, women and children of all faiths — and non-believers — we play a critical role in evangelization. Our 15-plus programs aim to share Christ’s radical and saving love. When we teach English as a second language or provide mental health counseling to those in despair, or help people find jobs, or assist with their utility bills, we also bring them the love of Christ. 

 

We have more than 100 employees and 1,500 volunteers answering the call to be apostles.

 

When you reach out to the poor through CCDA, your parish or school, you are expanding the reach of Christ. When you make that encounter, expect to be transformed in your own life. Helping the man in the ditch helps us to reawaken and rediscover human dignity and human solidarity in our culture. It is justice meeting mercy, and creative love fighting despair.

 

Our five program areas of Crisis Response — transformational housing, dignity of life, health, and immigration and refugees — help so many people in many ways.

 

Last year, we helped 113 men, women and children who were homeless through our transformational housing; we counseled 264 adoptive birth parents to choose life; we gave away nearly 1 million pounds of food through the St. Lucy Food Project; served 18,000 free evening meals at Christ House; offered Catholic integrated mental health services to 1,065 clients; and provided support to 3,453 immigrant clients and refugees.

 

CCDA is where evangelization meets the road, where the churched and unchurched encounter Christ, where the helpers deepen their faith in service to others, and where those helped can experience the transformative love of God.

 

Bennett is president and CEO of Catholic Charities for the Arlington Diocese.

 

 

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016