byMost Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
We are very blessed in the Diocese of Palm Beach with a dedicated and effective ministry of Catholic Charities. We have a new Director of this Office, Mrs. Ellen T. Wayne, who has vast experience with Catholic Charities as former Regional Director of the Office of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Rochester, New York. We are pleased to offer her very warm welcome as she will use her many talents and insights to continue the work of Catholic Charities within our Diocese. This is a good time to reflect upon the mission of Catholic Charities which is one that is always needed and ever deepening.
Christ’s concerns were for people in spiritual need, those who could not take care of themselves and those who needed an advocate. He came into the world to save all of us and to bring us back to God. Jesus continually made clear that, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but sick people do” (Mt 9:12). Jesus came for the sick, the poor, the suffering and the lost. He emphasized, “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners” (Mt 9:13). The pages of the Gospel are filled with accounts of Jesus looking after the sick and asking His disciples to do the same. Even when He was tired and went off by Himself to pray, the sick were always a priority for Jesus.
The poor and the needy were also a priority for the Lord. He began His ministry by announcing glad tidings to the poor (cf. Lk 4:8). The Beatitudes, in which the Lord praised the poor, became the constitution of the Kingdom of God (cf. Mt 5:3-12). Jesus praised the poor widow who gave her small contribution to the Temple (cf. Mk 12:42), and He continually used the poor as a standard of those who would enter the Kingdom of God.
The Lord went about looking after those in need. He praised the shepherd who went after one lost vulnerable sheep (cf. Lk 15:4-7). His ministry was to the outcasts and all those forgotten, and we are all included among these. Ultimately, the hallmark of the Christian is the manner in which we treat the poor, the sick, the homeless, the lonely, the stranger, the imprisoned, the immigrant and all those in any kind of need. Whether we recognize that we are serving Christ in the weak and vulnerable or not, service to them will be the criteria of our final judgment (cf. Mt 25:31 – 46).
This is why Catholic Charities in our Diocese is so essential to our mission as the Church of Christ. Catholic Charities is not a separate entity that complements our Diocese. It is an essential part of the ministry of our Diocese in reaching out with the hand of Christ to the poor, the vulnerable and those in need of any type. To follow the teaching of Christ is to look after all of our brothers and sisters in need.
Charity is not an addition to justice which goes beyond what is due to someone. When we use the word charity, we sometimes can think that we are going beyond what is necessary. This is not the case. The human person, made in the image and likeness of God, is owed charity since charity means love. The word “love” is the same as “charity.” This is quite evident in the title of the first encyclical of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, God is love – Deus Caritas Est. In another of his encyclicals, Charity and Truth – Caritas in Veritate, he makes clear that charity has its roots and origins in God and that this is the basis of justice. He states, “Charity and truth, to which Jesus Christ bore witness by his earthly life and especially by his death and resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity. Love – caritas – is an extraordinary force which leads people to opt for courageous and generous engagement in the field of justice and peace. It is a force that has its origin in God’s eternal love and absolute truth.” Pope Francis also has consistently and emphatically emphasized this teaching in his words and example.
As we live out our commitment as Christians, charity is our primary focus, not as an addition to what is expected of us, but the very basis of what is expected of us. That is why the mission of Catholic Charities is so essential to our life as a Diocese. Catholic Charities responds to those in need by giving to them what is their due. The recipient of charity, in the true Christian sense, receives what is due to his or her human dignity which reflects the image and likeness of God.
From an unborn child in a mother’s womb to the senior citizen among us in southern Florida, Catholic Charities responds to the needs of the most vulnerable of our communities by acknowledging their rightful dignity. From the immigrant to the one struggling with addiction and to the imprisoned, Catholic Charities strives to offer a variety of assistance to support the human dignity of all men and women.
As we welcome Mrs. Wayne, we look to an even newer vision and direction in regard to the progress and outreach that are possible for us through Catholic Charities. We offer her our support and commitment so we may continue to live the truth in love by committing ourselves as Christians to the poor and vulnerable among us who are made in the image and likeness of God. The mission of Catholic Charities is the mission of Christ Himself.
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
September 2, 2022