To Go Forth: Encountering Christ in the Heart of the World
Over 500 Catholic leaders from communities, parishes, colleges and initiatives supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development gathered in Washington, DC from February 7-10 at the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering to pray, study and celebrate the Eucharist together. The intense experience of discipleship, community and encuentro climaxes when these leaders go to Capitol Hill to visit legislators and share a vision of society grounded in justice, fairness, respect for the human person and solidarity.
The Ladies of Charity USA is one of the 17 collaborating sponsors. This year, Rita Robinson, V.P. for Mid-Atlantic and Chair of the Advocacy Committee; MaryAnn Tretler, Advocacy Liaison; and Mary Ann Dantuono, President, attended. We also met Lady of Charity Janet Berna from Pittsburgh. Her husband, Deacon Tom, who serves as the Spiritual Moderator of the Ladies of Charity at St. Stephen’s Church was at the meeting as part of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) Global Fellows program. After three days of excellent speakers, workshops and meetings, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, sent the advocates forth with the blessing of the Church. Recalling the words of Pope Francis to him during his recent meeting with the Pope, he said, “Our faith in Jesus Christ is more powerful than the throwaway society that threatens to overtake us,” and he encouraged participants “to have the courage to stand for their convictions.” Before the final blessing, he told the advocates, “The farther you go to seek the forgotten, the closer you’ll be to the heart of Christ.”
As you might imagine, Pope Francis was frequently quoted by many of the speakers who deepened our understanding of the application of Catholic social thought to the complex policy issues of our times and the speakers who illustrated the extensive efforts of the Church working through humanitarian aid and development to build peace in our country and many nations around the world. The second most-cited individual was St. Vincent de Paul. Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami spoke of St. Vincent in his homily on Saturday night as the gathering opened. Fr. Ragan Shriver, Assistant Professor of Practice, University of Tennessee College of Social Work and former Executive Director of Catholic Charities of East Tennessee, made references to the wonderful work of the Ladies of Charity. Thank you Ladies of Charity in Knoxville, TN for your witness of service and collaboration in our Church.
All present from the Vincentian Family: the Ladies of Charity, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the Daughters of Charity, and the Congregation of the Mission, along with students from St. John’s University who attended as part of the “Young Leaders Initiative”, glowed with the spirit of Saints Vincent and Louise, grateful for our calling to participate in the social mission of the Church.