September 17, 2010

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Witness of youths should lead us as we begin annual appeal

Six years ago, I suggested to our archdiocesan youth ministry leaders that we offer a summer service project for our youths and that it be offered here at home as an opportunity to serve Christ in the poor. Our leaders took up the challenge and named the program the archdiocesan Homeland Mission Project.

I applaud service projects conducted in other countries, such as Haiti or Latin America, but I also want our youths to discover the astonishing poverty within our own archdiocese. Not only is the program to assist the needy here in our own community but, at the same time, the intended goal is that the youths will be able to see Christ in those they serve and that those served see Christ in our youths.

The Archdiocesan Homeland Mission Project has become a popular experience for high school youths from all around the archdiocese. Their leaders describe the project as a powerful, faith-filled week of service—and so do the youths.

Each summer, I receive letters from the participants thanking me for the opportunity. Here is a sample of the comments that I received:

“Thank you so much for allowing us to go out and serve the needs in our home city. We greatly appreciate your contributions over the years to help this mission continue.”

Another read: “Homeland Mission was a great project, and really brought me closer to my faith. I enjoyed the mission; helping others in need and becoming a disciple of Christ.”

Another youth wrote: “The many different types of service opened my eyes to the numerous ways [that] I can help those in need.”

A common sentiment expressed by the youths was their appreciation for the chance to get to know their peers while serving those in need.

Given the opportunity, our young Catholics engage enthusiastically in generous and selfless service to those in need. And given some direction, they do see Christ in the poor and in each other.

Some commented that their eyes were opened, and they will look for opportunities to continue this mission as members of our Catholic community. Of course, their response to this initiative to serve the poor here at home is gratifying.

It should not surprise anyone that one of the intentions that I had in launching this Homeland Mission Project was to spread the story of the astonishing needs of many of our poor people, and the awareness that in faith we need to see Christ in them and to imitate his predilection for the poor. I wish there would be a practical way we could help many more folks of our archdiocese to see the needs of so many of our sisters and brothers of all ages.

One of the less than successful goals of my ministry as archbishop has been to help parishioners to look beyond their parish boundaries and recognize the poverty of so many folks in central and southern Indiana.

As Blessed Teresa of Calcutta often said, the poor need us to reach out to touch those who suffer in so many different and lonely ways. We need to serve them as we want to serve Christ.

Not everyone can take time away and go to seek out the needy around the archdiocese and truly give them the helping hand they need. God bless those of you who can.

As for the rest of us, there is an opportunity to make a difference for the poor among us. A year ago, we retooled our annual appeal to name it for what it really is: “Christ our Hope: Compassion in Community.”

Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that we share a threefold ministry in our Church: proclamation of the Gospel, celebration of the sacraments and the mission of charity. He also taught us that these three are inseparable.

Our mission of charity extends beyond our parish boundaries because we are members of the one Church that extends beyond parish boundaries. We are one body, the Body of Christ.

Much as we might like to, we can’t all stop and take a week or two to hit the streets and roads that take us to the poor who are Christ. Some may be inclined to say, there he goes again asking for our money. That’s right, so I do because it is a practical way in which we can help those in need.

Soon we will launch our 2010 Christ our Hope appeal. A major portion of our contributions in this outreach goes to serve the poor among us through our charities agencies and our home mission parish communities whose resources are so limited.

I am hopeful that the witness of our youths will lead the way in helping us tell the story about what they have seen and experienced. †

Local site Links: