Loved by God
By Julie Filby
Photo by Daniel Petty
Of all organizations that serve the poor and vulnerable, few do more than the Catholic Church. In northern Colorado, Church efforts are led by the 360 employees; 2,200 volunteers; plus thousands of parishioners and donors that represent Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver.
Last year the 28 ministries of Catholic Charities allocated approximately $20 million to programs and support for the needy. Those dollars equated to hope, healing and security for more than 35,000 Coloradans in real ways such as:
Put a roof over the head of nearly 3,700 homeless individuals, including 586 families
Kept utilities on for more than 2,100 households
Provided a family for 26 children through adoption and another 33 through foster care
Educated and cared for 461 preschoolers, allowing 583 parents to pursue work or education
Upheld the dignity of 400 seniors through services and companionship
“Catholic Charities provides an avenue through which the faithful of our local Church can act on Christ’s call to charity,” said Tracy Murphy, director of communications. “Together with our volunteers and many other supporters, we seek to embody Christ in body, mind and soul as we encounter the poor.”
It’s more than an institution, it’s more than dollars and cents; it’s a unified movement.
“To be Christ for someone doesn’t just mean picking up a portion of their bills, or even feeding or sheltering them, though all of those actions are certainly important,” Murphy said. “The essence of Christian charity is found in reassuring someone that they are loved by God; that they have an inherent dignity and are priceless, no matter what.”
Metro Denver area, main office
Established 85 years ago by Bishop J. Henry Tihen, the first Catholic Charities Agency office was set up on Larimer Street in Denver.
“There’s been quite a lot of change since opening our doors in 1927,” noted Murphy who works out of the agency’s main office located at 4045 Pecos St. in Denver. “The face of the poor has changed alongside sweeping changes in our economy, culture and social structures.”
While programs have adapted through the years to accommodate new dynamics, the mission has remained the same: to provide the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to the poor and those in need.
In an apostolic letter released “motu proprio” (on his own initiative) Nov. 11, Pope Benedict upheld that charity is at the heart of the Church’s identity and mission, and highlighted the importance of carrying out charitable works with love.
“Practical activity will always be insufficient, unless it visibly expresses a love for man,” he wrote, “a love nourished by an encounter with Christ.”
Therefore, Catholic organizations should not limit themselves to merely collecting and distributing funds, but they should also show “special concern for individuals in need” to avoid the risk of becoming “just another form of organized social assistance.”
“As Catholics, we believe that every human person—no matter how disabled, poor or flawed—has a unique, inviolable dignity,” Murphy said. “Often the injustices of the world threaten this truth: we exist to defend it.”
Ministries of Catholic Charities—such as Head Start Early Learning Centers, Regina Caeli counseling services, Lighthouse Women’s Center, Mulroy Senior Services and St. Joseph Home for Veterans—encounter clients from conception through natural death.
“Our goal is to be present in every stage of a person’s life,” said Murphy. “So Christ can then work through us, to encounter them in that critical moment.”
She encouraged the faithful to see Catholic Charities as their charitable arm of the Church.
“The mission of Charities belongs not just to the staff or active volunteers,” she said, “but to everyone in our faith community.
“We are your charitable arm … we look to the rest of the body to help us lift it in service.”