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Catholic Charities: a fruitful tree

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Catholic Charities' 90th anniversary Mass

Archbishop Thomas Wenski presides at the Mass marking Catholic Charities' 90th anniversary, which was celebrated at St. Joachim Church in Miami March 26, 2021. Concelebrating, from left, are Father Pedro Torres, parochial vicar at St. Joachim; Spiritan Father Alexander Ekechukwu, pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Liberty City; and Father Reginald Jean-Mary, administrator of Notre Dame d'Haiti Mission in Miami, far right. Also concelebrating but hidden in the photo is Msgr. Roberto Garza, pastor of St. Joachim and chair of Catholic Charities' board of directors.

Photographer: ROBERTO AGUIRRE | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski presides at the Mass marking Catholic Charities' 90th anniversary, which was celebrated at St. Joachim Church in Miami March 26, 2021. Concelebrating, from left, are Father Pedro Torres, parochial vicar at St. Joachim; Spiritan Father Alexander Ekechukwu, pastor of Holy Redeemer Church in Liberty City; and Father Reginald Jean-Mary, administrator of Notre Dame d'Haiti Mission in Miami, far right. Also concelebrating but hidden in the photo is Msgr. Roberto Garza, pastor of St. Joachim and chair of Catholic Charities' board of directors.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during a Mass marking the 90th anniversary of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami. The Mass was celebrated March 26, 2021, at St. Joachim Church in southern Miami-Dade County. 

“(They) picked up rocks to stone Jesus.” These words from the Gospel today remind us that Jesus’ hour is fast approaching. In fact, the incident recounted in today’s Gospel reading is Jesus’ last public act before his triumphant entry in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. They picked up rocks to stone Jesus. This reminds me of a Haitian proverb: Si pye mango pa te bay mango li pa ta pran kout wòch. Roughly translated, if the mango tree did give mangos, they wouldn’t throw rocks at it.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches the homily congratulating Catholic Charities on its 90th anniversary,  March 26, 2021 at St. Joachim Church in Miami.

Photographer: ROBERTO AGUIRRE | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches the homily congratulating Catholic Charities on its 90th anniversary, March 26, 2021 at St. Joachim Church in Miami.

Over 90 years, Catholic Charities has been a fruitful tree — and it has taken some hits. It’s not always easy to do go good; it’s not always popular to do right. Yet, thanks to leaders such as Archbishop Coleman Carroll and Msgr. Bryan Walsh, Catholic Charities did good even when it wasn’t easy. For example, in the early ‘60s, Catholic Charities was responding to the Cuban refugee crisis months before the federal government caught up. And, it wasn’t always popular to do good — like when, with Doctor Ben Shepherd, Catholic Charities opened a methadone clinic to treat heroin addicts in the early ‘70s or AIDS ministries in the ‘80s. Catholic Charities has done it all: unaccompanied minors, child care, elderly care, homeless services, food pantries, counseling, addiction services, adoption. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese has even done good overseas: in Haiti, in Central America, Colombia, Cuba and most recently in the Bahamas, bringing relief to people affected by disasters in those nations.

Today, we celebrate the presence here in South Florida of Catholic Charities — a presence that predates the establishment of the Diocese of Miami. 90 years ago, the Catholics of this area, along with their pastors, established what today we know as Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities was born here in South Florida during some bad times — and those people that helped organize Catholic Charities then were not immune from the effects of the Depression. They helped people not only out of their abundance — but out of their need.

Bad times did not become worse times thanks to the charity of faith, a Catholic faith that proclaims the dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God. And Catholic Charities does so without proselytizing: We don’t help people because they are Catholic but because we are Catholic.

Archbishop Thomas Wenski distributes Communion Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities, during the agency's 90th anniversary Mass at St. Joachim Church in Miami, March 26, 2021. A temporary barrier helps maintain social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photographer: ROBERTO AGUIRRE | FC

Archbishop Thomas Wenski distributes Communion Peter Routsis-Arroyo, CEO of Catholic Charities, during the agency's 90th anniversary Mass at St. Joachim Church in Miami, March 26, 2021. A temporary barrier helps maintain social distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Archbishop Joseph Hurley was bishop of St. Augustine — when the Diocese of St. Augustine covered almost the entire state of Florida. He used to say that the Church should do good — and, as the Gospel saying goes, a light should not be hidden under a bushel basket — so he would also add: The Church should be seen as doing good. God’s love for all his creatures must be mirrored in the way we care for one another — through acts of love and solidarity that are grounded in the truth that every human life is sacred and that all humanity forms one family.

Too often it seems that the good work of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami is a well-guarded secret. And sometimes it is misunderstood, as I said, for Catholic Charities does not proselytize. We help people not because they are Catholic, but because we are.

That’s why it is good that we “toot” our own horn tonight. We need to tell our story: because Catholic Charities certainly does good — and in doing the good that you do, you make the Church look good. And that’s important too.

And while over these 90 years the organization has had many names – from Catholic Welfare Bureau, Catholic Community Services, etc. to Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, as we call it today, remains the institutional expression of our Church’s solidarity with the world of pain and need.

Today, we give thanks to the Lord for the witness of Catholic Charities here in this community for 90 years. And we make the words of Jeremiah from tonight’s first reading our own:

Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked!

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