by Jan Lewis
“If I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” (1 Cor 13:2).
In March of 2009, the board of directors for Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas convened a task force to begin work on a five-year strategic plan. What emerged from our meetings was, instead, a philosophical review of who we are as a faith-based organization and what difference we are called to make in the communities we serve and the world around us.
In his Angelus address to the faithful on Jan. 31, Pope Benedict XVI said: “For now, while we are in this world, charity is the Christian difference” — charity, meaning love.
For Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, love is our defining difference. We recognize that how our brothers and sisters in need experience our help is as important as the tangible help that we provide. We are called to love our neighbor — Catholic Charities seeks to be a neighbor to all of our brothers and sisters in need in the 21 counties of northeast Kansas.
But we cannot do this work alone. We are not an independent institution but, rather, we are part of a living body of faith-filled people.
To be successful, we must embrace our identity as a Catholic organization and seek to mobilize all people of good will to join us in “being love” to those most in need. Rather than seeing ourselves as an “institution providing programs,” we seek to become part of a community where neighbors are helping neighbors.
Our goal is to be in position to touch 150,000 lives across the 21 counties of northeast Kansas by the year 2015, providing them with unconditional love and necessary help. To achieve this, we believe that we have to engage in three core activities: internal alignment of the head and heart, program integration and external engagement.
We must first begin with internal alignment — forming the hearts of our staff and volunteers so that they can serve our brothers and sisters with a Spirit of love. We must also fully train in the technical aspects of our work, so that those who seek our help receive compassionate and competent care.
We must engage in best practices, understand the strengths and weaknesses of our various ministries, then develop methods and build models for help that can be replicated across multiple sites.
Finally, we must truly engage the communities of northeast Kansas in dialogue about strengths and needs, exploring partnerships and seeking ways to weave together networks of charity to serve the most vulnerable in all 21 counties of the archdiocese.
And we know that it is only with faith that we can accomplish the mission first set before us by Jesus Christ.