This series of teaching editorials defines the role of our local Church, the archdiocese, and how it serves from a variety of perspectives.
In previous editorials that set out to define an archdiocese, service was a recurring theme.
Service is a natural theme to revisit in this column, because it underscores everything we do at Catholic Charities of Louisville.
Catholic Charities is our Church at work in the community. As an apostolate of the archdiocese, Catholic Charities is committed to carrying out the social mission of the Church and helping the poor and vulnerable among us through a myriad of programs. We welcome, empower and strengthen those we serve through large-scale programs that require a high degree of professional skill or expertise to execute, including refugee resettlement, survivor support and training related to human trafficking, community gardening, job training through the Common Table, and meeting the many needs west of 9th Street and north of Broadway at the Sister Visitor Center.
No one person or parish could tackle these issues alone: the complexity and scope of work is simply too great. In dioceses around the country (and indeed around the world), each Catholic Charities agency can implement learnings and models best fitted to the needs in the communities they serve.
In addition to direct service work, Catholic Charities also provides a resource for parishes, supporting them in efforts to maintain their own social outreach. Parishes throughout the archdiocese are serving in extraordinary ways: organizing food pantries, collecting gifts for underprivileged children at Christmas, visiting the elderly and infirm, just to name a few.
In some cases, local parishes have developed ministries that have blossomed to serve not just their members and surrounding neighbors but the community at large. For instance, in 1997 Shelbyville’s Church of the Annunciation launched Centro Latino, an emergency assistance program for Hispanic parishioners with health, education and legal needs. The program has since become a registered 501c3 and now serves Latino communities in five Kentucky counties. Another example is the Cathedral of the Assumption’s Bologna Alley, a daily free lunch program for those in need. The effort has grown since its informal beginnings during the Great Depression and now serves nearly 150 homeless individuals each day. Catholic Charities assists by providing a staff caseworker to meet with lunch guests, and through a grant, Catholic Charities funds an ID program the cathedral offers to the homeless and those returning from incarceration.
Catholic Charities is a valuable resource for parishes in their social outreach. As a central contact for the system, we connect parishes, teach best practices and share innovative ideas. We also serve as an information pipeline, enabling parishes to tap into the expertise of outside charitable agencies. For instance, Catholic Charities arranged for staff from Louisville’s St. John Center for Homeless Men to talk with parishioners and staff at St. Augustine Church in Lebanon, as the parish explores ways to assist homeless individuals in Marion County.
In addition to providing a clearinghouse of information, training and expertise, Catholic Charities serves as a conduit for crucial funding. Through grants provided by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities distributes financial resources to parish projects that are making a difference in the lives of those in need. We lead retreats for parish staffs, host presentations on Catholic social teaching, coordinate parish events like electronics recycling drives and so much more.
Catholic Charities is an integral part of the Archdiocese of Louisville, with a mission to serve people in need, advocate for justice and call others of good will to do the same. In Pope Benedict XVI’s first encyclical, entitled “God is Love,” the Holy Father proclaimed that love for the poor and vulnerable is central to Catholic life, noting that the “exercise of charity” is one of the church’s three essential activities. “The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word,” he wrote.
Catholic Charities is dedicated to fulfilling that mission — by helping to uphold the dignity and alleviate the suffering of our own clients and by partnering with parishes to do the same.
Lisa DeJaco Crutcher is
chief executive officer of
Catholic Charities of Louisville.