This Advent season, the Diocese of Syracuse is inviting faithful to join in an Advent of Accompaniment. Throughout the season, resources and reflections will help us all consider how we might walk with our brothers and sisters on the journey of faith. Here, Mike Melara, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Onondaga County, offers a reflection on how Catholic Charities accompanies those in need. Watch the original video reflection from Syracuse Catholic Television at

Accompaniment. It’s kind of a hard word to say, and it can be a really hard thing to do. When we accompany someone, we are making a decision to join them in their journey — and it’s often the case their journey becomes our journey.

At Catholic Charities, we serve 20,000 people a year. We serve those who are most vulnerable and in greatest need in our community. We join them on their journey. If they’re without basic needs, we help them with food, clothing, and shelter. If they are housing vulnerable, we help them to find a suitable and safe place to live. For the elderly, we work with them so that they can remain safely in their homes and in their communities. We resettle refugees who are fleeing from persecution and are here to start a new life. We work with preschoolers, elementary school-age children, and teenagers to help advance their skills so that they can be successful in school and in life. And we work with parents who are struggling to take care of their children and we offer them support and help. Twenty thousand people a year. Our work and our devotion is to join them on their journey, to let them know that they are not alone.

As we prepare for Christmas during this Advent season, it’s an opportunity for us to think about all the folks who have joined us on our journey, who have been with us, who have accompanied us in so many ways — our parents, our relatives, family, friends, and colleagues. We can also consider ways that we can accompany others. Maybe it’s attending an appointment with a family member who’s going to a doctor. Maybe it’s spending time with a friend who’s having a difficult time with the holidays. Or maybe [it’s] greeting and welcoming a new workmate who doesn’t know anyone in the office and spending time with them.

We can be with each other in so many ways. Why? Because we are not alone. In our journey in this life we have a constant companion in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He accompanies us every step of the way and in every matter.

So on behalf of all of us here at Catholic Charities, I want to wish you and your family a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thank you for all that you do in accompanying one another.

How you can help

• Donations to support the work of Catholic Charities can be made through the annual HOPE Appeal and at
• Volunteers are welcome in a variety of Catholic Charities programs:

Emergency Services/Food Pantry
262-264 E. Onondaga St.
Syracuse, NY 13202
Phone: 315-475-1876
Volunteer Liaison: Carol Schaffer
Emergency Services/Food Pantry is drop in center that provides food pantry services, housing relocation, and general hospitality daily including coffee, toiletries, shelter from the elements etc. Volunteer opportunities include stocking and delivering food, helping with community walk-ins, and general operation of the office. 

Northside CYO
527 N. Salina Street
Syracuse, NY 13208
Phone: 315-474-7428 x45
Volunteer Liaison: Kate Homes, Maddie Wood (After school program)
Northside CYO is a neighborhood center that provides refugee resettlement services for over 600 refugees each year in addition to after school and summer programming for neighborhood youth. Volunteer opportunities include assisting in the supervision and running after school and summer programs, assisting in resettlement activities as such as English speaking classes, citizenship classes, translation and job searching. 

Catholic Charities Men’s Shelter
1074 South Clinton Street
Syracuse, NY
Phone: 315-423-9137
Volunteer Liaison/Manager Jessie Butts
The Men’s Shelter provides overnight shelter services and meals to homeless men in the community. Volunteer opportunities include serving meals, providing a comforting ear and assisting with the general operation of the shelter.

Salina Civic Center
2826 LeMoyne Avenue
Mattydale, NY 13211
Phone: 315-454-0168 or 424-1810×11
Liaison/Site Manager: Maureen Young
Elderly Services provides a variety of services for seniors designed to enable seniors to remain in their home and live independently. Volunteer opportunities include helping with events held at the civic center, and general operation of the center.

Vincent House (Youth Center)
500 Seymour Street
Syracuse, NY 13204
Phone: 315-475-9844 x20
Volunteer Liaison/Manager: Meagan Ernestine
Vincent House is a youth center that provides after school and summer programming for neighborhood youth. Volunteer opportunities include assisting in the creation of activities, outings, and supervising program participants.

Westmoreland Park (Youth Center)
130 Westmoreland Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13224
Phone: 315-473-6754
Volunteer Liaison/Manager: Amy Wendt
Westmoreland Park is a youth center that provides after school and summer programming for neighborhood youth. Volunteer opportunities include assisting in the creation of activities, outings, and supervising program participants.

Individuals interested in volunteering with Catholic Charities must attend a volunteer orientation and receive a background check depending on the program in which they would like to volunteer.

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