By Melissa Wheeler, diocesan director for Catholic Relief Services.
Each year when we give alms in our CRS (Catholic Relief Services) Rice Bowl, we help people all over the world to realize their potential and live in dignity. Did you know that we also help our local brothers and sisters with these funds? Twenty-five percent of CRS Rice Bowl contributions stay in our diocese to fund hunger relief programs. To realize the benefits gained through such disbursement, let’s take a look at an organization in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
Centro Latino is a Catholic Charities supported organization that works with the Latino community in the Archdiocese of Louisville. Centro Latino distributes food and clothing, and provides educational opportunities. One of the hallmarks of this organization is a recognition of the importance and value of community and stability. As the virtue of solidarity shapes for us, we are all members of one human family. Jesus has taught us to love our neighbors. Our neighbors can live next-door or across the world. Even though our fellow human beings may be different from us, we are all equal in dignity. Centro Latino shows this by offering monthly meetings for women to get together and share fellowship.
The support from these groups has done and continues to do great things. A young woman named Katalina has attended these gatherings for three years. With the support of the group, she has learned English which has helped her better acclimate to her local community. Inspired by the group, she now volunteers for Centro Latino in the food distribution center and in local parishes with other women’s groups.
The mission of Centro Latino is an example of the solidarity we are all called to uphold. During Pope Francis’s visit to Brazil in July, 2013 for World Youth Day, the Holy Father called all of us to solidarity. He said, “The culture of selfishness and individualism that often prevails in our society is not what builds up and leads to a more habitable world: it is the culture of solidarity that does so, seeing others not as rivals or statistics, but brothers and sisters.” This mission of equality can appear to be counter-cultural and in many ways it is. We can see the culture of “me first” and a culture of competition as our goal in life. This pursuit of being the best one can be does not need to exclude others. We are all in this together.
One of the most important aspects of solidarity is to respectfully and fully listen to what others have to say. We cannot truly be in communion with others if we do not know them and their needs and concerns. Challenge yourself this week to improve your listening skills to be able to grow in honest relationship with others. How can you hear the voice of the poor more clearly?
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