by Bill McCarthy 

Our Mission:  Inspired by the Gospel mandates to love, serve and teach, Catholic Charities provides care and services to improve the lives of Marylanders in need.

Our mission is inspired by our values To Love, To Serve and To Teach, which our mission describes as Gospel mandates. During this Mission Awareness Month, we are focusing on our value and the Gospel mandate To Serve.

How is To Serve a Gospel mandate? In the Gospels, Jesus encounters people throughout his ministry, and in these encounters, he very often teaches them how to live and how to serve. In other encounters, Jesus heals minds, bodies and hearts.  But even as Jesus heals people who are suffering, the cure or healing is frequently not the end of the story. Those who are healed often begin to follow Jesus, serve Him and serve others. Those who are served go on to serve others.  In my favorite passage from the Gospel of Matthew (MT 25: 31-46), Jesus very clearly calls all of us to feed those who are hungry, satisfy those who thirst, welcome strangers, clothe those who are naked and visit those who are sick and in prison.  We are called to serve one another, especially our brothers and sisters in need.

I learned most poignantly the importance of this lesson that we are all called to serve and all have something very important to offer a few years ago during a large snowstorm. Many of our volunteers had a difficult time getting to Our Daily Bread to serve lunch in the wake of that snowstorm. Because I have a four-wheel drive vehicle, my son Ryan (who did not have school during those days) and I went to serve lunch at Our Daily Bread for three consecutive days. Each day, we served alongside a very kind but quiet gentleman I’ll call Tom. On the third day, I struck up a conversation with Tom and asked him where he lived; he pointed down the street toward a large overnight shelter.  I asked where he was from, and he said he had come from Philadelphia. He told me that he was living at the shelter after having received a lot of help at Our Daily Bread Employment Center. Then he added: “People here loved and served me, and I thought I could do the same during a difficult time.” Just as Tom received help through the compassion and expertise of others, he wanted to share his gifts. And he did so with great joy.

What Tom taught me has really stuck with me. Regardless of our backgrounds or circumstances, we all have something important to contribute. I believe that we all have a very basic need to contribute to a greater good. Serving – giving back – is both empowering and powerful. Think about your colleagues, our volunteers, our clients, our benefactors and our partners with all their different life experiences and skills. Think about the power of all those people coming together to make a difference in programs across Catholic Charities and in our community!

During this Mission Awareness Month, as we continue to work to serve others, let us also commit to empowering others by seeking and valuing the unique contributions they can make.

As this month of celebrating begins, I want to leave you with my profound gratitude – and with a prayer:

Almighty Creator,

Help us see that your plan is not established until all are allowed to contribute their unique talents.

Help us realize that none of us can move forward as long as one of us is left behind.

Help us work not in competition for our own gain or purpose, But rather in cooperation towards fulfillment of your plan for all of us.

We pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.”

And we work towards that.

(John Clossick, USA, from Prayer without Borders, CRS)