Ever since I was a young boy, Matthew 25:35 has had a particular draw on my heart: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. … Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’’ (Mt 25:35-36, 40). As a child who had trouble sitting still through Mass, I felt that Jesus’ call to action — to actively help anyone finding life difficult — was something very tangible to me. I could see it. I could do it. As an adult who might even now have trouble sitting still through Mass, knowing that our faith doesn’t rest in the pews but actively reaches out beyond our church walls helps bring the Gospel to life for me. That is why I have felt so blessed to be a part of Catholic Charities for the past 23 years. Each day, Catholic Charities answers Jesus’ resounding call to serve and accompany the vulnerable, the overlooked and the suffering. Whether we are providing a bag of food at one of our food pantries, safely sheltering a mother and her children fleeing domestic violence, delivering hot meals to homebound seniors, counseling those impacted by trauma or serving people through any of our 55 programs, Catholic Charities is honored to do the important work that our faith inspires. Together with our volunteers and donors, we are Christ’s hands in the world, serving people regardless of their religion, race or ethnicity, and asking only, “How can we help you?” When people come to Catholic Charities, we meet them wherever they are on their life’s journey, accompanying them with professional services and heartfelt compassion so that they may grow to live with the dignity God intends for them. We strengthen and empower individuals and families with the genuine mercy and hope that can be life-changing. Ours is careful work. We do it one person, one heart at a time. The past 21 months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been difficult for those in need, particularly in the hardest hit parts of Cook and Lake counties. Demand for Catholic Charities services doubled and tripled in many locations. The long-term health and economic repercussions of COVID-19 are exacerbated in people already facing poverty, and especially in people of color, who have experienced higher rates of infection, more loss of life, greater job losses, less access to needed services and more interruption in their schooling. We are called to bring help and hope to these most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters so they don’t get further behind. If you are not already a part of Catholic Charities’ mission to serve, then the Christmas season is a wonderful time to get involved. Please consider donating toys or gifts to our Celebration of Giving, making a financial contribution to our Year End Appeal or attending our largest fundraising gala, the St. Nicholas Ball, on Dec. 4. Together, we can do more — answering Jesus’ call to action, reaching out to the hungry, the homeless, the hurting — one person, one heart at a time.