Cardinal Blase J. Cupich

The starting point of Gospel ministry

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Gospels repeatedly remind us that Jesus always put the needs and sufferings of others before all else. In the parable of the good Samaritan, the Lord makes clear that the moral question before us as we confront the world’s sufferings is not, “Who is my neighbor?” — as if we can pick and choose whom we help. Rather, it is, “What does it mean for me to be neighbor to one in need?”

Pope Francis is giving fresh energy to this moral vision by calling the church to be a “field hospital.” In doing so, the Holy Father asks us to radically rethink ecclesial life. He is challenging all of us to give priority to the wounded. That means placing the needs of others before our own.

Medics who have the bandages go to those with the wounds. They do not sit back in their offices waiting for the needy to come to them. They begin by asking: “How can we help?” This is neither the place nor the time for pre-diagnoses in the form of prejudgments or predeterminations. The starting point for our Gospel ministry, Pope Francis tells us, is the suffering of people, not the sinfulness of people or our perception of their worthiness.

This is the approach I have asked Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago to take in addressing the challenges posed by the migrant crisis. Catholic Charities has no role in deciding whether migrants are allowed in the country or are brought to Chicago. Those decisions are made by government officials. However, the church’s mission of compassion compels us to help those in need, regardless of their past history, color, religion, nationality or immigration status.

Since fall 2022, Catholic Charities has been working closely with parishes, community partners, the State of Illinois and City of Chicago to respond with compassion to more than 4,000 new arrivals crossing our borders from Central and South America. In fact, Catholic Charities has been asked by the Illinois Department of Human Services to join the state’s initiative to transition families out of shelters into stable housing.

With the support of Catholic Charities:

•  More than 700 people have been reunited with loved ones in other states, 

•  about 2,000 people have moved out of shelters and into apartments,

•  an additional 2,300 people will soon transition from shelters to apartments,

•  seven parishes are accompanying 23 families in their resettlement and integration into their new community, and

•  more than 200 new arrivals join community suppers five days a week at Catholic Charities’ 721 N. LaSalle building, with more in the suburbs, in partnership with local parishes and supported by volunteers.

Just this week I received a call from Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, asking for us to help 100 people traveling by bus to Chicago to reunite with family members here.

While all the help Catholic Charities provides remains impressive, there is more to do, given that:

• Since last August, some 8,100 migrants have arrived in Chicago and the influx is increasing,

• migrant families are sleeping on floors in police districts and on the ground outside homeless facilities at O’Hare, and

• many migrants who arrive here need food, water, clothing and medical care.

This is happening; it is a crisis, and we cannot wish this suffering away or make excuses for not addressing these needs for political or ideological reasons. Like those in the Gospel parable of the Good Samaritan, we cannot turn our backs on them, especially if we claim to be a church that takes pride in being a “field hospital.” The fact is that people are here and need help. End of story.

Through Catholic Charities, we will continue to work with parishes, other agencies, state and local governments, but we also need the help of all Catholics. On Mothers Day, we took up a second collection for Catholic Charities, and so I ask you to be extra generous. You can donate at I also ask you to consider helping as a volunteer. You can do so by emailing [email protected]

 In all of this, let’s keep in mind that for Jesus the starting point for Gospel ministry, as Pope Francis reminds us, is the suffering of people, not the sinfulness of people or our perception of their worthiness. Let’s give new life to the Lord’s call to be the good Samaritan, not by asking who is my neighbor, but by asking what does it mean for me to be neighbor to one in need?