July 2, 2010

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Catholic Church is alive and well

David SilerThe Catholic Church has certainly not been exempt from the media’s insatiable appetite for negative news.

If one were to make an assessment of our Church only from what can be found in the newspapers, magazines or on the Internet, one would be left with a very sad impression.

Mother Church, of course, is not perfect—after all she is us—and we are imperfect. We need to take a close and serious look at our sins, but that is not where the story ends.

Very little ink and few electronic digits are used to tell the overwhelmingly greater story that the Holy Spirit is alive and well within and among the Catholic Church.

Imagine for a moment if every Catholic institution were to be somehow lifted from the face of the Earth. Can you hear the sound? That is the sound of the enormous vacuum left in the places formerly held by our hospitals, schools, social services agencies, parishes and other countless ministries. Our own country would essentially grind to a screeching halt almost instantly.

Lest you become discouraged by the negativity perpetuated in the media, you need only remind yourself that our Church operates the largest non-profit health system in the United States. What is not well known is that hundreds of millions of dollars are donated through charity care to patients who cannot afford to pay for services. Like much of the Church, Catholic hospitals are too humble to toot their own horns about all of the service that they give away—but it is clearly a key component of their mission.

Our Catholic schools educate more children outside of our public school system than any other institution. Many schools and dioceses have scholarship programs that help children attend our high-quality, values-based schools.

Our own Mother Theodore Academy schools in the inner city of Indianapolis are a prime example, where 87 percent of the students are from families living in poverty and 100 percent of the students receive some sort of financial aid. This is only made possible through the generosity of hundreds of individuals, parishes and businesses.

Our Catholic parishes not only provide spiritual food through the sacraments, but also provide nourishment in immeasurable ways to their parishioners, local communities and communities throughout the world. Statistics are not kept on the amount of food given, clothing distributed, volunteer hours provided, dollars donated, etc., collectively by our parishes. If we could track this information, it would be staggering.

Catholic Charities, by many measures, is the largest provider of social services in the United States, and our sister organizations around the world, called Caritas Internationalis, collectively provide more poor relief and charity care than any other organization in the world.

Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishop’s world relief organization, provides humanitarian relief and development assistance to the poor and marginalized in more than 100 countries and territories around the world. When the devastating earthquake shook Haiti residents to their knees in January, CRS was already there, ready to respond immediately to the needs of the local people.

All of these examples and many more are places that we can point our eyes and hearts to remind us that there is far more good than bad being done in the name of the Catholic Church.

We are her best messengers so let us focus on the good, and work together to let the world know that our Church is alive and well!

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.)

Local site Links: