Kathleen Donahue-Coia

Helping people bear their crosses

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Like so many Catholics and Christians, each year I look forward to the Resurrection of Easter and the promise of hope and new life that it brings. With all that has happened in these past weeks as our nation and world battle the COVID-19 pandemic, I am finding great inspiration contemplating Mary at the foot of the cross, watching her child suffering and yet having the faith to face the “sword that pierced her heart” (Luke 2:34-35) with such courage and grace.

Mary’s strength reminds us that the Lord’s love for us — and the love and care we show each other — always triumphs over fear and darkness.

Perhaps I am thinking about Mary because there are so many people who come to Catholic Charities bearing heavy crosses: parents whose hearts have been pierced by the death of a child through suicide or gun violence; mothers and children fleeing abusive relationships; veterans coping with traumatic combat experiences; seniors managing serious health issues and the effects of aging; teens seeking pathways out of gang violence; and now, record numbers of people who need help to cope with the social isolation, fear, grief, lost jobs and industry contraction brought on by COVID-19. 

Each day, thousands of people come to Catholic Charities, laying their burdens at our doors — and we have the honor to help them face these challenges with courage and grace. 

Even though she had tremendous personal strength, we know that Mary did not suffer alone at the cross. Mary of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, her sister and maybe others were there with her, sharing her sorrow. They stood with her in silent solidarity, helping her face one of the most difficult moments of her life. 

In the same way, and with an army of dedicated staff and volunteers, Catholic Charities strives to be there in a very personal and compassionate way for each person who seeks our help. We stand in solidarity with them as they face these unprecedented times and great personal life challenges. 

Since our founding more than 100 years ago during the Spanish flu epidemic, Catholic Charities has been and will continue to be the safety net for so many of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters who are least able to navigate treacherous waters.

Over the years, I have felt very blessed to have witnessed first-hand moments when I could visibly sense relief and comfort in people simply by them being at Catholic Charities. Maybe this sense of peace comes because many of our service locations are long-standing places filled with years of faithful prayer said by religious women and men over the years.

Or, perhaps people — no matter what their personal religious affiliation —  sense our own faith tradition that compels us to treat every person with the utmost dignity and respect. To be sure, there is a divine presence at work at Catholic Charities, bringing peace, comfort and a renewed sense of hope. 

We need this hope and comfort now more than ever. I am so grateful to the staff, board members, donors and volunteers who want to help Catholic Charities respond to the growing needs we are only beginning to understand. The love the Lord has instilled in us for one another has spurred creativity in maintaining our close, caring relationships, even as we accommodate an appropriate social distance, and generated a spirit of neighborly compassion that will help us endure the long term impact of this chapter in our history. 

Like the unprecedented hardships so many are currently facing, Mary’s life was not easy. Yet, she had faith in her suffering and in the greater purpose of her son — and she had support from those around her. 

So during this Easter season, as I contemplate Mary at the foot of the cross, I will be praying for all those suffering from or grieving a loss from COVID-19, and thanking God for the opportunity Catholic Charities has to help people bear the many crosses of these challenging times, shining the light and hope of the Resurrection in even the darkest of places. 


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  • the voice of catholic charities
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