Drawing on personal experiences as former Archbishop for the Military Services and current Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, Cardinal Edwin O’Brien paralleled sacrifices made in humanitarian service to the works of Catholic Charities in a keynote address at the annual Come and See Dinner.
The event, now in its 12th year, raises funds to support Catholic Charities’ Homes for Healing: the Interfaith Shelter for Homeless Families, Lourdeshouse Maternity Home for women and their babies, and Evergreen House for women recovering from addiction.
Catholic Charities tends to the needs of men, women and children, regardless of their age, race or religious belief.
“Catholic Charities is open to all those who are looking for help,” Cardinal O’Brien said at the dinner, held Oct. 30 at the Cardinal Keeler Center in Harrisburg.
“The sacrifices you make are not simply out of humanitarian concern. The sacrifices you make, you make as Christians, as Catholics, who see with the eyes of Christ and reach out with the heart of Christ,” he told Catholic Charities staff, benefactors and dinner attendees.
The former Archbishop of Baltimore, appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, Cardinal O’Brien currently serves as the Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of Jerusalem. The order, formed in 1847 by Pope Pius IX, supports parishes, schools and humanitarian aid in the Church in Jerusalem, and is made up of some 30,000 members worldwide, including a number of men, women and priests in the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Father John Bateman, a priest of the Diocese of Harrisburg, currently serves as Secretary to Cardinal O’Brien, who resides in Vatican City. The cardinal said his gratefulness for Father Bateman’s service and his friendship with the late Cardinal William Keeler made him especially pleased to offer the keynote at the Come and See Dinner.
“Pope Francis has brought to the forefront the need for reaching out to the poor, the sick and the homeless,” Cardinal O’Brien remarked.
He spoke of the papal almoner, an archbishop who walks the streets of Rome every night to see what the needs of the people are, and disburses funds and assistance accordingly; the establishment of facilities in Rome for food and shelter; and of the pope’s outreach to those in need during his papal trips.
Pope Francis insists on “skin-to-skin, person-to-person contact…to get intimately involved” with the poor and the sick, the cardinal said.
“It’s a wonderful goal for us to strive to, and Catholic Charities is a community that assists us in that striving,” he said.
The Homes for Healing, located in Harrisburg, serve residents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at no charge to clients.
The Interfaith Shelter provides 30-day emergency shelter, assistance in securing permanent housing, food, clothing and baby supplies, and referrals for employment, healthcare and child care.
Lourdeshouse provides maternity care and residential services to pregnant women and their babies, including childbirth education, parenting classes, transportation and aftercare.
Evergreen House provides a safe and secure environment for women recovering from addiction. The program helps them achieve long-term recovery, find stable housing and learn job skills.
Cardinal O’Brien urged that no one should be apologetic in their service to make the world a better place.
He spoke of a visit he made to Iraq while serving as Archbishop of the Military Services. One of his flights out of Baghdad during that weeklong trip was carrying the body of a member of the 82nd Airborne Division.
As then-Archbishop O’Brien prayed the Rosary during the hour-and-a-half flight to Kosovo, he prayed that the deceased soldier knew that his service was a good.
“I prayed, ‘If only Francisco knew what he was doing was fulfilling a vocation,’” Cardinal O’Brien relayed.
“You should not be apologetic to serve your country,” he said. “What happens when you serve your country in the right way? Christ defines himself as one who came to serve and not be served….Why do we serve, if not to bring peace to our communities and peace to our world?”
The cardinal also recalled a visit with General James Jones, Jr., retired United States Marine Corps General and former United States National Security Advisor.
The general had frequently given speeches to young Marines during commissioning ceremonies at Quantico, and on one particular occasion decided to bring in a successful civilian to share his experiences as a Marine. The civilian, now a businessman, told those assembled the three most important words he learned as a Marine: Officers come last.
“The last will be first, the first will be last. It’s a good message for all of us,” Cardinal O’Brien reflected.
“Are you first? Are you here to get, or are you here to give? The more you sacrifice yourself and give of yourself, the happier you will be, and the better this world will be,” he said.
The Come and See Dinner is the chief fund-raising event for the Homes for Healing, and annually features a silent auction of sports and history memorabilia, raffles of donated items and gift baskets, a catered meal and a keynote speaker.
“At Catholic Charities, we work with the sick, the suffering, the dying, the lonely, the aged, the homeless, people in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes,” said Mark Totaro, CEO of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Harrisburg. “We treat all of them with dignity, and we see the face of Christ in everyone we minister to.”
“Ninety percent of our clients are not Catholic,” he said. “We do what we do because we are Catholic.”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness
How to Help
You can support Catholic Charities’ Homes for Healing – the Interfaith Shelter for Homeless Families, Lourdeshouse Maternity Home and Evergreen House – with financial gifts, wish-list items and gift cards. For information on how you can help, visit http://www.cchbg.org/donate/ or contact Chris Meehan, Director of Development for Catholic Charities, at 717-657-4804, ext. 284, or email@example.com.