Archbishop Charles J. Chaput and Bishop Dennis Sullivan celebrate Mass in the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul July 22 as part of the CCUSA regional gathering in Philadelphia. Also pictured is Deacon Vincent A. Okoro of St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Gibbsboro.
Photo by Alan M. Dumoff, more photos ccdphotolibrary.smugmug.com
PHILADELPHIA – More than 300 individuals dedicated to serving the poor and needy came together July 29-30 here at the Sheraton Downtown Hotel for Catholic Charities USA’s (CCUSA) regional Partners in Excellence Conference.
CCUSA is the national office for Catholic Charities agencies and affiliates nationwide and serves more than 10 million people annually, regardless of their religious, social or economic backgrounds.
Participants for the two-day conference included Catholic Charities workers from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; the Allentown, Scranton-Wilkes Barre and Harrisburg dioceses in Pennsylvania; and the Camden, Metuchen and Trenton dioceses in New Jersey.
The event included a keynote presentation by Father Larry Snyder, CCUSA president; workshops; and Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia and Bishop Dennis Sullivan.
“The work you do day in and day out is critical,” Father Snyder stressed in his Monday morning keynote, and he expressed his wish that the conference help attendees “do the Lord’s work with new energy.”
Father Snyder mixed in statistics, theology and history in his talk, emphasizing the importance of reducing poverty in the United States.
He urged all to continue the work that began in the United States in 1727, when the Ursuline Sisters arrived to New Orleans from France to open an orphanage, school and health facility. Their arrival marked the first formal Catholic charity in the U.S.
In 1910, the National Conference of Catholic Charities (now CCUSA) was founded to promote the creation of diocesan Catholic charities organizations, creating “a sense of solidarity” and becoming “an attorney for the poor.”
Today, about 46.2 million people live in poverty, representing 15 percent of the population, Father Snyder said. To reduce poverty, he advocated changing the social service delivery system, engaging the business world, and developing individual opportunity plans to prevent people from falling further into poverty.
The priest referred to the book of Genesis (“every person is made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore is worthy of dignity and respect”), and the story of the Good Samaritan. He also referenced Pope Benedict XVI’s 2005 encyclical Deus Caritas Est (“God Is Love”), which called for a “formation of the heart,” recognizing that those who need our help deserve respect, dignity and love.
“Our lives are meant to be given to others,” Father Snyder said. “We have to take the Gospel, and apply it to our lives, every day.”
Since joining CCUSA in 2005, Father Snyder has been a leader in the overall direction of the Catholic Charities movement. In 2007, he was named to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, which oversees the church’s charitable activities. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Council of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
After Father Snyder’s talk, the presentation of Social Innovation Awards took place, and the Diocese of Camden’s Catholic Charities organization received $5,000 for its Community Resource Warehouse.
The community warehouse was launched in 1990 to collect useful building supplies, furniture, household items, and clothing and make them available to the public at low cost. Aligning the mission of the warehouse with the Catholic social teaching doctrines of The Dignity of the Human Person and Rights & Responsibilities, a modest fee is charged for the items sold to the public.
The program is geared to individuals and families who are displaced because of flood, fire or other disaster; women and children displaced because of domestic violence; refugee families resettling into the diocese; and others in the community that are in need of affordable used furniture or household items.
The $5,000 will go to such initiatives as the upcoming job training program, where participants will receive training in areas of warehouse management, furniture repair and refurbishment, and small engine repair; and to outfit the warehouse for tools, parts and supplies, safety equipment, and improvements to the building, or other operational purposes.