Catholic Charities Weekend

Over the years, the basketball court at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center in College Park has been the site of many triumphs, but perhaps none has been greater than what unfolded there in early September, as that court was transformed into a mobile dental clinic, complete with 100 dental chairs, for the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival.

At that two-day clinic – co-sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health’s Center for Health Equity – 1,200 people who had nowhere else to turn received state-of-the-art dental care. The 1,500 volunteers serving them included about 400 dentists, hygienists and other health professionals.

Scanning the dramatic scene with university and government officials from an overhead pavilion, it was clear to all of us that partnerships produce great things. You can accomplish anything if you work together, and this initiative was the proof of it.

Partnerships do indeed produce great things and that is why all 139 parishes in the Archdiocese of Washington will be celebrating Catholic Charities Weekend on November 15th -16th. Volunteers will give a brief talk at the end of Masses about the work of Catholic Charities, and parishioners will be encouraged to volunteer at their parishes or through Catholic Charities to bring Christ’s love and hope to those in need in their own community.

Catholic Charities, which began here during the Great Depression, has been called one of the best-kept secrets in the Washington area and we would like to change that by sharing its story. Many do not know that it is the largest private social services provider in the metropolitan area. Each year Catholic Charities serves about 116,000 men, women and children through more than 65 programs in nearly 50 locations, operated by several hundred staff members and thousands of caring volunteers.

But numbers do not tell the whole story. Catholic Charities is not just another social service program. This ministry truly reflects our understanding of what it means to be Church, to be the enduring, visible presence of Christ in today’s world.

Pope Francis has said often that he wants the Church to be “of and for the poor,” that we need to bring Christ’s love to those on the periphery, on the edge of society. Each day, Catholic Charities does just that, serving those who are often marginalized or even seemingly invisible in our individualistic, secular world. For example, instead of hurrying past the homeless on our streets, Catholic Charities provides more than 1,800 beds each night for homeless men, women and children, as well as an array of programs to help them rebuild their lives and find permanent homes and jobs. Beyond the headlines and news reports in recent months about the rising tide of unaccompanied immigrant minors, Catholic Charities here has been helping those young people find stability and hope for the future.

Seeing a poor person not as a statistic, and not just as a client, but as a child of God, as a brother or sister, makes all the difference, and that is the perspective that Catholic Charities offers in its outreach. A staggering need is met thanks to their dedicated staff and volunteers under the leadership of Monsignor John Enzler, the president of Catholic Charities, who served for many years as a pastor in a number of local parishes. I have entrusted him with the duty to help lead our archdiocesan efforts on behalf of the region’s poor.

Catholic Charities is a visible sign of God’s love also because of the support of everyone who makes it possible. The impact that people’s donations make in the work of Catholic Charities cannot be understated, with those gifts serving as an investment in building a brighter future for people through our archdiocese’s educational and social outreach programs.

As I witnessed at the Mission of Mercy clinic, partnerships make a great difference and bring smiles to the faces of those being served as well as those who serve. Now, my hope is that Catholic Charities Weekend inspires more people to partner with Catholic Charities and with their parishes in bringing Christ’s love to the poor. For more information, please visit the Catholic Charities’ volunteer webpage here.