One of Pope Francis’s most often quoted statements is when he called for parishes to be field hospitals in the model of the early Church, which cared for the least among them. In referring to the sick and the poor, the Pope said, “They are not to be cast aside. On the contrary, they are to be cared for, to be looked after. They are objects of concern.”
Like lighthouses for sailors on stormy seas, our parishes are beacons of support for those suffering from a wide variety of social ills and in need of many diverse social services. For this reason, our parishes must have a plan for how to support individuals when they come to us seeking help. In some cases, the parish will have dedicated ministries that can meet the needs of those seeking services, but in many more cases, the parish will need to give a referral.
We asked leaders in Evangelical Charity Ministries at their parishes what types of referrals they were most often called upon to provide. The list grew very long:
Housing and Rental Assistance
Domestic Violence Support
Mental Health/Counseling Services
Medical Resources/Free Clinics
Support for Senior Citizens
It’s unlikely someone would be prepared to give a referral to each of these organizations with only a moment’s notice—so planning to provide referrals is key! We’ve developed a Parish Referral List Template to help parishes begin developing a good referral list.
These completed lists should be shared with the parish team members who are most likely to receive requests for supportive services. These people could be the front office staff, the religious education staff, and even the maintenance team who are likely in the building to receive people when the office might be closed.
To help parishes fill out the template, we have also created a Listing of Supportive Services Databases. These resources can help you to identify helping organizations within your parish territory that could accept referrals. Most of these databases have geographic search features that can directly locate agencies within your community.
A final step in completing your Referral List could also be to share it with a local health authority or community social worker and ask them to help identify anything you have missed—these types of professionals often have their own referral lists.
If you have any questions about how to create a referral listing for your parish, please contact Chris Leach in the Office of Evangelical Charity. We also encourage you to share your completed Parish Referral List with the Office of Evangelical Charity at [email protected].
Have questions about how other parishes receive and provide referrals? Ask your peers on the Mighty Network!