Column: Experiencing God in our Catholic charities

by Bill Scholl 

The social doctrine of the church is beautifully summed up in our Lord’s command: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

The Journey to Justice Day retreat is a daylong reflection on Christ’s call to love and serve the poor. Recently, thanks to the help of a great community service and outreach committee, I was blessed to help conduct a Journey to Justice Day at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood.

Much of the morning was spent reflecting on the following question: Who, then, is my neighbor? The answer calls us out of ourselves to look at the needs of those around us.

The high point of the day was the site visits to charities supported by the archdiocese: El Centro, Catholic Charities’ Shalom House, teen mother and refugee programs. The St. Michael’s congregation (most of whom were part of the RCIA program) broke into groups and brought lunch to clients at each of these local works of mercy. Many saints speak of Christ hiding in the disguise of the poor. When the retreat participants returned, some had seen through this disguise and had met our Lord.

One woman told of a refugee from Iraq who had only moments to respond to a threat and get his family out of the country. One of his friends was not so lucky, and his entire family was murdered. She shared, “His life here is so difficult, and the whole time I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him it would be all right.”

Another man shared how he saw Christ in a Catholic Charities counselor, Rasheeda, who mentored teenage mothers with tough, Christlike love. He told us how, because of her success, she is invited to speak at public schools. However, the counselor has to say no, because they won’t let her talk about God who is the secret to the program’s success.

Parishioners returned transformed by their encounters with people who are homeless, or victims of domestic abuse, or refugees, or are teenage moms. Every visit showed people trying to get their lives back on track. Many parishioners felt called to love these neighbors in concrete ways.

Several reported learning that God wants them to give of their time. One gentleman summed up the experience when he said: “I’m just some white guy from the suburbs and, before today, I thought the only way to help was to give these groups money and stuff. But when I met with the people they served, I was struck by how much they want me to give of my time.”

If you would like to help bring a Journey to Justice Day to your parish, contact me at the archdiocesan office for social justice. Use the e-mail address below or call (913) 647-0317.

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