Diocese of Springfield - Cape Girardeau at 601 South Jefferson Ave., Springfield, MO 65806-3143 US - Catholic Charities: Love Organized November 11, 2011
Catholic Charities: Love Organized
November 11, 2011
“Love of neighbor, grounded in the love of God, is first and foremost a responsibility of each individual member of the faithful, but it is also a responsibility for the entire ecclesial community at every level … As a community, the Church must practice love. Love thus needs to be organized if it is to be an ordered service to the community.” —Pope Benedict XVI, encyclicalletter, “Deus Caritas Est”(“God is Love”), 20.
This month, Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri (CCSM) will be two years old. CCSM was born out of a desire to organize the love of the people of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in order to respond to the needs of people across southern Missouri. To be Catholic is to respond to the command of Jesus to love one another, and to care for the poor in the various ways they come to us. Jesus reassures us that when we respond to the needs of the poor out of love for him, we actually do serve him (cf. Mt 25:31-46). Therefore, charity is essential to the Christian life.
Over the course of our diocesan Catholic history, there has been, and continues to be, a variety of ways that love has been manifested in service to those in need. Our St. Vincent de Paul Society groups are among the most active in the nation. Many of our parishes have or support food banks for those who need help. Our parishes, Knights of Columbus, and Councils of Catholic Women also provide forms of material assistance. The largest organization in Springfield which assists the poor, The Kitchen, Inc., was begun at St. Agnes Cathedral Parish, and continues to receive a large portion of its resources from the Catholic community. In the central part of our diocese, Whole Health Outreach and Whole Kids Outreach, also founded by Catholics, provide much-needed assistance to families. These are but a few examples, the point being that our Catholic family of faith has responded to those in need in many and varied ways.
As Pope Benedict noted in his encyclical letter, “Deus Caritas Est” (“God is Love”), Christian charity must be organized if it is to be a service to the community. To this end, Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri was established to organize Catholic charity at the diocesan level. This organization is necessary to meet needs that would be difficult to address by individuals or parishes. The natural disasters of this past year made that even more apparent.
Responding to flood and tornado victims
This past year’s events were unprecedented. Thousands of people were affected by the spring floods in the central and eastern part of the diocese, and by the devastating Joplin tornado on May 22, 2011. Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri has responded to thousands of these victims in a way that would have been unthinkable only two years ago. To give just one example, CCSM is the largest provider of case management services in Joplin today; larger than the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Currently, it has assisted moer than 8,000 individuals and provided case management for more than 2,000 households. We were able to be effective in this way because of our organization, which allowed us to access the expertise and resources of other Catholic Charities agencies in our state as well as the national agency, Catholic Charities USA.
We continue to serve the needy out of the Catholic Charities eastern office in Cape Girardeau, and this past September, CCSM opened a central Ozarks office in Van Buren, MO. While the response to the disaster victims has drawn our immediate focus, we continue to execute a plan to address the needs of the poor across southern Missouri as we are able.
‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos’
“Cartias Christi rrget nos” (“The love of Christ rrges us on”), my episcopal motto, speaks to love in action. In a significant sense, that is why both you and I are here. Our acquaintance with God changes who we are and what we must do.
Open to all, it is precisely because Christ loves us that we are able to share Christ’s love: a love we have received from above, a love beyond any human love. In fact, that is what it means to be a Catholic Christian: one who knows Christ’s love and returns that love to Christ by loving one’s neighbor with that same love of Christ.
This sharing, this action, is not simply humanitarianism nor human sentimentality, it is the subsequent urgency of being touched by the fire of Christ’s love. In love and with love, we are impelled to love others by meeting their human needs. Unlike humanitarianism, the love of Christ compels us to respond with a literal and a personal sacrifice of our own wants and desires. Unlike sentimentality, our focus is not on how helping others makes us personally feel, but more importantly we satisfy the obligation each of us has to be in solidarity with those in need—we share in their suffering.