Encounter at Catholic Charities
By Daniel Lester
“The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.” Deus Caritas Est (22) – Pope Benedict XVI
Every day, all around the world, millions of people experience God’s grace through acts of charity conducted by faithful Catholics. In homes, parishes, hospitals, schools, community centers, and shelters we express Christ’s love for all people when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, and minister to the sick and imprisoned. Charity can be as simple as a smile to someone struggling with depression, or as complex as developing and operating a multi-unit housing complex for the chronically homeless.
Since 2011, Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri has been just one expression of charity in the Diocese of Jefferson City. As the social services outreach arm of the diocese, we are tasked with assisting Bishop McKnight in ensuring the Catholic Church in Central and Northern Missouri is fulfilling her mission to reach out to those on the margins and follow through with our biblical call to serve those in need. We strive to provide a range of charitable programs and services to those in need in the thirty-eight counties of the diocese, and serve all regardless of faith, culture, or situation.
At Catholic Charities, we believe in assisting the most basic and immediate needs of the poor and vulnerable and by giving them the help and resources needed for long-term change. We choose to focus on those areas of greatest need and avoid duplication of services wherever possible. We also belong to the nation’s largest private social services network through our affiliation with Catholic Charities USA. In 2021, more than fifteen million people in need were served by Catholic Charities agencies across the United States. We are proud to be one small piece of a network that is making such a difference.
If you were to pay a visit to a Catholic Charities office today, you might find a newly arrived refugee family from Ukraine being enrolled into services, a senior on a fixed income visiting our food pantry to stretch their resources just a little further, or a couple struggling with marital stress checking in for a counseling session. Maybe you would encounter a survivor of a flash flood coming to meet with their disaster case manager to talk about home repairs, or a single mom trapped by predatory loans receiving financial coaching and education. In 2022, we have already had more then 3,000 of our neighbors in need come to us for help, and we are blessed to be able to provide care for them and create hope when times are dark.
In the months to come, we look forward to using this regular space in The Catholic Missourian to shed light on stories of our work with those on the margins, including those directly impacted by the services they receive at Catholic Charities. We also will highlight the work of partners in service, including the amazing charitable programs provided by our parishes throughout the diocese. Why we do what we do will be a topic of discussion, as all of our activities are driven by scripture, tradition, and Catholic social teaching. We will explore how to get involved with Catholic Charities, as opportunities to support our work via monetary or in-kind donations and volunteer service are plentiful. You can also expect in-depth looks at our various programs and services, and the amazing staff who have dedicated themselves to serving our neighbors in need.
Are there topics related to Catholic Charities and our work that you would like to see covered in this space? A particular program, service, or area of ministry that you would like to know more about? We look forward to engaging with you about our live saving work. We hope you’ll join us here in the pages of The Catholic Missourian and appreciate your prayers for Catholic Charities and those we serve.
Daniel Lester, LSCW, is the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Central and Northern Missouri, an entity of the Diocese of Jefferson City, responds to the needs of people in 38 counties regardless of faith, culture, or situation. This includes services in mental health, food security, health and nutrition education, disaster preparation and response, family reunification through immigration legal services, and resettlement of refugees. For more information, visit cccnmo.diojeffcity.org.