As many of you know, Catholic Social Services is a member of the larger Catholic Charities USA network, which just recently held its annual gathering in Charlotte, N.C.
The meeting opened with a video greeting from Pope Francis. Although I was not able to attend, the text of his message emphasize that the mission of all Catholic Charities agencies are directed towards his vision for the church to be the “advocate of justice and defender of the poor in the face of intolerable social and economic inequalities.”
I thought you would enjoy reading the pope’s thoughts on the social service facet of the church.
Pope Francis described Catholic Charities USA agencies as “the engines of the church that organize love.”
The central focus of his message was that no one is to be omitted from God’s love — all deserve our respect and care. Like the Good Samaritan, we should be serving those who have been left in despair by the side of the road. Catholic Social Services staff, board members, donors, volunteers and other supporters act to express the love of Jesus to our fellow man; to the poor, the lonely, the homeless, the hungry, the refugee, the disabled and many others. In addition, we must advocate and speak on their behalf, trying to reform structures which cause or preserve social injustice.
The work of Catholic Charities agencies allows the poor and marginalized to recognize and feel the magnificent and plentiful love of God through Jesus Christ. Those who work at these agencies and those who volunteer their time, accomplish the intentions of Jesus in our communities, assist in altering the trajectory of the lives of many persons, families and neighborhoods. We see God in each person’s eyes.
In his message, Pope Francis said he preferred a church “which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. You help others change the course of their own lives. You are the salt, leaven and light that provides a beacon of hope to those in need.”
He added that the people at Catholic Charities USA “help to change the course of your local communities, your states, your country and the world by your witness to that encounter with the Lord Jesus, who gives us abundant life and joy. The joy of serving and, advocating for the good of all continues that call of the early church to make sure that all needs are met. I ask that you see your leadership as service; that you practice mercy which is a core Christian message for us; and that you keep the poor always before you, in all that you do. We are called to be a church, a people of and for the poor.”
Catholic Social Services is grateful for the support from our parish stakeholders. Through you we are able to put the inspirational words of Pope Francis into action. Thank you for helping CSS carry out our mission, “to compassionately serve the poor and vulnerable, strengthen individuals and families and advocate for social justice.”
The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more information about CSS, call 276-5590 or visit cssalaska.org.