April 6, 2007

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Service as evangelization

In December 2005, you may remember reading about Charlene Booker and her three children, who relocated to Indianapolis from New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Charlene recently called to tell me that after having seen the latest list of confirmed deceased hurricane victims, she could count 60 people from her own network of family, friends and acquaintances—including her own husband.

Charlene’s story is certainly one of her own amazing faith, but it is also a story about our own wonderful Catholic Church. We provide tangible and intangible charity every day for all human needs: spiritual, educational, nutritional, clothing, housing and emotional support.

Charlene and her children came to Indianapolis with little more than the clothes on their back. St. Rita parishioners rallied to help the family find clothing and other basic necessities. Catholic Charities Indianapolis’ Christmas Store helped provide gifts for Charlene and her children for the Christmases of 2005 and 2006.

All of you, through your contributions to the Hurricane Relief Fund, helped Charlene purchase a used

mini-van to transport her children to school and to her new job at St. Vincent Hospital.

Unfortunately, Charlene’s job at St. Vincent was eliminated, and she had to find another temporary job to make ends meet. When I talked to her recently, she told me she is starting a new job at St. Francis Hospital.

Charlene’s two older children were originally placed in a public school, but that environment was not right for their complex needs. St. Andrew & St. Rita Catholic Academy welcomed them with open arms, and the children found a safe and comforting environment there—free of tuition.

Charlene told me that this was the best thing that has ever happened to her children. They have since moved to another school due to a housing change, but will always remember the care and concern that they received while at this wonderful Catholic school.

At last year’s chrism Mass, Charlene and her children were invited to bring up the gifts at the offertory; they are not Catholic, however. At the reception following the Mass, Charlene found me and, with great excitement, told me that she and her children were going to go through instruction to become Catholic.

I expressed my joy to her while thinking to myself, “Well, of course you are!” How could anyone who has been touched so deeply in so many ways not want to be a part of this Church?

As Church, we were able to wrap our welcoming arms around the Booker family to meet their wide array of needs. Four major Catholic entities carried out Christ’s mission to serve others: Catholic Charities, Catholic education, local parishes and Catholic healthcare. Moreover, we are dedicated to carrying out Christ’s mission every day to all people in need, regardless of faith.

We often hear the Church described as the body of Christ. I don’t believe that I have ever witnessed a better example of that body at work in so many ways!

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

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