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Creating hope where we see need

Encounter at Catholic Charities

By Ashley Wiskirchen

“Providing care, creating hope for those in need — regardless of faith, culture, or situation.”

You may have seen this tagline on a flyer, sticker or t-shirt from Catholic Charities — we use it as often as we can, and as staff we keep those words before us as a reminder of the mission we aim to fulfill.

That mission to answer the call to respond to the needs of those most vulnerable — provide care in the form of supportive services, and create hope through acts of love for our neighbors.

If you’d indulge me, search the Oxford dictionary or the internet for the term catholic, and you’ll turn up results like all-embracing, concerning the whole or universal.

Charity finds its roots in caritas — simplified as love or agape.

Some of us are familiar but for others this may be revelatory; we understand agape as the love that moves us to care for another, love in action, love poured out.

In short, your Catholic Charities is an agency of love poured out — made up of staff members and volunteers who are drawn to work for the good of their neighbor, established in 2011 by Bishop Emeritus John R. Gaydos with a mission to know, love and serve those on the margins.

Our Executive Director, Litz Main, characterizes it this way, “As the charitable arm of the Catholic Church in the Diocese of Jefferson City, our commitment to serving the most vulnerable is deeply rooted in our Catholic identity.”

She continued, “Our mission transcends faith, culture and circumstances, reflecting the compassionate essence of our beliefs. At the heart of our service is a steadfast dedication to providing aid and support to those in need, embodying the true spirit of charity within our community.”

Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri is merely one of 167 Catholic Charities agencies across the United States.

Outside of the states, the international network Caritas Internationalis claims an additional 160+ agencies operating across 200 countries.

I like to think about it this way: while one neighbor may walk through our doors to grab a shopping cart and fill their basket with grains, dairy, protein and produce for their pantry and refrigerator, across the globe another neighbor is seeking shelter and rest as they flee from their war-torn home.

In our Central Office, a family may come to visit with our DOJ Accredited Representatives to inquire about the process to reunite with their spouse or children after years of separation and navigating immigration, and in Santa Rosa, California a veteran is moving into his home after experiencing homelessness for over a year thanks to his local Catholic Charities.

The point is, we are one part in a whole — a global human family and a global network of care.

We are able to send prayers and support across countries to those in need, and here in central and northern Missouri, we participate in the strong network of care available to our own neighbors.

“The transformative power of our services lies not only in their diversity, but in their ability to touch lives across faiths, cultures and circumstances,”  Ms. Main shared with our staff last week.

“Through a lens of empathy, we have become a driving force in promoting positive change and fostering a sense of community well-being.”

This is the work of love your Catholic Charities agency pours out for others, sometimes by attending a working group meeting to ensure sustainable and affordable housing, other times by serving generations whose parents or grandparents were able to immigrate safely and thrive in their communities today.

And you, of course, are a part of that work.

As a person of faith, and as a Catholic in this diocese, you have a certain stake in seeing the work of Catholic Charities succeed.

The success of this agency depends on the investment — of prayerful support, of hands to volunteer, of donations to sustain programs — of every Catholic in the 38 counties of the Diocese of Jefferson City.

If you haven’t had a touchpoint with us yet, I encourage you to take up the opportunity in the new year.

If you like to see us in person, we have great plans to travel across the deaneries again with another round of Parish Engagement and Charity Events (PEACE) and to host visitors who want to learn more about our agency and perform light service for our Catholic Charities 101 events.

If you’re a fan of podcasts and eNewsletters, our Encounter at Catholic Charities Podcast will launch in January, and we have accompanying biweekly and monthly newsletters to help folks stay connected to our programs and services.

Each month we’ll publish a Menu of Engagement for parishes and schools to participate in the “see, judge, act”  calls-to-action with their ministry groups and classrooms.

If you’re looking for a new study of Catholicism, one of our staff members, certified to teach Catholic social teaching classes in both English and Spanish will host a monthly webinar on the third Tuesday of the month, from March through October.

You can register for these Catholic Social Teachings Webinars easily, which also count as continuing education and formation hours for the diaconate community.

If you enjoy volunteering, serving your neighbors with your hands and heart in-person, we’ve got a place for you to plug in.

There are really no shortage of ways to join us in serving your neighbors — whether that looks like making an end of the year donation, or signing up for our newsletters to keep an eye on our work.

However you choose to provide care and create hope for others, we welcome you.

Ashley Wiskirchen is the Sr. Director of Communications at Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri. A life-long Catholic her desire to see Catholic social teaching embraced and to serve others led her to her role at the charitable arm of the diocese. In her capacity there, she has helped establish the Parish Ambassador program, Parish Engagement and Charity Events, and Catholic social teaching formation opportunities. You can learn more about the work of Catholic Charities online at cccnmo.diojeffcity.org or connect with them across social media channels, @CCCNMO.