November 29, 2019

‘Be the Light’: Catholic Charities celebrates 100 years of hope with a promise to continue to help others

The archdiocese’s Catholic Charities executive director David Bethuram, left, Catholic Charities USA president and chief executive officer Dominican Sister Donna Markham, and Archbishop Charles C. Thompson are all smiles in the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis after the 100th anniversary celebration dinner on Nov. 20 for Catholic Charities in the archdiocese. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

The archdiocese’s Catholic Charities executive director David Bethuram, left, Catholic Charities USA president and chief executive officer Dominican Sister Donna Markham, and Archbishop Charles C. Thompson are all smiles in the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis after the 100th anniversary celebration dinner on Nov. 20 for Catholic Charities in the archdiocese. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

During a night of eloquent tributes celebrating 100 years of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese, the most moving words came from people whose lives have been touched by its Christ-like compassion and care.

Wiping away tears, a woman said, “Everything that they’ve ever been able to do for me was greatly appreciated—with diapers, formula, helping with my grandson. I had nothing. Absolutely nothing. And I was thankful for what they did.”

A man who has turned his life around after being homeless shared this thought about the time he and his family spent at Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis, “[The shelter] has taught me to, ‘Just be patient, just take your time, get up and do what you need to do. We’re not going to do it for you.’ That’s what I love about them. They are not going to do it for you.”

Referring to the help given to his family, a refugee who is also a father noted, “I attribute what we have today through our faith, through the Catholic Church bringing us over and helping us along the way.”

These three humble tributes were part of a video presentation during the 100th anniversary celebration dinner on Nov. 20 at the Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara Catholic Center in Indianapolis—a celebration that had the theme, “Be the Light.”

Catholic Charities has been a light to these three people and more than 210,000 others in the past year, according to its executive director, David Bethuram.

To gain a small perspective on the difference that Catholic Charities has made throughout the archdiocese in this “century of hope,” consider that more than 1 million people have been helped in the past five years. Yet Catholic Charities hasn’t made that impact alone, Bethuram insists. Instead, it’s a tribute to everyone throughout central and southern Indiana who supports its mission.

“Ever since our founding in 1919, Catholic Charities has been tremendously blessed with hard-working and talented staff, advisory members, dedicated volunteers, parish support, generous donors and partners like you,” Bethuram said to the people who came for the celebration.

“It is because of the people that came before us—and you—that we have been able to act as a Good Samaritan, helping all who turn to us in need. For Catholic Charities, charity is not just about providing material assistance, but acting with the same love and mercy that Jesus showed to restore people’s dignity and give them hope for the future.”

‘The light of faith, hope and charity’

Befitting the faith-filled approach of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese, the celebration began with a Mass of Thanksgiving at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

The celebration’s central themes of “being the light” and leading lives “centered in Christ” echoed through the homily shared by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson.

“Radiating the light of Christ to others, especially those in need, is rooted in our baptismal call to holiness and mission,” the archbishop noted during the beginning of his homily.

He also stressed that Catholic Charities’ commitment to serve people in need represents the “witness of courage and devotion, persevering faith and virtuous stewardship.”

“It is by means of a Christ-centered witness that the light of faith, hope and charity has radiated in the lives and selfless witness of those who have served on behalf of Catholic Charities throughout central and southern Indiana. It is the light of Christ that ultimately overcomes the darkness of injustice, the veil of ignorance and the chaos of evil.

“Looking back over these last 100 years, we are reminded of the impact of Catholic Charities on the lives of so many—caring for the poor, the homeless, the immigrant, the refugee, the abused, the addicted, the environment and many more—that have been impacted by the generosity of staff, volunteers and benefactors.

“Looking forward to the next 100 years, we call upon that same generosity to continue among current staff, volunteers and benefactors as well as those yet to be realized. At the center of it all, we must remember that it is in the name of Jesus Christ that we most effectively serve and make the difference.

“We do not serve because someone in need is Catholic. Rather, with the Beatitudes as our identity card, we serve because we are Catholic.”

‘If you need a listening ear, you come’

Catholic Charities’ “long history of extraordinary dedication to people who are suffering” in the archdiocese was praised during the dinner celebration by Dominican Sister Donna Markham, president and chief executive officer of Catholic Charities USA.

“We couldn’t be more proud of what happens in this Catholic Charities agency,” said Sister Donna, noting in her keynote talk that it has excelled in upholding the goals and standards of the national agency for a century.

“We don’t discriminate against people. We don’t ask questions. We don’t care if they’re Catholic or not Catholic. If you’re hungry, you come. If you need a place to stay, you come. If you need a job, you come. If you need a listening ear, you come. That’s who we are, and that’s the work that we’ve been doing and that you’ve been doing for 100 years.”

She also put the contributions of archdiocese’s Catholic Charities into the context of the nationwide effort to help people who are vulnerable.

“There are 167 Catholic Charities agencies in 167 dioceses and about 3,000 sites across the U.S. and the U.S. territories. We serve annually together over 12 million people every year, people who are falling by the wayside.

“These days, one of the populations that we’re most concerned about are the migrants and the refugees because Catholic Charities was founded because of the immigrants coming into the country back in 1910, when there was a huge wave of migration. So that’s part of the fabric of our identity.”

She also noted how Catholic Charities is taking up Pope Francis’ challenge “to make sure we were in the streets, dealing with the people who were most left out, most ignored or perhaps most shunned.”

Using the theme of the story of the Good Samaritan, she told the audience that Catholic Charities has accepted the pope’s challenge by making an even greater commitment to serve “the homeless, the migrant and the refugee, the mentally ill, the jobless, people coming out of prison.”

“All of the people that it’s tempting to want to ignore or walk on the other side of the road, those are our people,” she said. “Those are the folks we’ve spent our lives trying to serve the best we can. We can’t do it alone. We depend on all of you as our partners in the mission of compassion as we face the crying needs of some of the most vulnerable, fragile people in our country.”

In closing, she expressed hope that Catholic Charities [in central and southern Indiana] thrives well for the next 100 years, because you’re great.”

‘The calling to be Christ-like’

A video tribute to Catholic Charities’ century of hope concluded the program, including words of praise from Indiana politicians and professional athletes, plus a heartfelt message from Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin of Newark, former archbishop of Indianapolis.

Archbishop Thompson ended the celebration with a blessing from God that stressed how all lives are changed when we see each other through the eyes of Christ—a theme that has guided Catholic Charities in central and southern Indiana for 100 years.

“We ask your blessing on all those you place in our path, those who you give us the opportunity to serve,” the archbishop prayed.

“May we, as Pope Francis reminds us, not only seek to reach out to them but to listen to them, to learn from them, and through that encounter allow our hearts and our minds to grow in the gift and the grace of conversion.

“That we may more fully appreciate not only the calling to be Christ-like, but to allow you to continue to guide us ever more deeply into the mission of your Son. We seek always to glorify you in word and in deed.” †

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