God is young! What a wonderful thought! In his 2018 book “God is Young,” Pope Francis provokes us, as he writes of God, “He is young because he … renew[s] and rejuvenate[s] himself and all things continually … because he makes all things new and loves innovation; because he astonishes and loves astonishment; because he dreams and wants us to dream.” With this counterintuitive thought, Pope Francis reminds us that renewal and rejuvenation are foundational to the created world and to our creator — whether it be the life cycles of all plants, humans and animals; the seasons; even the topography of the Earth across time. And with this frame, he teaches us that revitalization and renewal are critical to the life of faith and to the life of our church. At Catholic Charities, we have reflected — as a century-plus-years-young organization that was founded during the previous pandemic — how has this new pandemic changed us, and how must we change to better meet the needs of our region coming out of it? Toward that end, my colleagues and I have spent the past 18 months reviewing all that Catholic Charities does. Touching thousands of people daily, we are the largest human services provider in our region. We offer an amazing array of programs from affordable housing for veterans; to community support and connection for seniors; to counseling for families, teens and new mothers; to food pantries and emergency housing for families in crisis. We are proud of our reach and how it bears witness to our faith. And yet, we cannot rest. Wealth inequality widened dramatically in the decade preceding the pandemic; all research suggests it’s grown even worse. Fifty percent or more of the 6 million people living in Cook and Lake counties have little or no savings — they are a paycheck away from zero. Yes, there are jobs, but rapid inflation and the rising cost of gas, childcare and elder care make it prohibitively expensive for many to work. We know because we walk with these people and their families. We gain our strength from serving, from making a difference each day and from the idea that God is young and will refresh us as we do it. So, we have asked for his guidance in how we might do more and do better with the resources and people entrusted to our care as we move forward, and we have gained clarity. We are called to serve in ways where our Catholic identity, our values and our century of service make us a unique and valued provider. This has led us to rethink and to tailor our focus so that we can partner in new and more effective ways. As a result of this work, we have stepped away from some programs that no longer make sense for us to provide, transitioning them to secular providers who are better equipped to serve and operate under different types of government requirements. As part of this process, we have come to a deeper understanding and recommitment. We commit to being present to children, youth and families, especially to mothers and their babies — it is core to who we are. We commit to being present to families in crisis and to those coping with loss — it is core to who we are. We commit to being present to seniors and veterans who face social isolation and poverty — it is core to who we are. And so, undertaking God’s call to rejuvenation and renewal, Catholic Charities is growing young again! “Young” so that we can best fulfill the mission of charity that was bestowed upon us in 1917. “Young” so that we can continue to innovate, astonish, and dream. And “young” so that we are fortified to witness a message of mercy and hope to a world in need, as we emerge from the pandemic.