September 15, 2017

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Prayer and action: Caring for our vulnerable sisters and brothers

David Bethuram(Editor’s note: This week, The Criterion begins a new monthly column by Catholic Charities executive director David Bethuram titled “Our Works of Charity.”)

As the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities, I am challenged daily to think about how Catholic Charities can not only sustain our work but also look to the future to expand our efforts and partnerships in order to address the tremendous needs of the poor and vulnerable in our archdiocese.

Equally challenging is the task of finding funding, facilities and volunteers to help us in this mission. I am reminded, though, through our Church teachings and holy Scripture, to rely on God’s grace and abundance.

Today I read and reflected yet again on the story of the loaves and fishes in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Mark and thought about how often I feel like one of the disciples. Imagine that you too are one of the disciples and all you have available to feed thousands of hungry people are five measly loaves of bread and two fish!

Like the disciples, all of us might have been inclined to say, “Let them take care of their own needs; we don’t have enough resources.” But that is not what Jesus asks us to do. In Mark chapter 6, Jesus prayed, and through a miracle, there was enough to feed the multitude. Jesus prayed with the right intention—to do his Father’s work to care for his vulnerable brothers and sisters in need. This faith led to a unique opportunity for the disciples to see, witness and experience God’s abundant love.

I am always encouraged by reading Pope Benedict XVI’s “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”). In his encyclical, he clearly puts care for the poor at the heart of the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict says three things make the Church the Church: proclaiming the Gospel, celebrating the sacraments, and caring for the poor. This love of the poor is an essential and defining activity of the Church.

In fact, Pope Benedict writes in the encyclical that: “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. The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the sacraments and the word” (#22).

The month of September is “Hunger Awareness Month.” This is a good time to reflect anew on the miracle of the loaves and fishes as it relates to the women, men and children in need in our communities. Did you know that Indiana is ranked 23rd out of 50 states for food hardship in households with one or more children?

According to a report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), one in five Indiana households with children struggles to afford enough food. This means that every night in our communities children go to bed hungry because their family doesn’t have enough food. Our faith and our stewardship—in partnership with donors, volunteers and individuals—lead to this important work of charity in our parishes and within the services provided through Catholic Charities.

Let’s encourage one another, as Catholic faithful, to seek to live out “Deus Caritas Est” through all our ministries of charity. Let’s pray and take action to support those who are hungry in our communities.

You are the reason that people in our communities can go to food pantries at parishes and at Catholic Charities. You make a difference!

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

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