August 1, 2014

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

At Catholic Charities, we open wide the doors of Church

David SilerProviding help. Creating hope. Serving all.

You may not have noticed the subtle new addition to our Catholic Charities tagline, “Serving all.”

For many years, we simply stated that the purpose of the work that we do is to “Provide help and create hope.” This mission remains the same as does the fact that this help and hope is offered to anyone, regardless of race, creed, color or any other distinction, other than to be a person in need.

However, the most common misconception about Catholic Charities continues to be that you have to be Catholic to receive our services. This has never been the case and never will be! Sometimes we even say in jest, “we serve everyone … even Catholics.”

We serve everyone because we are Catholic, not because our clients are or are not. Our faith compels us, as Jesus taught us, to regard everyone as a child made in the image and likeness of God and, therefore, entitled to our care and concern.

The very first tenant of Catholic social teaching is the recognition of the inherent dignity of the human person. It is this high regard for all of human life that drives us to seek out the lost and forgotten.

The fact is that most of the time we have no idea about the faith tradition of those we serve. We simply act in such a way that we hope and pray that they will have an experience—an encounter—with the living God, through our staff and volunteers.

When we witness in the Scriptures how Jesus sought out the lost and forsaken, he did not ask them for a profession of faith (at first) or their baptismal record or whether or not they followed all of the laws of the Old Testament. Rather, he looked into their heart and saw a space where light needed to shine, and extended an invitation to open their heart through loving, compassionate service.

If you have been paying attention to both the spoken and written words of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, you notice an openness in his tone. He too is encouraging us to open wide the doors of the Church, and seek ways to be inclusive rather than exclusive, inviting rather than alienating, loving rather than judging.

Pope Francis is calling for a Church that is of the poor and for the poor. His message is resonating with so many—Catholics, non-Catholics and people of all faiths or no faith at all—because he is reminding us of the most basic message of Jesus Christ himself: that God is love and his son, Jesus, is best found in the poor and vulnerable.

So at Catholic Charities, we continue to do as Pope Francis, and Christ, asks us to do—throw open wide the doors of the Church.

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. E-mail him at

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