December 14, 2018

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

In 2019, Catholic Charities will continue to be ‘light’ for others

David Bethuram

“Today too, amid so much darkness, we need to see the light of hope and to be men and women who bring hope to others.”
—Pope Francis

Women and men who bring hope to others—that’s the mission behind what we do here at Catholic Charities in the archdiocese. Many of the individuals we serve come from experiences of darkness: the loss of a job, an illness, a breakdown in their family structure. Many face homelessness and hunger.

At Catholic Charities, our work of bringing hope is more than just giving those in need a roof over their head or food to eat. It’s about helping people become self-sustaining and realizing God’s will for them. Life transformation is our goal.

Catholic Charities of the archdiocese of will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2019 with the theme “Be the Light.”

For 100 years, Catholic Charities has been serving anyone in need and was founded after World War I. It was a time when women were left caring for their families, and children were left orphaned following the flu epidemic. Bishop Joseph Chartrand of the-then Diocese of Indianapolis called on Father Maurice O’Connor to become the director of what was called the Catholic Community Center.

From its very beginning, Catholic Charities has been a pioneer in social services, leading the way in providing a holistic approach to an individual and family in need. It led the way in many innovative social service programs and partnerships with other Catholic health care and educational institutions.

Catholic Charities has grown tremendously beyond the Indianapolis area, expanding its services and coverage area to include the diocesan counties in and around Bloomington, Bedford, New Albany, Tell City and Terre Haute. It now serves 210,000 individuals annually.

Although a lot has changed since our founding in 1919, our mission has remained constant: to provide service to those in need, to advocate compassion and justice in the structures of society, and to call all people of goodwill to do the same. Our focus is on helping those who can move out of poverty and caring for those who are not able to do so. We serve in this way because our Catholic faith compels us to serve those on the margins and those who are most vulnerable.

Our experience shows that people face many types of poverty. For some, it is situational poverty. Life was fine and then something happened, like a health issue or a job loss, and it sent the family spiraling out of control. For others, it is generational poverty: a cycle of poor parents having poor kids who then grow up to be poor parents with poor kids. The cycle continues unless something or someone intervenes to break it. Our commitment is stronger than ever in identifying and implementing strategies and opportunities which will lead those currently living in poverty out of poverty.

As we look toward the future, there is a tremendous need for Catholic Charities. We have been nimble and efficient throughout our history in providing compassionate care. All the people—archbishops, clergy, parishioners, staff, and hundreds of volunteers who have faithfully served in Catholic Charities—are important partners in our history.

As we enter 2019, let us together celebrate continuing to be “the light” for so many in our communities in need. Let us reaffirm our commitment to the next century of providing help and hope to all of those who need us most.

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

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