Catholic Charities, the Salt and Light of the World
Friday, November 01, 2013 by Monsignor Michael M. Boland

The headlines in Chicago’s news media have been far too tragic in the last few months.   We have heard how gang violence, repeated shootings, school closings, high unemployment, “food deserts,” and rising school drop-out rates plague the most beleaguered neighborhoods.   With so much bad news, it is easy to think that these neighborhoods are hopeless.

And yet, Catholic Charities has thousands of success stories that come right from these very neighborhoods that are besieged by violence and destruction. 

We at Catholic Charities are fortunate to carry out Jesus’ command for Christians to be the salt and light of the world—we “preserve” human life, “season” lives with help and services, and bring His hope and light to people and neighborhoods that are otherwise shrouded in darkness and despair.   Catholic Charities intentionally goes to the communities who need us the most, and brings services to our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.

As the violence rose with the mercury in many poor neighborhoods this summer, Catholic Charities was also in these communities making a positive impact in the lives of thousands of children and youth.  We kept over 28,000 children safe, off the streets, well-fed with nutritious meals, and participating in physical activities in our Lunch n More program; prepared 1,000 children for entry into kindergarten at 16 Early Childhood Development Centers; provided jobs to almost 100 youths, giving them real-world employment experience and helping them learn the value of education; gave 115 young people the opportunity to participate in Service Learning Projects that helped the homeless and elderly; and provided Professional Development Training to 350 youth, teaching them important job skills in the areas of communication, customer service, financial literacy, stress management and conflict resolution.

In addition to improving the lives of children and youth, Catholic Charities makes a difference in the lives of the elderly, veterans, the homeless, and struggling families in every corner of the City, and throughout Cook and Lake counties.  From beautiful housing complexes that shine like beacons of hope in blighted neighborhoods, to safe and clean Food Centers that provide access to nutritious foods in what are considered veritable food deserts (communities with no grocery store), to vibrant senior activity and meal centers, and everything in between, Catholic Charities is bringing hope where hope is needed most.  With 157 programs at 162 service locations, we are creating communities of salt and light throughout the Archdiocese of Chicago.

At Catholic Charities’ Annual Meeting on October 29, we released a position paper titled Creating Communities of Safety and Stability that outlines some of the wonderful impacts that Catholic Charities makes in poor communities.   We wrote this paper to serve as a counterbalance to the negative headlines we are confronted with on a daily basis.  With the help of Catholic Charities, police departments, churches, schools, and community groups working together, these communities are not as hopeless and full of despair as they are portrayed.  In fact, the resilience and fortitude of the residents of these areas is nothing short of astounding, and can serve as proof of Christ’s presence in our lives.

I encourage you to read Creating Communities of Safety and Stability, available at, and learn how you can get involved.  Together we can salt the poorest neighborhoods and bring Christ’s light to those who need it most. 

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