Back in November, I told you how excited I was to be a part of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Assembly, a gathering of 110 parishes and more than 300 people. It was truly a wonderful experience of what it means to be the Body of Christ in mission for the sake of the Gospel. The assembly set pastoral priorities for the next three years, including voicing a strong desire for the Church to continue to emphasize works of mercy in the spirit of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. This priority reflects a heartfelt desire to witness our Catholic faith by serving those in need as our Lord did, and to bring about positive social change on issues such as life, the environment, immigration, homelessness and the criminal justice system among others.
This is an important part of the mission entrusted to us by Jesus Christ, who founded the Church to continue his saving presence in the world. Together with prayer and the sacraments, coming together as brothers and sisters, parishes, schools, social agencies, clergy, laypeople and religious to help the poor and work for social justice is essential to the life of our Church and authentic Catholicity.
So how do we help make this priority a central effort in the shared life of the local Church? Many at the assembly in November suggested we establish a central directory or “clearinghouse” of social justice work being done in the archdiocese. They envisioned connecting people to ongoing initiatives through volunteerism, donations and prayer. An online portal and website was essential, and renewed attention to linking works of mercy to Catholic social teachings was encouraged.
Today I am extremely proud and excited to announce that an initiative designed to address these needs is underway. For several months, Catholic Charities of Oregon, the Archdiocese of Portland, and El Programa Hispano Católico have been working together with my blessing to envision and launch the Pope Francis Center for Justice and Charity. As the center develops and with additional partners throughout the archdiocese, this center will provide a central portal for learning about and connecting to the Church’s works of mercy and charitable initiatives throughout Oregon.
The center also will help facilitate a coordinated response guided by Catholic social teaching to government policies that affect the poor and the vulnerable, the neighbor and the stranger, the migrant and the refugee. Individuals, groups and parishes who wish to find opportunities for service, connect to, learn about, or donate to ongoing initiatives, and to join in prayer and advocacy will find the center a valuable resource and ready partner.
The center is still early in its work and will be reaching out to learn from and build partnerships with parishes, Catholic agencies and other faith groups throughout the archdiocese.
To find out more about how you or your parish can get involved in the various works of charity throughout the archdiocese, please visitcatholicjusticecenter.org or call Kirsten Goetz at 503-688-2623 or toll free at 844-814-4950.
To close, I would like to quote Pope Francis speaking to the bishops on charity and social action:
“I encourage you, then, my brothers, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within each of them is life as gift and responsibility. The future freedom and dignity of our societies depends on how we face these challenges. The innocent victim of abortion, children who die of hunger or from bombings, immigrants who drown in the search for a better tomorrow, the elderly or the sick who are considered a burden, the victims of terrorism, wars, violence and drug trafficking, the environment devastated by man’s predatory relationship with nature — at stake in all of this is the gift of God, of which we are noble stewards but not masters. It is wrong, then, to look the other way or to remain silent. No less important is the Gospel of the Family. These essential aspects of the Church’s mission belong to the core of what we have received from the Lord.” (Pope Francis 9/23/15)