How the social teachings of the church help us realize our mission
A staff reflection from Lori Stoll, Food Programs Coordinator
When I began working at Catholic Charities in 2020 our Executive Director, Dan Lester, would often use the term ‘Catholic Social Teaching‘ with our staff, referencing the body of church teachings that serve as the foundation of our work at Catholic Charities. And I’ll be honest, I’d heard the words “catholic social teachings” before, but I wasn’t super familiar with what the teachings were, or what their significance was to my new agency, or myself as a Catholic.
I came to work at Catholic Charities because I felt a call from the Lord to serve my community and Him, but there was still a lingering feeling that I was missing something I couldn’t quite put my finger on.
But this concept of Catholic Social Teaching kept coming back up. As I began to learn about these teachings, and grow in my understanding of the mission of Catholic Charities, I also began to see how our work impacts our community — and how evident the teachings are expressed in each program and service we provide. I began to see that not only do the seven Catholic Social Teachings of the church underline everything we do here, they also highlight everything I love about being Catholic.
Having been with Catholic Charities for some time now, it is clear to me that service to our community isn’t always just about those whom we serve. This service also impacts each of us, as staff, and our volunteers and supporters. In serving others — in participating in the ministry of Christ — these teachings are taking root and growing in each of us.
When we opened the Catholic Charities Food Pantry in the Spring of 2022 our ability to encounter our neighbors in Jefferson City increased rapidly. In the interactions I have with our pantry members and volunteers, the Catholic Social Teachings began to come to the forefront again for me. In response to that, I made it a point for myself to dive deep into these teachings so that I could share them with our student groups, volunteers, and my team.
As my own understanding of these beautiful teachings grew, so did my desire to share them with others — then this perfect idea struck me. We’ve always desired our reception area to be a friendly, welcoming space for our neighbors to feel important and cared for while they wait to shop in the pantry. Showing hospitality to our pantry members has been important to us from the beginning, and what better way to do that then to welcome them with beautiful artwork that reflect the social teachings of the Church?
That’s when I found Brother Mickey McGrath, OSFS’s artwork, each print embodying a Catholic Social Teaching so beautifully, so inclusively, that I knew it belonged in this welcoming space. When our pantry members noticed them after we hung the artwork, so many conversations were started among our visitors and our staff. Over the last few weeks, the artwork has given us this unique opportunity to talk about the social teachings of the church while providing a warm welcome to our neighbors.
My hope is every day when people walk into Catholic Charities, to provide or receive services, they are reminded they are participating in the work of Christ. That has been true for me, and I think it becomes more evident for others when they have reminders like these beautiful icons to see the humanity in everyone we encounter as we carry out our work at Catholic Charities.
I would love for you to visit the Catholic Charities Food Pantry and see these incredible works of art for yourself! We would be happy to set up a time for your family, group of friends, church or school, or organization to learn about our client-choice food pantry and the volunteer opportunities we have at Catholic Charities. If you’d like to set something up, I invite you to contact our Director of Volunteer Engagement, Chelle Smith-Vandergriff, or call us at (573) 635-7719.