During my many years overseeing Catholic Charities volunteer relations, I have had the privilege of witnessing biblical and church teachings come to life. As staff, volunteers, and those seeking help interact with one another, I see first-hand the everyday miracles that happen when mercy is shown, love is felt, relationships are formed and community is created and strengthened. Lives are transformed on both sides of these interactions because each of us has something to give and something to receive. Volunteers are often amazed that they are the ones who feel “nourished” by their service. The church calls this urge to serve one another the “call to community and participation.” Human beings are not meant to live alone, but rather are most fulfilled by being in community with one another and with God — and we are called to participate actively in that community; to help shape it into a loving, caring place where everyone experiences a sense of purpose and belonging. That is one of the many reasons why this past year has been so challenging, as we have been forced to do the exact opposite — stay socially distant from one another and limit our personal interactions. Despite these limitations, most people have found creative ways to stay connected with those they love. Likewise, our Catholic Charities community of staff, board members, volunteers, donors and parish partners has found important and inventive ways to serve one another — to strive for “community and participation” each day. Charities sets forth strengthening communities as a key focus as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. With needs rising exponentially, that strength and support are absolutely vital. With “community and participation” at the forefront, what might we achieve in a post-pandemic world? When we extend the circle of our caring and the scope of our participation, how might more people experience the support, the mercy and the true sense of community God intends for them? What kind of “new normal” can we create that is more just and leaves fewer people behind? There are myriad ways to participate in this rebuilding — and the invitation for you to join us here at Catholic Charities is a standing one. You can volunteer at ccofchicagovolunteer.com, seek help at GetHelp@catholiccharities.net, receive counseling support at 312-948-6951, pray with us through the Call to Prayer service at 312-534-8200 or donate at catholiccharities.net.