Spreading the love of Christ through parish social ministry
FORT WORTH — Before the pandemic, Judy King, a parishioner at St. Bartholomew Church in Fort Worth, used to visit seven or eight people in a nearby assisted living center. As part of her parish’s St. Vincent de Paul Society, she enjoyed visiting those unable to come to church.
But when COVID-19 forced assisted living centers to close their doors to visitors, King missed seeing those friends. And when the visiting restrictions loosened, she found several of the faithful there had passed away. A few more had moved. Only one person remained of those they visited before the pandemic.
“It devastated me that I couldn’t see those people and say goodbye,” King said.
Parish social ministry was forced to change due to the global health crisis and has had to deal with the increased needs brought on by COVID.
Kasey Whitley, Parish Social Ministries Director at Catholic Charities of Fort Worth, said the pandemic has had a “devastating impact” on communities and individuals financially, socially, and mentally.
Helping both laypeople and staff members involved in parish social ministry was the goal of a workshop offered Sept. 22 by CCFW.
The half-day workshop was designed for those involved in social ministry to “come together for faith formation and spiritual development,” Whitley said. They also could talk about their struggles, encourage one another, find new resources, and share best practices.
“The need continues to exceed our capacity, so we need to come together to pool our resources,” she said.
Members of the Diocesan Mission Council led a reflection on what it means to be “a community of salt and light” and a discussion of Catholic Social Teaching.
Deacon Mike Mocek, from Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth and a member of the Diocesan Mission Council, presented a reflection and led prayer on being salt and light for God’s Kingdom.
Other council members talked about Catholic Social Teaching, which emphasizes and upholds the dignity of every person.
Council member Elsa Camizzi, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church in Denton, said, “All people are in essence equal. We’ve been granted different talents and abilities, but we are to work to correct inequalities.”
Key themes in Catholic Social Teaching include the sanctity of life from conception to death, the call to promote peaceful resolutions to global issues, and addressing the needs of the poor and vulnerable members of society, Camizzi said.
‘I get to spread the love of God’
Connecting with the “why” behind serving others is an important step in improving resilience in tough times, Whitley said.
Participants answered the question of why they serve.
Ed Smith, chief of staff at St. Patrick Cathedral, said, “First and foremost, our goal is to make disciples. How do we do that? We celebrate His life and His sacrifice, and one of our main focuses is building a community where everyone is accepted and loved.”
Denise Koch, social outreach coordinator at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Lewisville, said her work brings great meaning to her life and helps her glorify God.
“I get to spread the love of God,” Koch said.
She found the workshop helpful by sharing best practices in parish social ministry.
Elizabeth Chanoine, Director of Social Outreach at St. Michael Church in Bedford, gave a presentation on their parish’s ministry, Christian Connection, and how to provide more help to those in need by locating additional resources in the community.
When their parish community started different aspects of Christian Connection, they didn’t always know exactly how to go about it.
“God doesn’t ask us to be successful. He just asks us to try,” Chanoine said. “Listen to the people you’re helping and try to find solutions.”
The event helped educate those involved in parish ministries about all the resources available through CCFW and beyond. By partnering with Catholic Charities, parishes can help more people in need, Whitley said. They can refer people with needs greater than the parish is able to meet, and find them more kinds of assistance. Parishioners can support CCFW through donations, volunteering, or serving as an ambassador with a CCFW ministry.
Leaders also can team up with CCFW to educate others in their parish about poverty and how to help people get out of poverty.
Whitley said the workshop was the first in-person event of its kind held at Catholic Charities since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I think it was really great just to be together,” she said. “There’s a sense of community, knowing we’re all in this together.”
Many in attendance appreciated the chance to meet face to face.
Deacon Mocek said, “I’m thrilled to see Catholic Charities resume these gatherings. I think it’s really going to help us overcome the lethargy COVID has brought to our ministries.”