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‘Respect, Renew, Rejoice’ – Catholic Charities’ role

As Marianite Sister Marjorie Hebert sat through synod town hall meetings while accompanying Archbishop Gregory Aymond around the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the good works done by Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans kept being mentioned.

“I was encouraged and felt I needed to pass it on to the employees who were doing the work out in the field,” said Sister Marjorie, executive director of Catholic Charities.

What was the best way to inform her diverse staff of housekeepers, custodians, bus drivers, dietary helpers, laundry helpers, social workers, counselors, nurses, doctors, finance managers, etc.? She called a convocation Oct. 30, “Respect, Renew, Rejoice” at the Hilton New Orleans Airport. It was the first time in five years such an event had been held for the staff.

Spreading the joy of service

“The whole point is coming together to rejoice in all we have accomplished – affirm what we have done – and deepen our call to respond for those we serve and with whom we serve and renew our commitment by picking up where Archbishop Aymond leads us in the synod and the challenge that Pope Francis puts out to be the ‘other Christ,’” Sister Marjorie said. “His message reaffirms who we call ourselves and what we do in Catholic Charities.”

Archbishop Aymond served as the main speaker, expressing deep gratitude to the more than 300 Catholic Charities’ employees present. He lauded them for their services, which in 2014 alone helped 76,427 men, women and children.

He also reminded everyone that they stood on the shoulders of a long tradition of individuals who have formed the “largest social service arm of our church in the archdiocese,” saying Catholic Charities was rooted in Matthew 25: “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brethren, you do for me.”

He challenged the group to continue modeling the life of Jesus and Pope Francis to others by being humble but having big hearts; being bold but speaking out for those whose voice is not heard; being team players because more can be done together; having balance, taking care of themselves and pointing to and depending on God; believing in miracles; praying daily for God to use them; and keeping the Catholic Charities ministry focused, knowing that the heart of the local church is charity, love and mercy.
Responding to the ‘knock’

Brian Corbin, executive vice president of membership services for Catholic Charities USA, also spoke. Sister Marjorie has attended several national meetings with Corbin, and she thought her staff would benefit from hearing the national and local policies regarding social service programs. Corbin talked about “Everyday Advocacy: Advocating for Clients in Our Daily Life.”

“As Catholic Charities’ staff, we respond each day to the various ‘knocks on our door’ of persons and families seeking help and support,” Corbin said.

He cited Pope Francis’ message last year to Catholic Charities executives and workers that their ministry is “in the streets, inviting and serving those who have been left out … to know and experience the tremendous and abundant love of God through Jesus Christ.”

“In this light,” Corbin said, “we in Catholic Charities encounter Jesus in each person we meet as we accompany him/her in their journey to transform their lives.”

“I know our leadership often hears the true essence of advocacy,” she said, “but I thought Brian could give us the true essence of what the call to being an advocate really means. We have a responsibility to advocate for the protection of the rights and services that individuals deserve, to be the voice for those who don’t have a voice, to make that voice heard.”

Breakout sessions    
The volunteer convocation committee devised breakout sessions on topics beneficial to Catholic Charities’ workers and wrote a prayer. Topics ranged from disability awareness and being responsive to the disabled; how to maintain a healthy work environment; teamwork; looking at work as a ministry and how talents can be used to contribute to Catholic Charities’ mission to share and respect the gifts that God gives each individual who is created in his image; improving speaking skills; how to respect each other for the good of all; and how to be compassionate to others and give hope as the hands of Christ.

“I thought these would be good messages to hear,” Sister Marjorie said.

The convocation concluded joyfully as members of the St. Augustine High Marching 100 Band led participants out of the ballroom in a second line, charged to move forward and do more for the needy in the archdiocese.

“I want them to know how valued they have been and are, and what a strong arm of the church we are in doing this work,” Sister Marjorie said. “We all have a part in the success. Together we served 76,000-plus people in over 30 programs last year. It takes all of us to do that. As we second lined out, we went out rejoicing in what we have done, and we rejoice that the Lord is giving us more opportunities to help people. I want to re-energize our family.”

Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion

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