Ask . . . And You Shall Receive

untitled“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

This is an oft-quoted Bible verse from Luke 11:9.  It’s meant to encourage us to ask boldly knowing that God, who is good, will provide the things we need.  A few weeks ago CCDOK did just this in our April eNewsletter and in parish bulletins. 

We were so excited to learn that we had recently received funding to provide five more transitional housing units to older homeless youth.  These five units would house a total of eight youth and two babies at a time and would give them a safe and comfortable place to live as they learn skills and become self-sufficient through our services.  The challenge?  NONE of these units had ANY furnishings.  So, we put out the call, asking people across the nine counties we serve if they had anything in their attics or garages (or even in their living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms) that they could spare.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

We asked . . . and we were overwhelmed with response!  The faithful generosity of donors made this verse almost seem an understatement!  We thought our request was huge . . . that it might be too much to ask from our community.   We discovered it was not.  Yesterday — with the help of even more amazing volunteers who travelled across southwest Michigan to pick up and deliver donations — we were able to fully furnish three whole apartments.  More than 20 different donors had provided us with couches, chairs, dinette sets, beds, dressers, pots and pans — and more.  All of this came from a simple ask in faith.  What an incredible response!

As we pulled up to each donor’s home with a huge U-Haul truck, four volunteers hopped out to pick up the donated items.  We knocked on the doors and met the donors face-to-face and we were further blessed to see the joy they took in offering their gifts.  It was obvious that they were so pleased to be able to help create a home for youth who don’t have one.  One gentleman said, “I was going to put this on Craig’s list but I would rather give to someone in need.”  It was an opportunity for their faith to bear fruit — and we had a veritable cornucopia as a result!

If you were one of the generous individuals or families who gave us your chair, your table, or a set of pots and pans . . .  we want you to know that you were part of a miracle.  You were the fulfillment of scripture — and your gift will be a huge blessing to the young people who will benefit from it over the years.  Your chair, table, and pots and pans will come together to create the first safe home these young people have ever had.  We asked, you responded . . .  and the youth will be blessed.  Thank you for your generosity!

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” 

And it was . . . abundantly.

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Be a Tree: Why We Do What We Do At CCDOK

imagesCACU75BCI will be completely honest.  There are days when working at CCDOK is overwhelming.  Days when every client’s challenges seem overwhelming, days when the mountains of paperwork seem ready to bury us, and days when the best intentions just aren’t enough.  Those are the days when I crawl back to my office, get on my knees, and ask God why I am doing what I am doing.

Last night the Board of Catholic Charities, the Board of Baraga Manor Apartments, and the Board of the Catholic Family Services’ Non-Profit Housing Corporation came together for their annual “Mission Meeting.”  We were blessed to be joined by our own Bishop Bradley and the room was filled with people who had committed — over many years — to supporting the work these organizations do.  Some of the items we discussed and voted on were seemingly mundane — capital budgets, auditing firms, and corporate structures.  In the midst of all the “everyday” work, however, we were given a chance to come together and focus on the heart of the agency, our Mission, and why we work so hard to do the work we do. 

I have an administrative job — I’m the person who sits behind the scenes and manipulates the numbers and deals with all the minutia of grants and contracts and government.  It is my job to spend a lot of time tending to the “trees” and I seldom get to step back and think about the “forest” we are cultivating through the work we do.  Sitting in that room, hearing the stories of hope and change and possibility, I was refreshed and renewed.  I was able to see, once again, how the work I do contributes to something so much larger.  I am, myself, a “tree” in the huge “forest” of staff and volunteers and clients and donors that comprise CCDOK and our larger community . . . but I am a “tree “who can make a difference.  Indeed, I am called to do so daily by God.  I would contend that you are a “tree” too — and that you are called to tend the beautiful “forest” that surrounds you daily.  You are called to make a difference.

This morning, walking into the office, I took a moment to look at each office door — thinking of the countless clients who had walked through each in crisis . . .  and the caring, compassionate services they had received there.  I thought of each staff person as I passed his or her office and considered their dedication and commitment to their clients.  Finally, I thought about the hundreds of volunteers and donors and supporters who had passed through the building over the years, joining these staff and these clients to bring about positive changes in the lives of individuals, families, and our greater community.   Suddenly the mountains of paperwork didn’t seem quite so large — at least not in comparison to the hearts and lives that have been changed.

I recently had the blessing to stumble across the encyclical Letter “Caritas In veritate” written by Pope Benedict.  In my years of work at Catholic Charities I have never seen a more beautiful or accurate summation of why we do the work we do.  I leave you with his words and encourage you to join us in this Mission, to allow your faith to come alive . . . to be courageous and generous and share the Truth in love.  Living “Charity in Truth” helps you grow closer to God . . . after all, it’s what you were made to do.

5. Charity is love received and given. It is “grace” (cháris). Its source is the wellspring of the Father’s love for the Son, in the Holy Spirit. Love comes down to us from the Son. It is creative love, through which we have our being; it is redemptive love, through which we are recreated. Love is revealed and made present by Christ (cf. Jn 13:1) and “poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom 5:5). As the objects of God’s love, men and women become subjects of charity, they are called to make themselves instruments of grace, so as to pour forth God’s charity and to weave networks of charity.

Are You Called To Protect?

imagesI know it’s not Christmas.  I know it’s Spring outside and the flowers are blooming.  Yet I’m asking you to think back to the story of Joseph and Mary.  It’s an amazing and faith-filled story that you have likely heard many times in your life . . . at least once a year during Christmastime.  It’s a story you have likely grown up with, but it’s not one you can ever grow tired of.   It’s new every time you hear it — and it has amazing lessons and implications for our daily lives.  Take yourself back to the angels telling Mary she was to become a mother, the baby crying in the manger, the wise men, and the shepherds as they began their journey to praise a king they had yet to meet.

What role did Joseph play in this most amazing of stories?  According to Pope Francis, he had an important role as the “protector” of Mary, Jesus, and the Church.  While this role seems primarily take place in the background — hymns, story books, children’s Christmas pageants, and thousands of artists over the years chose to place the emphasis on Mary and Jesus — it is nonetheless extremely important.

To be honest, Joseph’s role in the Christmas story is very like the roles we ourselves play in our families, jobs, schools, and communities.  Pope Francis chose to highlight this role in his inaugural mass and beautifully explained this calling Joseph had and how it relates to the lives we each live every day:

“God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan.  It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit.  Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will, and for this reason, he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping . . . in him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ!  Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!

The vocation of being a “protector”. . . involves everyone.  It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world.  It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live.  It means protecting people, showing love and concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need . . . those who are often the last we think about.  It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children, in time, protect their parents.  It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness.  In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it.  Be protectors of God’s gifts!”

What an admonishment!  I think of my own life and my calling to protect my four children, my husband, my parents, my dog, two cats, and six chickens.  I think of my calling to protect those who come through the door at Catholic Charities and to serve them — clients, volunteers, staff, donors, community members.  I think of all the other people God has placed in my life to love and protect — friends and family, people who I worship with, people who I know through my children’s school and extracurricular activities.  It can be overwhelming!  Yet, as Pope Francis says, my calling goes even beyond this — I am called to help those who “are often the last we think about.”  Those in need.  Facing homelessness, unwanted pregnancy, family crisis, depression, mental illness, and more.  I am called to show God’s love to each of these as if they were Christ himself.

Take a moment to go back to that wonderful story of Mary, Jesus, and Joseph.  Joseph was called to protect the most amazing gift the world will ever know — and he didn’t have any way to understand that calling completely.  He went forward in faith, using his gifts and seeking God’s guidance.  With those tools he could not fail . . . and neither can we.  Now take a moment to consider all your blessings and ask God to help you protect and love the world around you — even those members of your community who you never think about.  Many of them are our clients here at Catholic Charities.

We’d love to have your help at CCDOK, reaching out to those who have no one else and wrapping them in love and protection just as Joseph did to Jesus that first night in the stable.