The most charitable act in the world

Larry Smith

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver designed a new logo, pictured above, that features an image of a crucifix once used on St. John Paul II’s staff. The design represents a renewal of the organization’s commitment to serve Christ, who made the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross.

A man at Samaritan House said recently that the homeless shelter helped him find a job by providing “a place to sleep, a place to shower, a place to get groomed for a job interview (and) a sack lunch to take” for the day.

That’s what we do at Catholic Charities.

Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us for all eternity.

That’s why we do it.

Serving Jesus Christ by serving others is at the heart of our many ministries.

At Samaritan House in downtown Denver, we put more than 350 people to bed each night, amounting to more than 125,000 nights of shelter a year. Our other shelters include St. Joseph’s Home for Veterans, Father Ed Judy House for women and children, The Mission in Fort Collins and Guadalupe Community Center in Greeley. We plan to open Holy Rosary Center for Women, a temporary shelter, in Denver.

Our shelters provide not just a place for those experiencing homelessness to sleep, but a way to get back on their feet, to regain their dignity, self-reliance and self-respect; to become contributors to society. And hopefully, to give back to others.

Our mission begins with Jesus Christ and that’s why our new Catholic Charities’ logo begins with the crucifix. The crucifix is the most charitable symbol in the world, because the ultimate charitable act is to give yourself completely for others, as Jesus Christ did.

I humbly ask you to join us in this service, however you feel called to participate. As Thanksgiving draws near, and then the Advent season that leads to Christmas, our hearts naturally open to the needs of others. Below are three things you can do right now. However you participate, it will be greatly appreciated by the people who need it the most.

Three things you can do right now:

Sign up to serve. Visit our volunteer portal here and see for yourself the many needs that exist in our areas of Family and Child Care Services, Women’s Services, and Housing and Shelter Services.

Buy an extra turkey and bring it to Samaritan House at 2301 Lawrence St. in Denver. Phone: 303-294-0241. Or, if you’d prefer to make a financial donation directly, click on the “Help the Homeless” banner atop our website at www.ccdenver.org.

Donate $100, $250, $500 or more to Catholic Charities on Colorado Gives Day Dec. 9. Better yet, go to www.ccdenver.org right now and click on the Colorado Gives Day banner to pre-set that donation.

Larry Smith is the president and CEO of Catholic Charities of the Denver Archdiocese. Visit us online at www.ccdenver.org or call 303-742-0828 to learn more, volunteer or make a donation.

COMING UP: Punishing the poor and needy

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Every afternoon in downtown Denver, homeless men, women and children are given shelter, food and a place to wash themselves. Not far away, hundreds of people are receiving high quality medical care at one of our Catholic hospitals or Marisol Health. Some local parishes also distribute food, clothing, or help with rent. Whether you are on the Eastern Plains, the Western Slope or along the Front Range, people of faith are contributing their skills and resources to your community and making it a better place to live, and especially for the less fortunate.

Since we celebrated our nation’s independence about a week ago, the ability of people of faith to make a positive contribution to our society has been on my mind. People of faith make our society a better place as they seek the good and the true, and the right to live our faith in the public square is guaranteed by the Constitution. Unfortunately, there are forces at work trying to change that, and if they succeed it will be the vulnerable who are hurt the most.

Many people are familiar with Jack Phillips’ case because he recently received a favorable verdict from the U.S. Supreme Court. In brief, Jack was sued by a gay couple for refusing to make them a wedding cake, since doing so would contradict his belief that God created marriage to be between a man and a woman. His case – and others around the country – clearly show that there are people who want to silence Christian people and use the force of law to make them act against their faith or be punished.

Tim Gill, the multimillionaire who is funding and directing many of these efforts, plainly stated his intentions in a June 2017 Rolling Stone interview. “We’re going into the hardest states in the country,” he said. “We’re going to punish the wicked.” According to Gill, people of faith are “wicked” when their views do not agree with his. In this worldview, there is no room for differences on matters of prudence or conscience.

What you won’t hear from activists like Tim Gill is that the people who will suffer the most from his campaign against faith and the freedom of conscience are the homeless, children waiting to be adopted, or those needing hospital care. In short, the people who will be hurt are those who rely on the charitable activity of people of faith.

Take, for example, the Catholic Charities adoption programs in Boston, Illinois, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. that have been forced to shut down because they believe it’s not in children’s best interest to be placed with a same-sex couple. In Illinois, Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Springfield estimates that about 3,000 children were impacted by their closure. As was predicted, the state is now experiencing a shortage of quality foster families. Surely, this does not benefit society.

It is unexpected, but homeless men and women are also being impacted by changes to regulations. In Sept. 2016 the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development finalized rules that require homeless shelters to accommodate transgender people by placing them according to whatever gender they present themselves as, rather than their biological sex. Most often, it is men identifying themselves as women who approach the shelters, and this frightens the women, especially since many of them have been victimized by men on the streets.

Religious freedom can seem like an abstract concept, but when you look at the fruits of this basic liberty, its importance becomes clear. Moved by their faith, Catholics and others in the Archdiocese of Denver spent 2017 providing over 212,000 nights of shelter, emergency assistance to 28,000 households, 714 job placements, and almost 73,000 volunteer hours through Catholic Charities.

Further, hundreds of immigrants are assisted with English as a Second Language classes, business training, and faith formation through Centro San Juan Diego. In the name of Jesus, tens of thousands of sick people receive medical care at Catholic hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. This list doesn’t include other Christian, Jewish, or Muslim charitable endeavors, nor does it include individuals whose faith guides the way they run their small business or their work for their employer.

It is a convenient and worn-out argument to accuse people of discrimination to pressure them into giving up their beliefs, but this tactic ignores the people who suffer the most from the intolerance of those insisting people of faith give up their beliefs. Our country has long recognized and benefited from the gifts of faithful people, and restricting this spirit of generosity will make our society poorer.

I am grateful that the Supreme Court recognized that Jack Phillips’ right to religious freedom was infringed, but his case will certainly not be the last. As Christians, we must respond to this pressure with the joy that is born from faith, with loving, persistent resistance and forgiveness. Let us respond to Pope Francis’ appeal that he made as he spoke in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. “Let us preserve freedom. Let us cherish freedom. Freedom of conscience, religious freedom, the freedom of each person, each family, each people, which is what gives rise to rights.”