By William J. McCarthy
“And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians, 3:17
From the earliest days of our faith, Christians have answered the call of Christ to serve the hungry, the poor and the outcasts. The New Testament tells us of the disciples’ work to care for the poor and for widows. Francis of Assisi, Elizabeth of Hungary, Vincent de Paul, Rose of Lima, Damien of Molokai and countless other saints provide us with moving examples throughout the centuries of service to “these least brothers” of ours.
The need for service remains great within our own communities, and the numbers can be staggering. In Maryland, 557, 140 currently live in poverty – 10 percent of the population of our state. One in every eight households faces an ongoing struggle with hunger. Eleven percent of Maryland residents are without any health care, and almost 40 percent of families with children who have special healthcare needs lack adequate health insurance. In Maryland, 95,000 have developmental disabilities.
Marylanders continually answer the call to service, providing literally millions of hours of service each year to charities, non-profits and community organizations. Catholic Charities of Baltimore is witness to this wonderful generosity of spirit. Each year, more than 15,000 volunteers and 12,000 donors work to improve the lives of the most vulnerable living among us, seeing Christ in the faces of the people that they help.
The more than 80 programs of Catholic Charities serve senior citizens, people who are affected by poverty and homelessness, children and people with developmental disabilities. Much of the work that is done would be impossible without the legions of volunteers, many from parishes throughout the archdiocese, who cook and serve meals at Our Daily Bread Employment Center and My Sister’s Place Women’s Center; who bring stability to children with emotional problems at St. Vincent’s Villa; who provide comfort and hope to homeless families at Anna’s House and Sarah’s House; and who bring joy to people with developmental disabilities at Gallagher Services. Volunteers also provide tremendous assistance in other programs that serve the needs of our elders, the working poor and immigrants.
The gratitude of Catholic Charities and other organizations which benefit so strongly from the work of volunteers is immeasurable. Volunteers also receive tremendous thanks from the people they assist. What is most striking, however, is not the gratitude which they receive, but rather the gratitude which they express. So many volunteers find great satisfaction, perspective and joy in service.
Paula Kelter, a three-year volunteer at Our Daily Bread Employment Center, expresses this sentiment so beautifully: “I have a greater awareness of the needs of others and the kindness of others. I see humanity at its weakest and its strongest. To volunteer means I am living out my faith with an awareness of God’s blessings. Seeing the generosity and charity compels me forward.”
April is National Volunteer Month. We extend our profound thanks to the men and women of the archdiocese of Baltimore who make possible so much of the work of Catholic Charities.
Editor’s Note: This is one in an occasional series of columns from Catholic Charities of Baltimore.
William J. McCarthy is the Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore