Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Remembering Our Fallen Service Members

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I wrote last week about Memorial Day but this week, as I did last year, I want to remember in a very special way, all those who serve and have served our country as part of our armed forces. Particularly this weekend, we remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in battles throughout the world – protecting our freedoms and our national interests. I’m sure that you have had the experience of spending time with a family member or friend who has lost a loved one in combat. The sadness continues and it really never goes away.

I can remember losing a number of friends during the Vietnam war. I had a high draft number so I
was not called to serve but some of my buddies from high school and college went to Vietnam and never came back. When you know someone personally, attended classes with them, and admired their courage, it is very difficult to let them go. I try to visit the Vietnam memorial at least once a year - usually when friends are in town who have not experienced that beautiful but somber place. Each time I go, the memories of my friends Art, Jimmy and Tom come back to me. I’m still sad for them and their families 50 years later.

So, over the weekend and certainly on Monday, say a prayer for our fallen service members and their families including those who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq who still deal with the after effects of those wars. So many of our clients are veterans who have been deeply affected by the experience of war. I’ll be praying for them as well.

Enjoy your three day weekend. Summer unofficially begins tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

This Week I...

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This week I am thinking hard about the countless staff and volunteers who work tirelessly to deliver our mission at Catholic Charities. 

After what seems to have been a very busy Spring with lots of agency activities and a number of talks and presentations by me for various groups, I’m looking forward to Summer and it’s unofficial beginning next weekend, including Memorial Day on Monday. While our offices don’t follow the school calendar, many of our activities still revolve around families whose children have the Summer off, and many who celebrate graduations during this season. It is also a time to refocus and recharge. 

I wonder how many of the team are feeling after a very busy Spring, as I try to put myself in your shoes. So many of them are a frontline presence for the people who come our way. What is it like to be a caregiver all day long to someone with developmental differences? What is it like to have session after session with those who have behavioral health issues? How do you cope with people in our shelters who are dealing with social issues beyond your competence (i.e. addictions, mental health or legal issues)? What is it like to try to help hundreds of people who are now frightened by immigration policy changes that are constantly in the news? How do you feel when trying to provide dental and medical care knowing that issues are far more serious than an individual can afford? How do you cope with someone who has lost their job or who comes here for asylum and can’t find work?

Each situation mentioned above is real. The team finds ways to help people whose struggles are seemingly beyond imagination and at times it affects their states of mind trying to give “help that empowers and hope that lasts.” We all have pressures, but I think many times, their pressures are far more difficult than mine. It is important to stay true to the common goal of helping those in need gain access to opportunity and hope. As we approach the unofficial beginning of Summer and look ahead to June, I hope everyone can find some time to recharge your batteries, take some vacation and enjoy the beautiful weather. This time to refocus is necessary if we are going to continue helping people to the best of our ability. 

Let us all—no matter whether you are an official member of the team or a supporter or someone just interested in making a difference in the lives of others-- rejoice in our common efforts to help our community. For me, it is a ministry, never a job. I take great comfort in believing the same is true for you, too.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Gift of Moms

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As we approach Mother’s Day, I’m very much aware that each of us has special memories of our moms. Some of us, like myself, have been without our moms for over 25 years. Others have lost their moms more recently. Still others are taking care of an elderly mom and possibly acting like a “parent” to them. If you are lucky, your mom is still young and vibrant and local and you can enjoy her company and wisdom on a regular basis. I do know some of our moms have had difficult lives and in some cases relationships haven’t been what we’ve wanted it to be.

Father John and his mom meeting Pope John Paul II
No matter what our situation might be, I doubt any of us are not very grateful for the gift our moms have been to us. Without their commitment, their nurturing, their sacrifices and their willingness to bring us into the world, we would not be the people we are today. So…let’s make sure to reach out to our moms (or those we call mom) personally or through prayer this weekend. Sometimes the Church is described as a mother to all of us. In that context, I hope that the people we serve everyday will have the same feelings about us. You nurture, guide, support, challenge, and share your love with all who come our way. Thus, this Mother’s Day weekend, I’m celebrating and praying for you as well.

I hope the weather cooperates.  Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms!