Consider a Lenten partnership with Catholic Social Services

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One of the core principles of Catholic Social teaching is the dignity of the person. At Catholic Social Services we live out that teaching to the best of our ability everyday. You see that in our work. At St. Francis House Food Pantry, where on average 100 families a day receive needed food for themselves and their families, we operate a model called client choice. This allows clients to go through and shop, as if they were shopping for groceries, choosing the items that they and their family prefer. This might not seem novel to you and me, but not every food pantry can do this and many simply give everyone who comes in a box of food. With your support we have enough food and space to create a place where families in need can choose the food they need and enjoy.

We think about human dignity throughout the year, and in particular at Lent when we are asked to seek the Lord in prayer and the Scriptures, and to give of ourselves through service and sacrifice. Giving alms is a way to share our gifts, by giving money as well as our time and talents. At Catholic Social Services we hope to partner with you in providing a place to share your many gifts.

When I reflect on human dignity, I think about two basic kinds of services we provide at Catholic Social Services. We aim to meet the basic needs of the most vulnerable in our community –sheltering individuals and families, and we provide food to the working poor who are trying to make ends meet. We also provide services that focus on transitioning individuals and families to permanent success. These include our case management services that work with those experiencing homelessness, refugees, and others facing extreme poverty. The goal is to change their circumstances and build lasting connections. The hope is that they will not need to come back to Catholic Social Services for services but rather return to volunteer and be a part of lasting change in our community.

We are successful in both kinds of services described above. We couple evidence-base theories of trauma-informed care with the Catholic Social teaching on human dignity and respect for all people.

As you consider Lent this year, I hope that you find a deeper connection with your faith. I will be on that journey with you. In all of our programs, I am genuinely moved by the grace and compassion with which our volunteers serve our clients.

One such volunteer is Diane, who recently shared how serving at Catholic Social Services impacts her: “The biases that make it easy to form opinions and assumptions about people experiencing poverty — like those supported Catholic Social Services — simply do not exist here. Homelessness, unemployment and poverty don’t define someone. These are current states we need to look beyond to fully appreciate someone for who they are. Catholic Social Services believes this and they empower their guests to see new, brighter paths ahead.”

During Lent, I ask you to focus more intently on almsgiving, and giving of your time, talent and treasure to help the vulnerable among us. Your prayers and your financial gifts are needed to help those served by Catholic Social Services, the social service arm of the Archdiocese of Anchorage.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more on CSS, call 222-7300 or visit cssalaska.org.


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