CCUSA president encourages parish ministry leaders to witness faith
CHARLOTTE — Close to 100 parish leaders from dioceses across the Southeast gathered in Charlotte April 20-21 to learn how they could strengthen their ministry programs and add new social service outreach efforts.
The regional training program, hosted by Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Charlotte and held at St. Peter Church, was organized through Catholic Charities USA.
Training sessions featured many programs that the Charlotte diocese is already actively engaged in, including: legislative advocacy for pro-life and social justice issues; providing food assistance with dignity (showcasing Catholic Social Services' shift to food pantries where clients select their own food); pro-life activities such as the diocese's Be Not Afraid ministry (used as a model for many dioceses across the U.S.); parish/public school partnerships to help needy children, including the successful programs at St. Luke Church in Mint Hill and at St. Peter Church; and immigration reform and immigrant assistance.
Catholic Charities USA president Father Larry Snyder kicked off the two-day training conference with a motivational keynote address, reminding parish ministry leaders that their work to help the poor and marginalized has been the role of the Church for generations and continues to be "a living vision" for the Church.
Pictured: Catholic Charities USA president Father Larry Snyder (left) visited Charlotte April 19 as part of a regional parish social ministry training conference being hosted by the Diocese of Charlotte. He met with Bishop Peter Jugis (middle) and toured the offices and ministries of Catholic Social Services with executive director Dr. Gerard Carter (right) before giving the keynote address to kick off the two-day conference held at St. Peter Church in Charlotte. (Photo by Patricia Guilfoyle, Catholic News Herald)
The Church's social ministry work may adapt to the specific needs of each generation, but the Gospel message remains the same, Father Snyder noted.
"The reality is that throughout most of our history, the Catholic Church (in America) has been an immigrant church," he said. "We are truly a church of the poor."
Since the birth of Catholic social ministry work with the arrival of Ursuline Sisters to New Orleans in 1727, the Church has worked to build hospitals, school systems and social welfare programs – still the largest such organizations in the nation – to aid anyone in need.
"What motivates us is our witnessing to our faith," he said.
Diocesan and national Catholic Charities agencies aim to work in partnership with parish ministries, as parishes are "the primary focus of social ministry," he said. "Organizations were never meant to replace this; they were meant to build upon it."
The best parish ministries, he said, are grounded in our Catholic faith, recognizing the dignity and respect for all human life; transformational, for the people being helped, the ministries and parishes themselves, and the larger society; effective, emphasizing both charity and justice; and engaged, from the local parish to the wider community.
The Church's social mission in the United States is getting more difficult these days, Father Snyder said, as our society has become more secularized and religious faith is being pushed out of the public realm. The latest controversy over the Health and Human Services contraception mandate, or states' efforts to redefine marriage, are threatening the ability of social ministries to continue their work.
"You know better than I how our beliefs in a pluralistic society are coming under fire," he said. "We're going to (have to) give witness to who we are. I wish I could say the tough days are over."
But, he added, working to build up the Church and improve others' lives means being motivated by the love of Christ and inspired by those of previous generations, starting with the Apostles themselves.
What is most important, Father Snyder emphasized, is that every Catholic today needs to live the Gospel message and be witnesses of our faith: "Faith is caught, not taught," he said. "What kind of a witness are we giving today?"
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor
www.cssnc.org: Learn how you can get involved with the work of our diocese's Catholic Social Services.
www.catholiccharitiesusa.org: Get more info about the Church's national Catholic Charities agency.
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FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy