This month I would like to take the opportunity to say a great big “thank you” to all the parishes in the Archdiocese of Chicago for all you do for Catholic Charities, and to celebrate all we do together to serve the poor and vulnerable in our community. The church’s great tradition of serving the poor is rooted in the Gospels and in the life and words of Jesus Christ, who came “to bring glad tidings to the poor … proclaim liberty to captives … recovery of sight to the blind” (Lk 4:18-19), and who identified himself with “the least of these,” namely the hungry, the stranger and all those living on the margins of society (Mt 25:45). Jesus calls us to reach out with mercy and compassion to anyone facing challenging circumstances, and the Catholic Church does this in very special ways; not only through professional social service, health, and educational institutions and organizations, but also through human service ministries in parishes and the personal dedication of parishioners. We all work together to fulfill the church’s mission to love and serve those whom Jesus entrusted to our care. At Catholic Charities, the volunteer and financial support of parishes, as well as their numerous in-kind donations, are truly the bedrock of our operations and enable us to serve nearly one million people annually. Parishes conduct food, clothing, diaper, coat, school supply and toy drives; “adopt” various programs such as our anti-violence initiatives, senior centers and veterans services; dedicate financial support to specific services like New Hope Apartments or refugee resettlement; provide unused land for our senior and special needs housing; donate faithfully to our annual Mother’s Day Appeal; and provide thousands of volunteers for a multitude of our programs. Many of these dedicated volunteers join our advisory boards and share their leadership skills and professional expertise for years to come. Parishes are often the catalyst for bringing new Catholic Charities programs into their communities, articulating neighborhood needs and helping us establish new services. Parishes provide space for Catholic Charities’ counseling and support groups, and work with us to establish and operate community-based food pantries. Parishes generously host Catholic Charities health fairs for those who are uninsured or underinsured, and cook and serve meals in the Catholic Charities Evening Supper program, providing hot meals to the hungry and homeless in parish-based locations throughout Cook and Lake Counties. Catholic Charities often works in tandem with St. Vincent de Paul chapters and human service ministries to pool resources to purchase a needed medical device for a child, repair a car so a parent can get to work, provide rental assistance to get a homeless family stably housed or provide one-time financial assistance to prevent homelessness in the first place. Perhaps what is most wonderful to see is that parishioners of every income level get involved and give what they can. I’ve watched people drop off a bag of apples or a few cans of soup just as often as I’ve witnessed the unloading of a carful of groceries. In each case, they are always asking, “What else can we do?” It is truly inspiring to see the faithful give with such love and generosity, and never be afraid to roll up their sleeves to help. I feel blessed to daily witness the very beautiful way the church comes together to care for our brothers and sisters in need — feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger and showing compassion and mercy just as Jesus asked us to do. I am deeply grateful for the partnership and support of parishes throughout the archdiocese, and we at Catholic Charities are honored to work side by side with them to fulfill the church’s mission of charity.