Christianity, at least according to Catholic Tradition, recognizes as a duty of discipleship the requirement to love and to serve. As recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (7:12) Jesus provides as a simple guide of what this means the “Golden Rule”: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.However, implementation of this obligation of discipleship demands of us more than just a willingness to respond caringly to the needs of others. It imposes on us also the responsibility to be informed about those needs.
While one might suggest that in the distant past such awareness was not so readily achievable because of the limits of communication, certainly today given the ubiquity and immediacy of the media there can be no reason offered—other than perhaps indifference—for ignorance of the plight of the less fortunate anywhere in the world, let alone in our home state. Possibly one might counter that indeed because of the ever present, always pressing, invasiveness of the media we actually take steps to isolate ourselves in cocoons of unawareness simply to survive the numbing over-saturation of information.
But this understandable desire to retreat from the onslaught of too much information cannot be justification for ignorance of the suffering of others. Recall Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke: 16). Or, consider how Jesus went out of his way to seek those in need of help. These examples teach us that being informed is a critical component of responsible discipleship.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Wilmington provides aspiring and practicing disciples of Christ with ample opportunity to be aware of and to address the needs of others. Its comprehensive and informative website, www.cdow.org, offers anyone willing to visit it exposure to both the wide range of human need within the Diocese and to the array of services the Diocese provides as it addresses human suffering and restores the dignity and well being of people who are hurting.
Catholic Charities in Wilmington traces its roots to 1830—decades before Pope Pius IX erected the Diocese of Wilmington. After a number of explosions at the DuPont powder mills left numerous children orphaned, the Daughters of Charity set up an orphanage for girls at Third and West Streets in the city. Over time and under the guidance of successive bishops this initial apostolate expanded to include other forms of ministry. What Bishop Fitzmaurice named the Charity Department in 1931 became the Catholic Welfare Guild, then Catholic Social Services, and now Catholic Charities.
Catholic Charities currently delivers critical direct care to 80,000 individuals and families annually in Delaware and in the Eastern Shore of Maryland. This care includes basic needs programs, adoption and foster care, residential maternity services for single moms, and adult emergency food pantries and coops, mental health counseling , ministry to engaged, married and divorced couples, residential care for children, immigration and refugee services, social justice advocacy, pregnancy counseling, AIDS counseling, and a thrift center, among other services.
In one way or another all of these services affect the well being of families. Appropriately, the website quotes Bishop Fitzmaurice’s timeless admonition: “The intimate family circle is the foundation on which our civilization rests, and the training ground of all social and moral virtues.”
Those who allow themselves first to be informed by this excellent website of the works of Wilmington’s Catholic Charities and then to respond accordingly exercise discipleship in a way that both fosters civilization and advances the Kingdom.