A few months ago Cindy Portis and I wrote an article for Unleash the Gospel called “What is Evangelical Charity?” This article is a continuation — an update on an exciting development in the Christian Service community, written with parish leaders in mind!
Let’s recap! Unleash the Gospel calls all members of the Church to participate in the New Evangelization and “actively seek the spiritual and social renewal of [our] neighborhoods, schools and places of work.”
This isn’t a suggestion — it’s the Gospel!
But note we are looking for both spiritual and social renewal; it cannot be one or the other. A community that is only socially renewed may look like a utopia but it won’t look like the Kingdom of God, and we are Kingdom builders!
In the pastoral letter, the Archbishop acknowledges the tendency we have to separate spiritual and social renewal into different categories of ministry—assigning spiritual renewal to liturgy coordinators, evangelization directors, and faith formation staff and tasking Christian Service ministries with social renewal. But this dichotomy makes everything we do ineffective. Every ministry is truly tasked with both.
Regarding Christian Service Ministries, the Archbishop writes in Marker 8.4 on Evangelical Charity:
Our service to the poor and marginalized needs to be a clear witness to Jesus our Lord, not mistaken for humanist philanthropy.
Catholics around the world and in our local Church have developed a remarkable network of charitable programs for health care, disaster relief, hunger alleviation, poverty reduction, refugee aid, family services, counseling, and help for people in every form of need. We must continue and intensify these works of service that manifest God’s love to those around us. In recent decades, however, there has been a tendency for Catholic charitable work to become separated from our primary calling to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is time to overcome that distinction. We need to ensure that in ministering to the material needs of others we are also responding to their spiritual thirst for God. Every Catholic charitable work must also be an authentic expression of Catholic faith. We must be unabashed to speak the name of Jesus and to invite every person to the fullness of life in him. The world needs the light that is in Christ alone.
To keep this mission ever on our minds, the Families of Parishes Mission Direct Committee has decided to re-brand the Christian Service efforts of the Archdiocese using Evangelical Charity as the new moniker. For that reason, my office will be transitioning from the Office of Christian Service to the Office of Evangelical Charity over the next few months. Further, the ministries of Christian Service in parishes will be aligned into ministries of Evangelical Charity guided by a Director of Evangelical Charity at the Families of Parishes level.
We are excited about the opportunities this change affords us to define and communicate about our mission. Evangelical Charity is an important work and a “big tent” of players working toward spiritual and social renewal. The main areas that our office will support include:
- Human Services - Ministries aimed at addressing a specific human need (ie. hunger, housing, parish nursing, health)
- Care Ministries - Ministries aimed at caring for specific populations of individuals (ie. homebound, seniors, at-risk youth, migrant workers, homeless)
- Community Outreach - Ministries and activities that partner with and support other community agencies and efforts (ie. blood drives, cancer walks, food drives)
- Mental Health and Crisis - Ministries that respond to the mental health and crisis needs of community members through the combination of direct and spiritual support (ie. Mental health, addiction, domestic violence)
- Bereavement - Ministries that accompany community members as they find hope and healing through the grief process
- Pro-Life Ministries - Ministries that support through prayer, education, advocacy and pastoral service the dignity of life from Conception to natural death in collaboration with other parish ministries seeking to build a culture of life
- Justice Ministries - Ministries that advocate for justice and advance the vision of Catholic Social Teaching in the parish and the public square (ie. Social justice, economic justice, racial justice, environmental justice)
- Fraternal Organizations - Societies and conferences that operate for the service of the parish and the poor and for the Christian formation and fraternal support of their membership
None of the above categories is meant to be mutually exclusive, but these tent poles help to highlight the focuses of Evangelical Charity ministry.
For further discussion on Evangelical Charity, join the group on the online Encounter Grow Witness Community.