Priest promotes church’s social mission

Fr. Lawrence Goodwin

As the bio on his Facebook page states, “Not sure how I ended up in Kentucky, but here I am. Anyone want to help build the kingdom of heaven?” — Father Lawrence Goodwin has high hopes for his new role at Catholic Charities of Louisville.

Father Goodwin is a priest of the Congregation of Jesus and Mary and his religious community is based in San Diego, Calif. At the completion of his last assignment, his superior asked him to find work outside a parish. As a trained social worker, Father Goodwin knew exactly the type of work he wanted to do: Educate others about the social teachings of the Catholic Church.

At Catholic Charities of Louisville, he found that role as the parish, schools and advocacy coordinator.

“My role is to raise awareness of Catholic Charities, to help people know what it is that we do,” he said in an interview last week.

The focus of Father Goodwin’s work is to develop greater parish engagement, which is also a primary goal of Catholic Charities’ recently-unveiled strategic plan. Though the agency has had an advocacy coordinator in the past, the role has evolved with the addition of Father Goodwin. 

As a priest of a religious order, Father Goodwin said his presbyteral ministry adds an additional component to his work at Catholic Charities. His community — known as the Eudists — was founded in 1643 by St. John Eudes in France to “work in seminaries, do parish missions, assist diocesan priests and assist persons in need,” as noted in his recent Share the Journey column. Like the Eudist priests who came before him, Father Goodwin has adapted to the pastoral needs of the day to serve the church and her people, he said.

A native of Windsor, Canada, Father Goodwin has ministered in a half dozen dioceses in the U.S. since 1989. His passion for Catholic social justice combined with his desire to educate has resulted in a unique approach to his position.

“Basically, the idea of it is to help parishes, schools and different institutions in the city to become aware of how they can participate in acts of justice, social justice and Catholic ethics,” he said. “I provide an education on the different programs of Catholic Charities and how they can become involved in them.”

Since his arrival in Kentucky last summer, the pandemic has hampered his efforts a bit, he said. His main mission currently is to visit as many parishes in the Archdiocese of Louisville as possible and to meet people where they are.

“I start where they are. I talk about the work of Catholic Charities, Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Campaign for Human Development” and how they can get involved, he said.

So far, he’s visited about 30 of the 110 parishes in the archdiocese and plans to continue his visits. He lives at St. Margaret Mary Church and regularly helps with weekend Masses at St. Patrick, St. Michael, the Cathedral of the Assumption and also parishes in Metcalfe and Monroe counties.

Establishing a more consistent communication with parishes and schools is also a priority, he said, adding that’s a task that has been especially difficult this last year.

“We’re working to engage parishes when people can’t gather together. We’ve been looking at how we communicate and interact with parishes” and to determine best practices, he said.

His responsibility to assist Catholics in understanding the social teachings of the church is one Father Goodwin takes seriously.

“The ability to help people have an encounter with Catholic social teaching is central to the parish social ministry position. I have the ability to do a lot of teaching around that,” he said.

Jessica Able
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Jessica Able
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