This is the final post in our 12 Days of Hope stories. We hope it gave you a wide view of the many stories of hope that happen here at Catholic Charities every single day of the year. Please, if you can, make a donation to help us carry out this work in 2017! Merry Christmas!
By Msgr. John Enzler
Advent is a busy time for all of us. We try to prepare ourselves spiritually for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and lives, and we also spend time on all of the other things we need to do – or think we need to do – like shopping, sending cards, baking, decorating and so on. We are also busy doing more socializing at this time of year with office parties, special dinners with friends and family, open houses, and events at our parishes and in our neighborhoods.
It’s nice to have these opportunities to enjoy time with family, friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners and neighbors. While I sometimes have trouble making all of the events, I try my best because every gathering is a chance to see those who have been a part of my life or are part of what I do now at Catholic Charities.
As I enjoy my time with people, I think about how many of our clients do not enjoy the same opportunities for fellowship. They don’t receive invitations to holiday parties or social events. For them, it’s a matter of survival – trying to find food, warm clothing and a place to sleep at night.
Catholic Charities has a couple of big events around this time every year that try to feed the spirit as well as the body. Both are uplifting for our homeless clients, and perhaps even more so for those trying to make a difference.
The first happened on Wednesday when we gathered inside of our headquarters with 400 of our homeless neighbors for an awesome Christmas dinner. Through Catholic Charities Enterprises we are able to provide a special meal that goes beyond what we can do day-to-day in shelters and food kitchens. The tables are covered in table cloths with silverware and nice plates, and each guest left with a gift card to get a pair of shoes from Payless Shoes thanks to Jim and Cece Koons. It is a wonderful event that has become a highlight for our homeless friends.
Each room becomes a dining area for our clients, and the staff and volunteers go all out getting everything ready. Each department decorates a different area of the building, and it is special to see the entire building so beautifully and festively decorated for our Christmas dinner.
One of the things I especially love about this event is that people can sit in smaller groups and are joined by volunteers who take the time to visit with them and truly enjoy a meal together. There is a strong sense of family – the family of God. We gather as brothers and sisters in Christ to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and religion, race, income or anything else doesn’t matter.
Finally, I have to tell you about our Angel Tree. Through the support of hundreds of donors, we provided almost 1,000 children with Christmas gifts this year. Most of these children are part of families being helped by Catholic Charities programs in DC, Montgomery County and southern Maryland. But, due to such incredible generosity, we were able to also help 90 additional kids whose parents called us desperate for help providing a gift.
More than helping meet immediate physical needs, these events are reminders of God’s love that breaks into our world in the person of Jesus among us. This love is experienced by those being served as well as those who are serving. One of the nicest comments we’ve received in recent years came from the young daughter of one of our leaders, who said that the best part of her Christmas was not the presents she received but the chance to help serve and spend time with the homeless at our Christmas dinner.
That’s a great lesson for all of us. By all means we should enjoy the season and everything it brings – time with family and friends, giving and receiving gifts, and celebrating the birth of our Savior. May we also make time this season and throughout the year to open our arms and hearts to those who are less fortunate. I promise you that every time you make a difference for someone in need, Jesus will be born again in their heart and in yours.