January 19, 2024

Our Works of Charity / David Bethuram

Join us in mission to end poverty and uphold human dignity

David Bethuram

When Alexandra and her young daughter walked into Catholic Charities’ Crisis Center in Indianapolis, they were obviously in distress.

After fleeing an abusive relationship, they had become homeless. Friends and relatives allowed them to sleep on their couches for several months, but that arrangement had come to an end, and they had to move on.

With no money for childcare, Alexandra became unemployed. What seemed like an endless string of barriers and crises left Alexandra penniless and destitute. Do you know what Catholic Charities saw? We saw Alexandra in the likeness of God. We saw her dignity and we helped her find it again.

Catholic Charities models our services and programs around the prime principle of Catholic social teaching—the life and dignity of the human person.

Catholic social teaching affirms that human life is sacred and holds the dignity of the human person as the foundation of a moral vision for society. In fact, dignity is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops states: “We believe every person is precious; people are more important than things; and the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.”

The director of the Crisis Center listened to Alexandra’s story to be certain she understood her needs.

First, to be stable, Alexandra and her daughter needed a safe place to live and food for the next several days. The Crisis Center director contacted the director at Catholic Charities Holy Family Emergency Shelter in Indianapolis, and together they promptly began to work on securing housing for Alexandra and her daughter.

They also recognized that Alexandra needed to speak with a professional to feel safe and to help heal from her past trauma, so she was connected with a counselor partner at Catholic Charities. Alexandra was also connected to Birthline, which is a ministry of the archdiocese that offers material assistance to pregnant women and mothers of infants and toddlers. Birthline provided diapers, clothing and other necessities for Alexandra’s daughter, a toddler.

So much happened in just one visit. Alexandra came to us with fear and little hope. When she left, she had a bag full of food and hygiene items, an appointment for her first counseling session, as well as appointments with Children and Family Services. Most importantly, she walked out with hope and a plan to regain the dignity of self-reliance.

Families come to us in crisis. They have nowhere to live, they cannot feed their families, they have no one to aid them. Our first step is to stabilize them and remove them from the emergency they are experiencing.

What happens next makes Catholic Charities and the services and programs offered here truly life-changing. We offer families many wraparound services to break the generational poverty they are experiencing. After they are given food or emergency assistance to meet the immediate crisis encompassing them, our other programs wrap around them and help them stabilize.

If families have a need we cannot address, we call our professional partners in the community who can. We have skilled, compassionate case managers in all four of our pillars of care: emergency assistance, housing, children and family, and employment services. Trust is formed, relationships are made, plans and goals are identified, and hope is restored.

Throughout January, which is Poverty Awareness Month, the U.S. bishops, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and the Catholic community in the U.S. are invited to take up Pope Francis’ challenge to live in solidarity with the poor.

Jesus is the good news to the poor. As his followers, may we recognize the call to be the same. How will you join us in our mission to end poverty and uphold human dignity?

(David Bethuram is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities. You can contact him at dbethuram@archindy.org.) †

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