In the diocesan offices, we have an office dedicated to Social Concerns. Historically the office was also known as Social Justice, Community Service, Social Outreach, Social Ministry and the like. I offer a reminder about these titles to attain a nuance regarding the subject of this week’s reflection. Here is the main quotation from our dioceses office of Social Concerns:
Seeking to affirm and support parish commitment and creativity in social ministry while defending human life and dignity. Then, to be more specific, these are some of the main areas into which particular ministry is directed: Catholic Charities & Missions. Catholic Relief Services. Catholic Social Teaching. Faithful Citizenship. Parish Social Ministry. Hispanic Ministry. Human Trafficking. Respect Life. Rural Life.
In essence, our role as Catholics is to become aware of and involved in these and other areas of social ministry. Ultimately, we are looking out for the presence of God among the human beings with whom we interact and respond to the needs which support their human dignity. And, as the Office describes, these ministries arise from a sense of creativity. So, each of us must continue to ask ourselves how much social ministry we accomplish individually and collectively.
When facing that question as Pastor of the parishes in this cluster, the answer about our ministry to social concerns is wide and abundant. We do a lot of things which fall into the categories as described by the Office. When facing the same question as a Catholic, the answer is that, historically and presently, Catholicism has done more for social concerns around the planet than any other human organization. The Church has consistently reached out to the destitute, the forgotten, the less fortunate, the abandoned and the like. Consider our missions, our health care and our Catholic schools as some examples.
While considering our social outreach locally, we recognize our prayers for pro-life causes, our outreach through Christmas gifts and our food pantries to name a few. I invite you to ponder the social outreach we accomplish also through the work of the PCCW and the Knights of Columbus. Our outreach is rather extensive. However, for many of these examples, one thing which becomes clear is that they are done at a distance. In other words, there is minimal, if any, contact with the recipients of our social outreach. That distance itself, begs for some reflection. Is it easier for us to do things at a distance? Is it easier for us to “just write out a check?”
One of the reasons we have volunteers around the globe who become deeply involved and passionate about social concerns is because they see the result; often times directly. In other words, when someone shares some food through a local food pantry and directly receives the gratitude of the recipient, there is an amazing sense of satisfaction through that encounter. And, if the gratitude is never conveyed, there is a positive sensation within the giver’s heart when the non-verbal body language (sometimes a smile) from the recipient is shown that the offering is well-received. Volunteers who observe or hear these expressions of gratitude know that they directly made a difference in someone’s life.
While we consider what we do to become more involved in Social Concerns, we sometimes have to beg God to help us overcome our insecurities so that we can reflect His image and likeness in those we serve. On the other hand, when we become directly involved in matters of social concern, we may also experience an even deeper experience. We may discover the beautiful face of God in the one whom we serve. Our lifetime goal is to become agents of human life and dignity. While you continue to reflect upon how you will prepare the way of the Lord into the world, continue to rely upon His graces to assist you in courageously giving witness to Him.BACK TO LIST