Leading with Catholic
There are always a few non-Catholics among the dozen or so people who attend the 9 a.m. Thursday Mass at Catholic Charities Fort Worth. In fact, it’s part of CCFW’s culture to welcome both Catholic and non-Catholic clients, employees, and volunteers, while maintaining a vibrant Catholic identity.
“We don’t know how many of our staff are Catholic,” Josh Audi, CCFW chief financial officer, said. “We don’t have that in the database and it’s not part of the interview process.”
Kasey Whitley, CCFW director of parish social ministry, said, “We’re here to welcome and serve all and that is directly related to our Catholic social teaching.”
She said the only Catholic requirement for new staff is “an overview of the seven themes of Catholic social teaching … how we apply them and what that looks like day to day here at Catholic Charities.”
“These [themes] are not exclusive to the Catholic faith,” she continued. “Other faiths share similar values and beliefs.”
Audi, who is Baptist, said that’s how he views working for an agency that is rooted in Catholic social teaching.
“We’re here to serve because of our faith,” Audi said. “The mission and the focus of Catholic Charities aligns perfectly with my own Christian values.
“When it comes to our social calling to provide service to those in need, to advocate compassion and justice, and to call people of good will to do the same, that transcends the Catholic faith. It’s a wider calling in most religions,” he added.
Whitley said strengthening Catholic identity is a “top priority” for her team of seven. So, in addition to supporting parish engagement and the Gabriel Project, they offer a calendar of Catholic opportunities for CCFW staff.
For example, in addition to weekly Masses, celebrated by Father Anthony Chandler, interim CEO, the agency now will also have Mass on Holy Days. There was distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday. A lunch-hour Divine Mercy Chaplet during Lent and an opportunity for staff to offer a spiritual bouquet for clergy in the Diocese of Fort Worth are planned.
“We’re trying to give people exposure to the Catholic faith, deepen their understanding and knowledge of it, and celebrate some of our rich traditions,” Whitley said.
She added that these Catholic opportunities “are not imposed or mandatory.” They are offered “in an inviting way.”
Audi concurred, saying, “I literally don’t feel any pressure whatsoever” to participate in Catholic opportunities, adding that when he attends Mass, he always approaches the priest for a blessing during Communion.
“It’s an open environment where people have a nonthreatening exposure to Catholic faith and traditions,” he said. “I can go into [Mass] feeling stressed and overwhelmed or with my mind racing, and I come out feeling refreshed and with new purpose.”