Last week’s homily is passed onto today in this blog about what good our annual Archdiocese Appeal does. You will hear a short audio homily from Cardinal Gregory today on Appeal Commitment Sunday, aimed to today’s readings. We are in the Gospel of Matthew for many Sundays in 2023. At the start of its message, it speaks of a great light coming forth from the Holy Land’s north, in Galilee. It refers to Jesus and His message, bringing enlightenment to so many about who God is and how He made humanity to live. Jesus brings the Light of Good News, that God will work and live among His people, and He will bring us into salvation. His plan is to have us start living anew in “the kingdom of God.”
Annually in this Archdiocese around this time of year, we have an Appeal for parishioners to give to the collection that can bring much good into our local Church of Washington under Cardinal Gregory and its 139 parish territory of DC and five Maryland counties. It is an effort of charity and support. The assistance comes on like a bright sun after long, rainy days. At Resurrection/Riderwood, we supported last year’s Appeal generously, with 100% given of our parish goal as set by the Archbishop and his team. He thanked me personally in a meeting two Saturdays ago. He thanks all of us for support to 70 different recipients of our charity, in which I list in our parish bulletin for you.
T he Appeal goal across the Archdiocese of Washington is to do as good as last year, when our 139 parishes raised $11 million. It went straight to areas of need such as in $1.2 million to Pro Life and Family ministries; $1.5 million for chaplaincies to universities, hospitals and prisons; $1.8 million to Social Justice-Catholic Charities ministries; and $2 million for catechesis (for Catholic reduction of costs and for Religious Education Parochial programs). In addition, $4.2 million was shared for Vocations support; Seminary Education in Washington to our own; and for some clergy and religious support. Lastly, $700,000 was given for Communications efforts of outreach. Bravo!
How does this match with the Scriptures? The answer: we live these Scriptures and we share forth our Light of Jesus. Take for example, this reading and its admonition in Isaiah 58. The prophetic Word of God says: “Share your bread with the hungry; shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them; and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” When about 2 million dollars goes to Catholic Charities from this Appeal and is given forth to people in need—that is a radiant response to the need of the poor who lack clothing, food, or drink—and the Light of Jesus shines through the effort. We indeed do share, shelter, clothe, and feed! The Catholic Church takes some happiness in the witness of our charity, as we try to model to others in Christianity as well as in government bodies of just how important it is to our humanity—to care for one another.
If you know Matthew’s Gospel, then you see how it builds to Our Lord’s message recorded in chapter 25, which is when Jesus evaluates people into sheep or goats, noticing who has cared for their neighbor or not. As often as you did care for a neighbor—particularly the least among the world’s notice—so often did you love God in the action. Being a true Jesus-hearted disciple is properly responding to His question: Who is your neighbor? Whom are you to love?
Jesus asked that once of a religious man as a key question of whether their heart would be open to the kingdom of God and salvation or not. Would that man care for others with his wealth? Jesus implies that to seek doing good for neighbors, is to seek and find The Lord and your call. In the start of the Sermon of the Mount, Jesus is talking about our receiving the Gospel so then to be sharing the light of God to many neighbors. He has taught the Beatitudes, so then He adds that, for the kingdom to be yours, as given to you from God, “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
We have many ways to share the Light of Jesus. The Appeal and your support is just one way, surely, but it is unique in that it is a common witness of light from the whole Washington area Church, under its apostle, Wilton Cardinal Gregory. Here are some words from the 112th Psalm: “The just man is a light in darkness to the upright… well for that man/woman who is gracious and lends…who conducts their affairs with justice…when lavishly they give to the poor or folks in need. ” $11 million dollars is a lavish gift, and it only can be reached by the acts of thousands of people giving from 139 parishes. A few hundred of you in this parish were those 2022 contributors. Thank you!
What does that corporally provide? We can look at one category of the Appeal, of the support for chaplains to hospitals, prisons, and universities. Those institutions do not pay us to come and serve, such as is at White Oak Adventist Hospital. They pay their Adventist chaplains, but any Catholic clergy is paid by the Church for their service at an institution. The Appeal provides a salary for a working chaplain to be there. It helps to have chaplains at the many hospitals in our area, because the parish priests having a limited ability to cover the needs. Southern Maryland Hospital Center in Clinton has a dedicated full-time priest chaplain, who has served there for 25 years. He is an Archdiocesan priest who does not have a parish or salary, but he is paid by the Annual Appeal. He makes a big difference in service to the sick and dying. When he lived with me for four years, in his service to St. Mary’s hospital 30 years ago, I once counted in his hospital log how many Last Rite Anointings he did in a year in that local hospital—it was over 1,000!
In our case, with our new local hospital of White Oak, it has just started that we have a priest chaplain from the Appeal to serve us ahead to cover hospital needs and emergency calls for White Oak Adventist Hospital/Medical Center.
Fr. Pius has moved in to our rectory. He belongs to a Dominican Religious Order community who have a house in northeast DC, but his placement here will keep him closer to the hospital. Two of his fellow Dominican priests in DC cover DC hospitals or chaplaincy work, too. I believe both are paid a salary through the Appeal.
Let’s talk college chaplains. The Appeal is helping the nearby University of Maryland have a paid Archdiocese priest chaplain and paid office helpers, to the benefit of our Catholic young students. Howard, American University, and Galludet have chaplains too. Galludet has a deaf priest who ministers in ASL to the university as well as at a deaf center in our Landover Hills parish.
In the pro-life category, St. Ann’s Center for Infants and Parents of Need is one beneficiary of funds for their operations out of the Archdiocese Appeal, among the 1.2 million dollars in that category. If you have ever seen their operation, then I know you were blessed by its witness—housing and support program for unwed new mothers and their babies. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s order of sisters began that work in DC in the 1860’s—it still is needed, maybe more than ever!
The St. Ann Center workers could echo the epistle words of St. Paul: “I am serving among you as in weakness, trembling and surely God-reliance. I am demonstrating what is can be like to trust in the Holy Spirit’s power. God’s love in us, and of what can be done in charity of faith.”
We give to ministries and their ministers, as they look to their brothers and sisters in faith for support, so that they can then do a work in the Holy Spirit to meet difficult social needs out there. That’s the “appeal” of the Appeal. In conclusion, we realize how some people right here at Mass provide aid with day-to-day services in areas, such as health, public, or education. We applaud you for your living out that loving call. We know it can be exhausting and challenging work, and sometimes, to take off the pressure, you have shared that you find you can get by in using a sense of humor in your tasks.
A nurse said, “I weighed a woman to put her weight on the medical chart, and the patient was 189 pounds and bit uneasy about it, and asked me, ‘Can you please take off 9 from that Measurement?’ So I said to the patient, ‘I will comply with your request, I have taken off 9.’ Then the doctor walked in, saw the chart, and said, ‘Ma’am, I see by your chart you are down to 18 total pounds of weight! How can it be?!’ The nurse winked and said, ‘The patient weighed 189 but she asked me to take off 9, so I put 18 instead of 189.'” It gave them all a laugh.
One more: a man calls frantically to OB-GYN at the hospital, saying, “This is Hal Guzman, my 2020 bride Shelly Guzman is in labor. Her contractions at two minutes apart! I have called for an ambulance.” The hospital employee says, “Good, stay calm, Hal. How does Shelly look?” He says, “Not so bad, just anxious.” He hears the employee say,”OK, may I ask you Hal, how old is Shelly?” He answers 42. The employee ask next, “Is this her first child?” There is a pause on the phone, as it sounds like Hal is flustered. They ask again, “Is this her first child?” Hal answers wildly, “Of course not! I am not her first child! I am her husband!”
But God bless all of us who are situations to be of help to others. Let us be good neighbors and understanding and compassionate to those in need or crisis. Amen.