Once at a meeting, I heard a man ask, “What does the Church bring to society?” When people pose such questions as a challenge, deep down they seem to be expressing a note of hope. Somewhere they heard the promise of Jesus and his Good News, and they long for it to be true.
Our family of faith does a great deal of good for a lot of people today. Many of the contributions made by the various agencies, groups and people of this local Church are highlighted in a booklet, Catholic Impact 2014, which was released by the archdiocese on Pentecost concurrently with the publication of my pastoral letter, Manifesting the Kingdom.
One of the primary ways the Lord continues to provide and care for humanity is through us, through the body of Christ we call the Church, co-workers for his kingdom. To the extent that Jesus reigns within us, explains Pope Francis, “the life of society will be a setting for universal fraternity, justice, peace and dignity. Both Christian preaching and life, then, are meant to have an impact on society” (Evangelii gaudium, 180).
Since its establishment by Pope Pius XII 75 years ago, the Church of Washington has made a significant impact on our community, manifesting Christ’s kingdom of truth and life, justice, love and peace. Yet this is only one chapter in a much longer story that goes back to the time when Catholic settlers first made landfall in Maryland in 1634, and then still further back, to the time when the Apostles and first disciples who walked with Jesus almost 2,000 years ago took up his great commission to be his witnesses. For two millennia, our Church through its outreach has brought Christ’s teaching, healing and loving service to our world.
At each Mass, we encounter Christ in the word of God that is proclaimed and in the Eucharist that we receive. Then, at the end of Mass, we are called to go forth, and bring Christ to our world.
Catholic Impact tells the continuing story of how Jesus’ love, mercy and hope unfolds every day in our own community, from the rising of the sun to its setting. That work of manifesting God’s kingdom is carried out in a special way in our Catholic educational, social service and health care programs. Our Catholic schools and parish religious education programs carry out the work of Christ the teacher, bringing his saving truth to people of all ages. Our Catholic social service agencies like Catholic Charities; St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families; Victory Housing programs; and the Center for Deaf Ministries continue Jesus’ call to love and serve the poor. Likewise, our Catholic hospitals, nursing homes and other health care institutions reflect the presence of Christ who healed the sick.
“Faith teaches us to see that every man and woman represents a blessing for me, that the light of God’s face shines on me through the faces of my brothers and sisters,” affirms Pope Francis. “How many benefits has the gaze of Christian faith brought to the city of men for their common life! Thanks to faith we have come to understand the unique dignity of each person, something which was not clearly seen in antiquity” (Lumen fidei, 54).
Over the years, Catholic agencies, ministries and everyday men and women have made a profound difference in the lives of millions of our sisters and brothers in this area regardless of religion, race, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation. The stories highlighted in Catholic Impact are just a few examples of how Christ transforms our hearts, and then we in turn change our world by bringing to others the vision of a more fully and authentic human life, hope for a better world, and a way of life which seeks to establish a culture of solidarity and communion.
Our local Church makes an integral contribution to the well-being of this community in a way that enriches us all. Now it’s our turn to manifest the kingdom, and impact our community with Christ’s teaching, healing and loving service to the poor.