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Catholic Charities continues work of mercy both in our name and with our assistance

God is with us. This is the central message of the Christian gospel, and it is celebrated in a profound way during the liturgical season of Advent. The prophets and evangelists urge us to pay attention, so we are not distracted from recognizing God who is so accessible to us in Jesus Christ.

 

So much energy is focused these weeks on preparing for Christmas, for believers and non-believers alike. We who are disciples of Jesus Christ need to focus our hearts and our minds on the truth of his birth in Bethlehem. He humbled himself to share the limitations of our humanity, including death. Our sinfulness has not scared him off. On the contrary, he has made himself small to meet us in the place where we need mercy.

While we think back to the birth of Jesus, Advent is a time to look forward as well, to the second coming of Jesus. At the end of time, he will not come in silence and humility. The risen Son of God will come with all power and glory, to set things right, establishing divine justice for eternity. He has warned us repeatedly in the Gospels not to live foolishly, as if we did not know that he would return. These Advent days, we are invited to put self-centered foolishness aside, to live, rather, as prudent stewards of all that has been entrusted to us, ready at the end of each day to give an account to the Lord.

We who are living between the first coming of Jesus in Bethlehem and his coming in glory at the end of time are not meant to experience a world without Jesus. He is with us still, in a real and personal way, in the church. In our life together in the church, we encounter Jesus, we respond to his call to discipleship, and we receive a commission from him to bring his saving light into the world.

In a particular way, Jesus sends us out to meet the poor, those who carry heavy burdens and who wait for the mercy of God. The Savior promises we also meet him in these brothers and sisters of ours, even as we share the merciful Jesus with them. One of the three pastoral priorities identified for our archdiocese highlights this exchange of gifts: To create a culture that enables God’s mercy to be received and lived.

During Advent this year, in support of this pastoral priority, I want to hold up the many works of mercy carried out by Catholic Charities, and to ask your support. Since 1926, Catholic Charities has been meeting the changing needs of some of our neighbors who might otherwise have been forgotten. In recent years, the board, the donors, the volunteers and the professional staff have been serving up to 75,000 persons annually. The light of the Savior’s mercy has shown in the lives of the voiceless, the hungry, the addicted, the abused and the forgotten.

As Catholic Charities marks its 90th anniversary of service, you are invited to "Be the Light" that gives hope to so many vulnerable members of our communities. It is true that many good works ask for your help at this time of year. I hope you might move the Catholic Charities appeal to the top of your giving list.

Your support will help Catholic Charities to extend the mercy of Jesus in very specific and practical ways. Support services and programs include hunger and food assistance, domestic violence services, mental health and addiction recovery services, immigration legal assistance, microbusiness training, pregnancy counseling and adoption services, and senior services.

You may have received information in the mail requesting your support for Catholic Charities. I encourage you to include support for these good works in your Advent prayer and to offer material support, if possible. If you visit the Catholic Charities website (ccomaha.org) you can learn more about current needs, and you will be directed in making a contribution online.

In light of changing needs and of changing regulations connected to government funding of some programs, I have asked the board overseeing the work of Catholic Charities to undertake a major assessment of our current programs and services. The board, along with our senior staff, have responded courageously to this challenge. Soon they will begin a strategic planning process to determine how to continue a strong tradition of service to those in need, but with a more intentional partnership with parishes and other Catholic apostolates in the archdiocese.

We hear the clear call of Pope Francis for every Catholic to reach out to those on the margins of our communities, not only through effective programs, but also through personal contact. In the process of articulating our archdiocesan pastoral vision, we heard very clearly the desire of many of you to have an accessible way to be involved in serving the poor directly. Catholic Charities will take the lead in making these connections as we work to make our pastoral vision a reality.

The Jubilee of Mercy has concluded, but the works of mercy must still characterize the life of the church. Catholic Charities sees to it that this is so, in our name. Please help with your gifts to meet current needs and with your prayers, as Catholic Charities helps us move into the future with hope in the coming of the Lord.

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