November 20, 2015


Grateful for the Catholic Church

When we’re counting our blessings this Thanksgiving, we might remember to thank God for letting us be members of a Church that does so much good for our neighbors. We wonder where this country would be today without the Catholic Church.

We American Catholics can be proud of the Church, and grateful to God that one out of five of our fellow citizens who are living in poverty are being served by Catholic Charities. In our archdiocese alone, $600,000 of the money contributed to the United Catholic Appeal will be distributed to six Catholic Charities agencies in central and southern Indiana.

We hope that you noticed, and read, on page 16 of our Oct. 23 issue, the large list of services provided by Catholic Charities in our archdiocese to the poor, the homeless, the hungry and those who need clothing or counseling.

We American Catholics can be grateful that the St. Vincent de Paul Society serves more than 14 million people in the United States each year. The Indianapolis council alone, staffed 100 percent by volunteers, reaches tens of thousands of poor and hungry people, both directly and by providing monthly food subsidies to Beggars for the Poor, the Cathedral Kitchen and Holy Family Shelter.

We American Catholics can be grateful for Catholic organizations that support pregnant women who might be considering an abortion. One such in Indianapolis is the Women’s Care Center, begun only a year ago, that has had more than 1,000 women clients from as far away as Columbus and Bloomington.

In New Albany, similar services are provided by St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities.

We American Catholics can be grateful that our schools are the largest provider of private education from kindergarten through high school in the country, with nearly 2 million students. In our archdiocese, 23,767 children are enrolled in 57 elementary schools and 11 high schools. The graduation rate for the high schools is 98 percent, and 94 percent go on to higher education. (The national percentage of those who graduate from public schools and go on to higher education is 39.5.)

The Catholic Church is also the largest provider of private higher education, with 197 U.S. members of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, enrolling nearly a million students. The archdiocese has two of them: Marian University in Indianapolis and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in St. Mary-of-the-Woods. It also has Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

We American Catholics can be grateful that Catholic Relief Services, the international relief agency of the U.S. bishops, serves nearly 100 million people in 93 countries, providing aid when disasters strike, but mainly helping and teaching those in need how to take care of themselves.

We American Catholics can be grateful that the Catholic Church is the largest resettler of refugees in the country. The Refugee Immigration Services program in Catholic Charities Indianapolis provides resettlement, legal services, and employment and acculturation assistance.

We American Catholics can be grateful that one out of six Americans get their health care from a Catholic institution. We can also be grateful that Catholic chaplains are provided not only in Catholic hospitals, but in other hospitals as well, and that lay volunteers visit Catholic patients to offer them Communion—although there’s a need for more volunteers.

We American Catholics can be grateful for the homes for the aged, including St. Paul Hermitage in Beech Grove, operated by the Benedictine Our Lady of Grace Monastery; St. Augustine Home for the Aged in Indianapolis, operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor; and various facilities at Guerin Woods in Georgetown near New Albany, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

All of those services are provided for both Catholics and non-Catholics (except the lay volunteers who offer Communion to Catholic patients). Taken together, it’s easy to see that the Catholic Church does more for the poor and needy than any other non-governmental entity. It’s something we can be both proud of and grateful for.

We American Catholics can be grateful not only for the institutions themselves, sponsored by the Catholic Church, but above all for the men and women who staff them, either as employees or volunteers.

Unfortunately, some of these services are in danger. We know that there’s a movement in our secular society to put obstacles before Catholic institutions to force them to do things that are against our faith. We must be diligent to retain our freedom of religion.

—John F. Fink

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