By Sally Blount, Ph.D.
I am honored to be the new President and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. As a social psychologist and educator by training, I have spent my career teaching people how to build more effective organizations. I can’t think of a more important enterprise to build and lead than Catholic Charities, or a more important time to join in its critical work.
Three things make Catholic Charities distinct in my mind. The first is our experience. As our region grapples with the impact of a once-in-a-generation health crisis, Catholic Charities continues to respond with expertise, decisiveness and impact —all built over 102 years of service since our founding amidst the influenza pandemic of 1918.
We are a go-to partner for government and civic leaders alike in this time of need. Catholic Charities knows how to mobilize to feed people, shelter people and keep families in their homes; to invest in caring for children, seniors and veterans; and to help those who need to find jobs. Whether it is remote counseling for people experiencing grief, stress, and depression, or money to allow a family to honor a deceased loved one with a proper burial, this is what we are called and know how to do – we provide charity, care, and support to anyone in need.
The second aspect that makes us distinct is our scale. We help hundreds of thousands of people each year in the Chicago region – regardless of their race, ethnicity or faith identities. We estimate that over the last century we have touched 20 million or more lives. Decade after decade, Catholic Charities has been there--on the phone, in church parking lots, in our offices across the city and throughout the suburbs, serving people. And that scale and impact add up over time. We are proud of our legacy.
The third, and most important aspect of Catholic Charities, is our Spirit – we are a Catholic organization. We believe in an all-loving and all-knowing God who uniquely cherishes and accompanies each person’s life. We know that He aches with us in the uncertainty, anxiety, and grief of this time, but He also offers a message of hope. We serve with the humility, confidence and hope that comes from our faith in God, the love of Jesus, the consolation of Mary, and the inspiration of the saints who have served before us across the ages.
In fact, our faith tells us that we are each called to be the hope for each other. We are the hands and feet of Christ, tending to the well-being of our brothers and sisters. Pope John Paul II taught us that we are to “practice mercy” in a spirit of “mutuality:” to transform the suffering of those in need and thereby transform hearts, both of those who receive and those who give. We are all givers and receivers of mercy in this unending circle of abundance.
Catholic Charities was born during a crisis, and here we are, more than 100 years later, rising to familiar but also entirely new challenges. As I begin to lead Catholic Charities during this extraordinary time of need, I ask for your prayers and support so that together we may continue to discern, “God, how can we help?”
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By Sally Blount, Ph.D.