June 17, 2011


Charity is what Catholics do

Sometimes abortion-rights supporters accuse those who oppose abortion of thinking only about pre-born life.

They might ask, “Why can’t you be as concerned about life after a baby is born as you are before the baby is born?” or something equivalent to that.

Or, “Why don’t you care as much for the pregnant woman as you do for the baby?”

That absolutely cannot be asked about the Catholic Church. There is no other organization that does so much for as many people in need, regardless of religion or anything else.

Since we have mentioned abortion, let’s start there with archdiocesan ministries.

The archdiocesan Office for Pro-Life Ministry operates Birthline, crisis pregnancy intervention and material assistance, with help from dedicated volunteers.

St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services staff members counsel girls or women who experience an unplanned pregnancy, and help them decide whether to parent the child or place the baby for adoption. If they choose the former, St. Elizabeth makes sure they know about many community services available to them. If they choose the latter, the staff helps with the entire process.

St. Elizabeth/Coleman is only one of the agencies that are part of the Catholic Charities and Family Ministries’ Secretariat in the archdiocese.

Collectively, those agencies served more than 100,000 people last year.

There are Catholic Charities offices in Bloomington, Indianapolis, New Albany, Tell City and Terre Haute.

In New Albany, the office operates another St. Elizabeth that supports pregnant women and helps with adoptions, if the mother desires.

All Catholic Charities agencies serve the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the elderly, neglected children, and other needy people with spiritual, material and emotional support.

In Terre Haute, Catholic Charities includes Bethany House, an emergency shelter for the homeless plus a soup kitchen and clothes ministry; Christmas House, which provides Christmas presents to families who otherwise cannot do so; a foodbank that distributes food to Wabash Valley charitable food pantries; a household exchange that provides needy families with basic household necessities; and Ryves Youth Center at Etling Hall that provides after-school and preschool services.

Similarly, Catholic Charities Indianapolis includes Holy Family Shelter for homeless families and Holy Family Transitional Housing. It conducts programs for seniors, refugee resettlement, a crisis office and St. Joan of Arc Neighborhood Youth Outreach. Last year, it served 42,700 people.

Besides Catholic Charities, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. The remarkable thing about the Indianapolis chapter is that it is operated completely by volunteers. There are no salaries or other monetary compensation for any of its staff. Therefore, 100 percent of all donations go to help the needy.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society operates the largest food pantry in the Midwest. It serves an average of more than 3,000 households per week. It has a large distribution center where it accepts donations of clothing, bed linens, appliances and furniture for distribution to the poor.

“Beggars for the Poor” receives payment from the St. Vincent de Paul Society to purchase food and personal items for the homeless. Every Saturday, this organization parks a truck on a downtown Indianapolis street, serves a hot meal, and distributes clothing and other items to hundreds of homeless people.

The Catholic Church in this archdiocese not only tries to serve the needy in the 39 counties of Indiana where it is located, but also cooperates with Catholic Charities USA to provide relief to individuals and families devastated by natural disasters, such as the floods and tornadoes that have caused so much destruction this year.

Catholics help the poor throughout the world, not only in the United States.

Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the U.S. bishops. Since then, it has expanded to reach more than 100 million people in more than 100 countries on five continents. Although it responds immediately to disasters, its main objective is to help people in developing countries learn to help themselves.

CRS can’t match Indianapolis’s St. Vincent de Paul Society’s 100 percent rate of all donations going to the needy mentioned above, but it comes close. Last year, more than 94 percent of CRS revenues went directly to programs that benefit the poor overseas.

At the closing of the Spirit of Service Awards dinner hosted by Catholic Charities Indianapolis on May 11, Bishop Christopher J. Coyne said that the term “Catholic Charities” is redundant “because charity is what Catholics do.”

Yes, it is.

—John F. Fink

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