Column: Seeing hope where others don’t

After seven years at the helm of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Jan Lewis has been succeeded by Ken Williams, who formerly held executive positions at Black & Veatch and World Vision International. He plans to build on Lewis’ efforts to reconnect Catholic Charities with the average Catholic in the pew. Photo by Joe Bollig.
After seven years at the helm of Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas, Jan Lewis has been succeeded by Ken Williams, who formerly held executive positions at Black & Veatch and World Vision International. He plans to build on Lewis’ efforts to reconnect Catholic Charities with the average Catholic in the pew. Photo by Joe Bollig.

by Ken Williams

I am often asked how our employees and volunteers stay positive when surrounded by so much poverty and personal struggle in our local communities.

The work of Catholic Charities and our parish social ministries can leave you feeling inadequate, especially for those that work face to face with our neighbors (or individuals) in need. The deep sorrow of those that walk daily through our doors can pierce the heart of our staff and volunteers.

Grandmothers who are concerned how they will provide for grandchildren that are suddenly their responsibility. Families that have run through savings accounts that were supposed to serve as their retirement, but the unexpected loss of a job has changed those plans. A refugee who fled political or religious persecution in his home country and has arrived here with nothing but the tattered clothing on his back.  And the single mom who is trying to stretch the income from her $10 dollar per hour job to cover rent, utilities and maybe a small Christmas present for her young son.

It’s hard to erase the image of their faces from your memory. It’s hard not to be permanently changed by their stories. It’s hard because we want to do so much more. We want to fix everything for these families. It’s hard because even if we are able to “fix everything” for that family, we realize there will always be another family right behind them.

It’s important to keep things in perspective. When we measure ourselves by our own expectations or perhaps by the expectations of others, it can lead to frustration. In reality, all God asks of us is to do the best we can with the resources he provides: “To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given” (Mt 25:29). We’re not able or expected to “fix everything.” That’s what Jesus promised to do when he returns.

In fact, Jesus could “fix everything” right now if he chose to. But he hasn’t. Instead, he left work for his servants. This work is a blessing. It turns our attention away from ourselves. It reminds us that we can do nothing without God. It makes us a little more like Jesus.

As the year 2014 quickly comes to a close, I would like to take this time to thank our donors, staff and volunteers. As we reflect on the impact of our collective work this year, I pray you take comfort in knowing that directly or indirectly, you enabled Catholic Charities to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, and console the lonely and sick of our community.

And that’s what Jesus asks of us.

Leave a Reply