Catholic Charities are Catholic by gdf57j


									 10 Ways
Catholic Charities
                                  are            Catholic
                                                                           by Fred Kammer, SJ

A     cross this nation there are literally hundreds
      of independent organizations involving
thousands of programs that make up the Catholic
Charities network. In 2004, more than 48,000 staff
and 213,000 volunteers served more than 7.1 million
people. They were the face and hands and heart of
Catholic Charities. And despite the incredible variety
of people – of many faiths and none at all – who
make Catholic Charities a reality, certain essentials
make us Catholic Charities.

Fred Kammer, SJ, was president of Catholic Charities USA from 1992–2001.
1.         Our ministry is rooted in the Scriptures.

T    he work we do has its roots deep in the
     Scriptures. In the Jewish Scriptures, at
the heart of the biblical concept of justice
                                                treated tests our society’s justice, and whether
                                                or not we understand that we are children of
                                                one God who is passionately concerned for the
was the care of the widow, orphan, and          least among us.
stranger. Responding to their needs was a
                                                This was the teaching of Jesus as well. In
special responsibility of the Jewish people,
                                                              the famous judgment scene
and this justice was the gauge of
                                                              in Matthew 25, Jesus tells his
whether they understood their          In the Jewish          followers that the world will
relationship to God and to one
                                                              be judged by how they treat
another.                               Scriptures, at         him, found among the hungry,
Ironically, the contemporary work    the heart of the         homeless, sick, imprisoned, and
of Catholic Charities worldwide                               poor. This teaching is reinforced in
continues to be primarily these      biblical concept         the great scene in the 13th chapter
same groups: women who are                                    of the Gospel of John when Jesus
poor; children who are poor; and
                                     of “justice” was
                                                              washes the feet of his disciples and
individuals who are marginalized      the care of the         charges them to do so for others.
because, literally, they are foreign                          It is an expression of the servant
workers, immigrants and refugees,     widow, orphan,          model of the Church underscored
they are racially different, or they    and stranger.          in the teaching of the Second
have a disability, HIV/AIDS, or                               Vatican Council.1
some other condition that sets
them apart. How these people are

           This ministry has been an integral part
           of the Catholic Church for 2,000 years.

A    s the apostolic Church formed, the
     apostles faced a challenge that threatened
to tear apart the new Christian community. The
                                                   Many other great saints were known for their
                                                   ministries to the poor and vulnerable: St. Francis
                                                   of Assisi, St. Clare, St. Peter Claver, St. Catherine
charge brought by the Greek Christians was         of Siena, St. Martin de Porres, and St. Elizabeth
that their widows were not receiving a share of    Ann Seton.
the community’s goods. The apostles appointed
the seven deacons whose first ministry was to       These traditions were carried to the New World
make sure that justice was reflected in the life    to become part of the institutional and parish
of the community, and that poor widows and         life of the Catholic Church here. The first
children were cared for.                           such foundation was the orphanage, home for
                                                   “women of ill repute,” and health care facility
This ministry of caring for the needy was          begun by the Ursuline Sisters in New Orleans
institutionalized in the great monasteries of      in 1727. By 1900, more than 800 Catholic
the first millennium as the religious cared for     charitable institutions existed in the United
orphans, the sick, the elderly, travelers, and     States. Now, staff and volunteers—serving
the poor. From the monasteries, the ministry       almost seven million individuals a year—care
of caring was carried back into the cities by      for infants with fetal alcohol syndrome,
women and men religious who established            sponsor group homes for people with mental
orphanages, homes for the sick and elderly,        disabilities, provide high-rise apartments for
hospices, and many other centers for health        the elderly, resettle refugees, counsel troubled
and social services. Later, lay and religious      families, offer hospice to individuals with
associations, such as those begun by St. Vincent   HIV/AIDS, feed hungry families, and shelter
de Paul, expanded and deepened this work.          homeless people.
3.          Catholic Charities promote the sanctity of
            human life and the dignity of the human person.

T     he ultimate rationale for our services is
      our belief in the sanctity of the human
person and the dignity of human life. This is
                                                     from his healing touch and was known for
                                                     his fellowship meals with tax collectors and
                                                     sinners. So too, Catholic Charities accept even
reflected, for example, in adoption services that     those whom political majorities would ignore
are among our most traditional, and the care         or punish.
for sick and elderly people, which is a hallmark
of our work.                                         Because of the theological and philosophical
                                                     traditions of this faith community, at the
While society may exclude some people                heart of which are human sanctity and dignity,
because they are sick, disabled, poor, or racially   Catholic Charities have certain values and
different, Catholic Charities reach out to them       ethical standards that shape our work.2 Among
with respect for their human dignity, which is       these is the preferential concern for the poor
at the root of Catholic social teaching. While       articulated by Pope John Paul II and so many
society may reject some people because they          others that is played out in the nature of our
are in prison or undocumented, we work to            services, the locations of our offices, the use of
enhance their dignity, improve their lives, and      sliding fee scales, and our advocacy for social
meet their needs. Jesus Christ rejected no one       justice.

            Catholic Charities are authorized to
            exercise their ministry by the diocesan bishop.

W       hether founded by a diocese, parish,
        religious congregation, or lay activists,
Catholic charitable works and institutions have
                                                     terms of canon and civil law, Catholic Charities
                                                     have responsibilities to operate consistently
                                                     with the teachings and values of the Church.
their formal Catholic identity in relationship to    While there is great organizational variety, the
the Church and the diocesan bishop.                  diocesan bishop ordinarily is positioned within
                                                     the civil law structure—even of a separately
The bishop is charged in Church teaching and         incorporated Charities—to allow him to
canon law with responsibility for the apostolate     exercise his canonical responsibilities for the
within diocesan confines. However organized in        apostolate.

5.          Catholic Charities respect the
            religious beliefs of those we serve.

M       any people are surprised to learn that
        Catholic Charities serve people of all
faiths. They may be even more surprised to learn
                                                  going back as far as the fourth century and,
                                                  in this country, to the Ursuline Sisters in New
                                                  Orleans in 1727. In the pattern of Christ Jesus,
that most agencies do not even keep                             our response is to families and
statistics on the religious affiliation                           individuals in need—the hungry,
of those who come to us.
                                         We are Catholic        homeless, depressed, troubled,
                                         precisely in our       frail—regardless of their religious
This is not an accident of history or                           beliefs. We see this in Jesus’
a result of receiving funding from respect for others’ own ministry, where he cured
the United Way or government                                    the daughter of the Canaanite
entities. Instead, it reflects a        religious beliefs.
                                                                woman in Matthew 15 and the
determined position to serve                                    Centurion’s servant in Luke 7.
the entire community, a custom
This decidedly ecumenical approach is                 On April 18, 1997, the pope addressed
simultaneously Roman Catholic. It reflects our         the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” on the
respect for human dignity, religious liberty, and     role of charitable activity. As reported by
the ecumenical sensitivity promoted by Vatican        Catholic News Service, charitable activity is
II. Many people come to Catholic Charities            an eloquent means of Catholic evangelization
for particular needs: a hot meal, a safe place        because it witnesses to a spirit of giving and of
to stay, a voucher for prescription medicine,         communion inspired by God who created all
resettlement in a new nation, and resources to        men and women, the pope said.
rebuild after a natural disaster. They do not seek
or need religious proselytizing, nor would our        But the primary motivation for Catholic giving
staff and volunteers offer it.                          is to serve Christ in the poor and suffering and
                                                      to promote the justice, peace, and development
We would find it strange to preach Catholic            worthy of the children of God, he said.
beliefs to a devout Muslim family being resettled
from Bosnia, a Buddhist                                            “Actions of aid, relief, and assistance
Vietnamese grandmother                                             should be conducted in a spirit of
                                         Many people               service and free giving for the
coming to our senior center,
a Baptist elder to whom we                                         benefit of all persons without the
                                      come to Catholic
deliver a meal at home, or                                         ulterior motive of eventual tutelage
a Lutheran father entering               Charities for             or proselytism.”
a job-training program. We           particular needs…             For a variety of reasons, however,
are Catholic precisely in our                                      Catholic Charities also may sponsor
respect for others’ religious         They do not seek             particular programs for the Catholic
beliefs. As Pope John Paul II                                      Community, including marriage
                                      or need religious
told our members meeting in                                        preparation and counseling, parish
San Antonio in 1986, “for your        proselytizing, nor           outreach and training, Catholic
long and persevering service—                                      school counseling, or other more
creative and courageous, and        would our staff and
                                                                   specific services. These are usually
blind to the distinctions of         volunteers offer it.          funded by the Catholic Church,
race or religion—you will hear                                     used primarily by Catholics, and
Jesus’ words of gratitude, ‘You                                    have a more explicitly Catholic
did it for me.’”                                                   content where appropriate.

6.         Catholic Charities recognize that some services require
           attention to physical, mental, and spiritual needs.

I  n some services, it is appropriate and
   necessary to recognize and respond to the
physical, mental, and spiritual needs of those we
                                                      kinds, and expressions of belief in a higher
                                                      power. Senior centers and residences may
                                                      provide opportunities for chaplaincy service
serve. Addiction treatment programs, marriage         of various denominations, depending on
and family counseling, grief ministries, and          the desires of those served. And marriage
other services call for attention to all the          and family counseling often must attend
integrated facets of human beings.                    to the spiritual beliefs and values of those
We do this in many ways consistent with our           involved and how those beliefs help or
respect for the individual’s religious beliefs. For   hinder movement toward healing within
example 12-step programs have a distinctive           the family. Counselors recognize and affirm
spiritual component essential to their success.       the importance of this spiritual dimension
Homeless shelters often provide opportunities         of those they serve, again without imposing
for sharing faith and hope, prayer of all             religious beliefs upon those involved.

7.           Catholic Charities have a special relationship
             to the Catholic diocese and to Catholic parishes.

I  n more than half of U.S. dioceses, Catholic
   Charities agencies have formal programs
though which the agency supports and
                                                      and even enlist parishes in joint ventures such
                                                      as community-wide soup kitchens, sponsorship
                                                      of refugee families, and prison visitations.
encourages parishes in their ministry to the
community and its needs. In many agencies            Catholic Charities also cooperate with
this relationship also exists,                       diocesan leaders by operating or collaborating
although more informally.                                            with diocesan offices and
                                        Agencies…provide             programs funded largely by
Agencies assist parishioners                                         the Church. These include
in the exercise of their
                                     professional resources,
                                                                     the Campaign for Human
baptismal commitment                  training, support, and         Development anti-poverty
to the poor and needy. 3                                             program, family life and
They provide professional                encouragement to            respect life programs,
resources, training, support,        parish-based ministries.        youth organizations, offices
and encouragement to                                                 for African-American
parish-based ministries such          By so doing, agencies          or Hispanic-American
as food pantries, outreach to                                        Catholics, and justice and
the frail elderly, community              help pastors and           peace offices. In so doing,
o r g a n i z i n g , a n d e ve n    parishes to carry out          Catholic Charities assist the
legislative networks working                                         Catholic Church in carrying
for social justice. By so              their responsibilities        out other related aspects
doing, agencies help pastors                                         of the Church’s ministry
                                        to form caring faith
and parishes to carry out                                            within the wider community
their responsibilities to form              communities.             and help fulfill their own
caring faith communities.                                            mission to serve people in
They also expand agencies’                                           need, advocate for a just
own ministry through the                                             society, and bring people
hands and hearts of many                                             together to solve community
thousands of parishioners                                            problems.

8.           Catholic Charities work in active partnership with
             religiously sponsored charities and the civic community.

R     eflecting the teaching of the Second
      Vatican Council, Catholic Charities
express the willingness and even responsibility
                                                      conducted by the United Way. We build
                                                      coalitions to address emerging community needs
                                                      by developing new collaborative responses,
of the Catholic Church to work hand-in-hand           community education, and combined advocacy
with other religions and other people of good         before public and private forums.
will to serve community needs.
We often support community-wide                Catholic Charities build coalitions to address
fundraising for the benefit of Catholic
Charities, the charities sponsored by           emerging community needs by developing
other churches, and other nonprofit
                                                        new collaborative responses.
organizations, such as fundraising

 9.          Catholic Charities support an active public-private
             partnership with government at all levels.

 T     he Catholic Church has a long and
       strong tradition of teaching about the
 responsibilities of government in promoting
                                                            of contracts to deliver particular services, such as
                                                            foster care; voucher payment from individuals
                                                            paid by government, such as Medicaid; and
 the common good and protecting the least                   government funding of construction, such as
 among us, and the responsibilities of Catholics            housing. Government provides funding; we
 as citizens and taxpayers to support those roles           bring additional funding, volunteers, efficiency,
 and actively participate in civic life.                    values, community credibility, and dedication
                                                            to the service of local communities and their
 In light of these teachings, Catholic Charities            needy families.
 have sought and accepted partnerships with
 cities, counties, states, and the
 federal government in which             Catholic Charities have alliances with diverse
 we receive government funding
                                       agencies, organizations, and institutions that share
 to provide services to the wider
 community that we judge to be           the vision of a more just and humane society.
 consistent with our own mission.
 These payments may take the form                 — Vision 2000, Strategic Direction II 4

             Catholic Charities blend advocacy for those in need
10.          and public education about social justice with service
             to individuals, families, and communities in need.

 T    h r o u g h o u t t h e l a s t c e n t u r y,
      the Catholic Church has been increasingly
 outspoken about the need for economic and
                                                             part of our understanding of our mission.
                                                             It is not enough to feed more and more
                                                             hungry families; we also must raise the
 political change. This change is consistent                 public question about why so much hunger
 with the obligations of social justice in order             persists in this wealthy nation and how that
 to meet the needs of the entire community,                  condition might be changed by individual,
 with a special concern for the poorest and                  community, business, and government
 most vulnerable. This is in addition to the
                                                             action. Local Catholic Charities understand
 obligations of individuals to reach out to those            that advocacy, empowerment, and work for
 nearest to them in charity and justice.                     justice is an intrinsic part of their mission
                                                             of caring for individuals, families, and
 Catholic Charities, following the lead of the               communities in need.
 Vatican and the U.S. bishops, have made
 working for a more just society an integral

     It is not enough to feed more and more hungry families; we must also raise
                the public question about why so much hunger persists…

 This article originally appeared in Charities USA, 25, no. 1 (First Quarter 1998):1–4; reprinted and updated by S.
 Therese Wetta, ASC. Alexandria, VA: Catholic Charities USA, 2003.


1. See Walter M. Abbott, SJ, ed. Documents of the         4. Vision 2000, p. 9. Alexandria, VA: Catholic
   Vatican II, Chapter IV, “Dogmatic Constitution            Charities USA, 1997.
   of the Church,” p. 59. NY: Guild Press, 1966.
                                                          5. Economic Justice for All, p. 16. Washington,
2. See, for example, A Code of Ethics, p. 9, 12.             DC: National Conference of Catholic Bishops,
   Alexandria, VA: Catholic Charities USA,                   1986.

3. The Social Mission of the Parish, p. 8. Washington,
   DC: National Conference of Catholic Bishops,

                                                               Providing Help. Creating Hope.

       Catholic Charities USA is the National Member Service Center for the agencies and staff of
       Catholic Charities nationwide. By providing networking opportunities, a national voice, program
       development, training and consultancy, and financial benefits, Catholic Charities USA ensures that
       its members continue to provide quality social services to more than 7.1 million people in need
       each year, regardless of religious, ethnic, racial, or social background.

       Providing Help. Creating Hope.

To top