What a blessing my journey continues to be! My career has been marked by opportunities to serve those that are poor, not only in the economic sense, but those suffering from physical, mental and emotional impoverishment, and those who feel broken, unloved and forgotten. Pope Francis has called us to "be attentive to the needs of the poor, the suffering, the lonely, for whoever has chosen to love Jesus cannot but love his neighbor”. My pledge as Director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Lexington (CCDL) is to always strive to let my words and actions be completely informed by this primary call to all who follow Jesus Christ.
Let me share a bit of my journey with you, hoping that it will assist in eliciting your confidence in my abilities, and your support for all of our leadership roles for CCDL. Forty years ago I came to Lexington to pursue my college degree at the University of Kentucky. I grew up in the beautiful and wondrous mountains of eastern Kentucky. My warm and welcoming hometown of Lynch and my amazing, loving, and quite large, Italian family provided a strong supportive framework as I prepared to chase my dreams. But the culture shock of the "big city” left me wanting to run back to the mountains almost immediately. I remember my parents telling me I should find a parish to provide me comfort and support. I did, and The Newman Center at UK filled with young faithful and engaging people was exactly what my parents had hoped for me. I found lasting friendships and an environment that helped feed my yearning for spiritual nourishment. As I began my quest to identify what "I wanted to be when I grew up”, The Newman Center faith community helped me process what my values truly were, and recognize the things I was most passionate about. I was advised to do some volunteer work at Catholic Charities, then known as Catholic Social Service Bureau (CSSB).
My experiences during those years of volunteering and subsequently becoming employed at CSSB largely contributed to who I am and what I do today.
After eleven years of this foundational work, I left CSSB to work in other agencies in the community and across the state. I have accepted an array of opportunities to serve, grow and further develop, define and refine what I am called to do in my career. I became an advocate and a voice for those who live in fear and despair. I worked with others in our community to develop programs and services that would offer pathways for those who are economically disadvantaged and suffering from physical, emotional and mental disorders. I am humbled by all I have been a part of and grateful that God provided the guidance I needed to serve so many.
Through these years of service, however, I was slow to realize there was a critical missing piece to my ‘career”. I was given enlightenment when I pondered the offer to accept the opportunity to serve as the Director of Catholic Charities. Just as I had been given the freedom to express my Catholic faith through my work so many years ago, I would again be able to embrace and provide witness to Catholic Social Teachings. I know that my faith was always with me but I had been restrained internally and in some ways externally to bear witness. What a profound step in my journey!
I invite all to join me and the Staff of Catholic Charities in our expression of the compassion and tenderness of God, as our agency strives to meet the critical needs of all the communities throughout the Diocese of Lexington. As we work to protect the dignity of others when they are being threatened, we must do so in solidarity.
- Ginny Vicini is the Director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Lexington
What does Pope Benedict XVI mean when he implores us to be "organizers of love”? How does Pope Francis expect us to respond when he challenges us to be "salt, leaven and light providing a beacon of hope to those in need?” Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) attempts to address those questions in its strategic plan for 2017-2022 published as a booklet called "A New Moment”.
The reflection uses Luke 10:30-37 to guide our thinking by recalling the Parable of the Good Samaritan, but with a twist! To quote the booklet, "As Catholic Charities today we are called to be both Good Samaritans and Good Innkepers...we must be ever new and compassionate Samaritans as well as fair and attentive Innkeepers.”
Most of us understand the Good Samaritan image. We expect Catholic Charities staff to administer (metaphorically speaking) "wine, oil and bandages” to the robbed and wounded through our counseling program, Bridging the Gap assistance, pregnancy counseling and adoption services. Our benefactors and donors hand over the "denarii” or silver coins that provide ongoing help through direct service staff.
But our "inn” is the agency. Through our director, office manager and board, our institution guarantees that there will be long-term support for those who come to recover and/or grow in strength and resiliency. These people are the "agents who organize love as a corporate ministry of the Church”, who provide structures that not only care for and sustain individuals, but advocate for and model "just structures that humanize and transform our communities”. This less visible aspect is just as essential as the more obvious roles of direct service providers. It carries on when the "Good Samaritan” moves on to personal priorities. It guarantees that services continue when a provider moves to a position elsewhere or a donor dies. It creates new programs as new needs arise. It tracks outcomes and proposes improvements. It challenges us to think about what we are doing and how we are doing it.
CCUSA’s reflection becomes more personal as it asks us to reflect on the following four questions:
1) Where do you experience the Spirit "stirring” in your ministry these days?
2) How are both Good Samaritan and Innkeeper in the work you are about?
3) Who are the pople you see "lying by the side of the road”, struggling and vulnerable?
4) How do you extend mercy and compassion to these people?
CCUSA’s response was divided into two forms of action: innovate and elevate. Its plan challenges us to innovate affordable housing, integrated health and nutrition, immigration and refugee services and leadership development/Catholic identity. It hopes we will elevate disaster services, social enterprise initiatives and advocacy/social policy initiatives.
Pray with us as we ponder these challenges and encounter new people needing "neighbors”. Consider how God is calling you to be a Good Samaritan or Innkeeper. Thank you for all the past ways you have helped our clients have a "good day in the neighborhood”; you have empowered some to move from victim to survivior to neighbor!
Your donation will help cover mental health therapy appointments for members of the community. Please consider donating to assist others in situations like the following:
* a newly-single mother of three adolescents, who endured a miserable relationship with her ex-husband for 20 years and is now affected by anxiety regarding her financial future and ability to provide
* a 76-year-old retired law enforcement specialist, who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and is struggling with feelings of depression and anxiety
* a young couple in their first year of marriage, dealing with differences in opinions regarding finances and children, who would like to learn to communicate better during times of stress
* a 30-year-old lawyer with two young children, who is
often reminded of painful, unresolved experiences from her childhood and would like to make peace with her past in order to stay present for and connected to her own children
* a 17-year-old high school student, who has been struggling with self-harm and depression ever since the death of his best friend and would like to improve his functioning so he can pursue his dream of attending culinary school
* a couple and their four children, whose arguments often spiral out of control to the point of yelling and near-violence following the father’s decision to move the family across the country for his job
* a 58-year-old nurse, who divorced her ex-husband 10 years ago but has since not been able to maintain a long-term relationship and would like to explore her patterns of behavior and thought regarding relationships
Join the Challenge!
Catholic Charities is participating in the
2017 GoodGiving Guide Challenge!
Our goal is to raise $10,000; to do so,
we are asking friends and supporters like you
to donate at least $10 to Catholic Charities via
between 9:00 a.m. November 28 and Midnight, December 31.