December 3, 2017

As we begin our journey through Advent to Christmas, our thoughts turn toward those most in need in our communities. The outreach that we do through the Nathe Fund at Our Lady Star of the Sea, and through the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Knights of Columbus at St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Joseph, are tangible ways that we reach out to those most in need in our communities during this season, and throughout the year.

Last year the Bishops of Washington State issued a pastoral letter on poverty entitled Who is My Neighbor. In that letter the bishops reflected on what they learned in listening sessions with poor people in our state. They asked, “Hearing their stories raised urgent questions within us. If we believe the faith we profess, how are we to respond to so many of our neighbors who do not share the benefits of our state’s economic wealth?”

The Bishops encouraged communities to do what they did, to listen to the stories of those in our community who are poor. We organized our own listening sessions at St. Thomas and St. Joseph, and heard the stories of these brothers and sisters who are our neighbors.

Hearing from people living in poverty helped to put a face on what can often simply be a “problem” to be solved. Instead, we saw neighbors in need and it prompted many in our communities to ask, “What can we do to help?” In all three of our communities discussions are underway by people who have been touched by this call to serve our neighbor. We are exploring tangible ways to reach out to those who are in need in Stevenson, Camas, and Vancouver.

One significant way that the Catholic community reaches out to those on the margins is through Catholic Community Services and Catholic Housing Services (CCS and CHS) of Western Washington. For over ninety years CCS and, and for twenty-five years, CHS have been responding to the needs of our neighbors who are poor.

In their Mission Statement, CCS and CHS make clear that their reason for existence is to “answer the Gospel call to loving and compassionate service with particular concern for the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and the dignity of the human person. Our employees and volunteers come from many faith traditions to serve and support poor and vulnerable people through the provision of quality, integrated services and housing…”

We have an opportunity next weekend to support the work of CCS through the annual CCS Appeal for the Poor. Our gifts in next week’s special collection will help CCS and CHS to reach out, in our name, to support our neighbors in need. Our gifts will provide support for such programs as CCS Family Centers, which offer adoption, pregnancy support, children’s mental health, case management, information and referral, emergency services, shelters and transitional housing, mental health and chemical dependency services, a volunteer services program and more.

They will support CCS’s Long Term Care System which provides in-home personal care, outreach and case management, caregiver training, foot care, senior transportation, senior meal sites and “meals on wheels” for homebound seniors. We will be supporting CCS’s Family Behavioral Health System which provides an array of mental health services and social supports to families with multiple and complex needs, and serious family conflict. And, our gifts will support the more than 2400 units of affordable housing that CHS and CCS operate throughout Western Washington.

May our gifts in next week’s special collection continue to provide hope and build solidarity with our neighbors in need throughout Western Washington.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni