Ed Langlois/Catholic SentinelBacked by a massive image of Pope Francis, Deacon Richard Birkel speaks Feb. 25 at a benefit for Catholic Charities of Oregon. Executive director of the agency, Birkel got applause when he echoed the pope and the U.S. bishops in saying that control of national borders must be carried out “with justice and mercy.”

Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel
Backed by a massive image of Pope Francis, Deacon Richard Birkel speaks Feb. 25 at a benefit for Catholic Charities of Oregon. Executive director of the agency, Birkel got applause when he echoed the pope and the U.S. bishops in saying that control of national borders must be carried out “with justice and mercy.”

Eddie Ngo, a Jesuit in training, had a personal reason for attending the Catholic Charities benefit Feb. 25. In 1975, the agency helped his family escape Vietnam and find a safe home in the United States.

“They helped my family get their feet in the ground,” said Ngo, who teaches at Jesuit High School.

Finding home was the theme of the annual dinner, which drew 900 supporters to the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.

“All in all, everyone who comes to us is in need of a home where they can thrive, where they can become what God fully wants them to be,” said Deacon Richard Birkel, executive director of Catholic Charities of Oregon.  

The crowd applauded when speakers mentioned the agency’s long ministry to refugees and immigrants.

“We need to be in solidarity with them, to stand with them, no matter what their status, because they are all sons and daughters of a merciful and loving God,” said Portland Archbishop Alexander Sample.  

The archbishop lauded Catholic Charities for bringing different people together for a common purpose. “This isn’t a time for divisiveness, it is a time for unity,” he said.

The evening included a stories about a Somali refugee reunified with her son and a formerly homeless woman who now has a job and an apartment.  

Funds raised were still being tallied at press time, but support was zealous.

“It means acting out the good Lord’s wishes in charity and taking care of the poor, especially in the mission here of settling immigrants,” said Geoff McCarthy, a member of Cathedral Parish who made a donation with wife Juliet.

Werner and Colleen Nistler were chairpersons of the dinner.

“The idea of home being both a roof over our heads and a space of solidarity is universal,” Werner Nistler said. “How would we feel without a home?”