February 3, 2006

Be Our Guest

Pope Benedict’s first encyclical inspires
local Catholic Charities

By David Siler

The recently published papal encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”), powerfully reaffirms that the Church, as an expression of God, is called to bring light and love to those desperately in need of God’s loving touch. Each of us, as baptized believers, are called to love our neighbor, but the Church is also called as an organization to seek every possible way to bring love to the world, particularly through the alleviation of suffering.

Pope Benedict XVI writes, “Love is therefore the service that the Church carries out in order to attend constantly to man’s sufferings and his needs, including material needs” (#19). The entire second part of the encyclical focuses on the Church’s “service of charity.”

We, in Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, feel both encouraged and challenged by the Holy Father’s letter. It is very significant that the pope’s first-ever encyclical to the Catholic Church deals with the topic of charity. In fact, the pope states, “. . . love for widows and orphans, prisoners, and the sick and needy of every kind, is as essential to her [the Church] as the ministry of the sacraments and preaching of the Gospel” (#22).

Every day throughout the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, through our six Catholic Charities agencies and more than 35 programs, we are living out this service of charity. However, we accept the Holy Father’s letter as a challenge to be the very best at what we do and to do even more.

With this challenge before us, I have asked our six Catholic Charities agencies (Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Bloomington, Tell City, New Albany and St. Elizabeth/Coleman) to commence a very thorough organizational discernment process to assess each program’s relevance/need, effectiveness and financial sustainability. In addition to these measures, we will look at how each program expresses our unique Catholic identity, fits with our mission and allows for opportunities to collaborate with other organizations.

This process will be led by an organizational consultant, Lynne O’Day, a retired executive from St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, who is generously donating her services.

In addition to the motivation provided by the pope’s encyclical, we are also motivated by the current archdiocesan Legacy for Our Mission: For Our Children and the Future campaign. Catholic Charities will be one of the direct beneficiaries of the financial resources raised through this campaign. Since we will be entrusted to care for these additional resources, we want to be fully prepared to be the best stewards possible.

We in Catholic Charities realize that when we act in any way to alleviate suffering, we are acting in the name of the entire Church; therefore, we want to do the most good possible with the resources that we have available.

Our ultimate goal is to meet the standard that Pope Benedict sets forth in his encyclical, where he states, “It is very important that the Church’s charitable activity maintain all of its splendor and does not become just another form of social assistance” (#31).

To view a copy of the full text of Deus Caritas Est, visit www.vatican.va. To learn more about Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit www.CatholicCharitiesIndy.org.

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries.)


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