On the weekend of September 25- 26, many parishes throughout the U.S. will be celebrating National Catholic Charities Sunday. This celebration takes place as we commemorate the 100th anniversary of Catholic Charities USA.
How fitting that the Gospel for that Sunday is from Luke 16. It is the familiar story of the rich man dressed in purple garments and the poor man, Lazarus, who would have gladly eaten the scraps from the rich man’s table. Whenever I hear that Gospel proclaimed or read it in the quiet of my room, I am always carried back in thought to that night early in October of 1979, when, with thousands of other people at Yankee Stadium, I listened to the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, preach a very moving homily on that particular Gospel.
The Pope reminded us at that time: “The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need — openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advanced; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped and the disadvantaged. Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or half-hearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before or even more so.”
All of humanity must think of this parable and all should respond according to their means. Catholic Charities gives us an opportunity to do just that. And it does so in a variety of ways.
The role of Catholic Charities is to be of direct service to those who are in need and to be advocates for the voiceless in our society. The work of Catholic Charities takes on special significance during these days of economic hardships for individuals and for families. On both the local and national levels Catholic Charities seeks to help those who are in need, developing programs that focus on the prevention of hunger, homelessness and family breakdown. The agencies of Catholic Charities are a safe harbor for the immigrant who is our brother or our sister and a beacon of light for those living in the darkness of despair. Every year Catholic Charities agencies throughout the seven counties of our diocese bring hope through supportive services to hundreds of men, women and children.
For 100 years Catholic Charities USA has faithfully lived out its mission of organizing, advocating and educating for justice on the national level. Catholic Charities USA provides effective leadership and support to Catholic Charities organizations in various dioceses throughout the U.S. Nationally Catholic Charities agencies are the second largest provider of human services in the U.S.
We honor Catholic Charities today for its long-standing efforts to provide help and create hope for millions of people each year. We salute all of those who work for and donate to the incredibly effective mission of Catholic Charities.
When Bishop Patrick Ludden arrived to take possession of the newly-created Diocese of Syracuse, he acknowledged the efforts of the many who have gone before him in serving the people of our community. In word and action, he affirmed their work and set out on a mission to coordinate the various social services offered. From this humble beginning, Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Syracuse was born.
Throughout all successive generations the good people of this diocese have never forgotten those who are in need. And although needs have changed through the years, the involvement and the generosity of our people has been consistent. Today this work continues through our Catholic Charities organizations, through our HOPE Appeal and through individual parish programs which support those in need.
We pray today and always for our brothers and sisters in need and for those who help them. As we acknowledge Catholic Charities USA we recognize that the story of our diocese is multiplied throughout this land in hundreds of agencies and by thousands of dedicated priests, deacons, members of consecrated life and lay faithful. God bless them all. May He continue to give success to the work of their hands.