"What can I do? I am just one person." How many of us have thought that or have even said it out loud?
Perhaps motivated by a sense of humility, that mindset can lead to paralysis and inaction. After all, we live in a world that is inhospitable to our beliefs as Catholics. In contrast, let's examine five specific examples of individuals whose courage and willingness to take a risk made an impact.
St. Katharine Drexel, born into a wealthy Philadelphia family in 1858, would grow up to found the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, an order dedicated to serving Native American and African Americans (many of them former slaves). She was in the vanguard of efforts to promote racial justice in the U.S. She channeled the entirety of her inheritance to the work of the order. The power of one.
St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest working in Poland at the outbreak of World War II, ran a publishing shop and radio station as part of his ministry. He promoted devotion to the Blessed Mother and was identified as a threat to Nazi domination of Poland. Incarcerated at Auschwitz, he ministered to both Christians and Jews in the camp. He earned a martyr's crown when he volunteered to take the place of a man with children, condemned to die. His life inspired numerous Polish Catholics during the years of Communist oppression. He has inspired many others around the world by his heroic charity. The power of one.
Closer to home, a Catholic professional sharing an office suite with a clinical psychologist was asked by the psychologist to speak with a client who was considering becoming a Catholic. The professional invited the woman to RCIA. She has remained in contact with that woman and invested time and energy, as well as some of her own modest resources by helping the woman to start again after devastating health issues. She has also helped her connect with social services able to provide other specific help to her. The power of one.
In another case, a manager at a large Vermont employer was told by a supervisor that an employee was being actively threatened by an ex-boyfriend. The employee being threatened was working that evening, but there was specific and credible information indicating that the boyfriend may be in the facility that evening, despite a restraining order. The manager immediately called the sheriff and hired a deputy for the evening to ensure the safety of that one employee. The manager later learned that the boyfriend was angry because his girlfriend refused to "choose" to have an abortion. The boyfriend's last words to her were, "You will never deliver that baby alive!" The employee did deliver that beautiful and healthy baby boy. The power of one.
Finally, a couple tithes based on their income. As income has increased, their contributions have increased. They support their parish, Catholic schools, the Bishop's Fund, Catholic Relief Services and other Church affiliated and secular charities. The wife comments, "We have been so blessed; we have to share our blessings with others. We have pegged about 10 percent of our income for charity." The power of one.
Most of us are not called to do the extraordinary like St. Katharine Drexel or St. Maximillian Kolbe. Each of them had a unique calling to do acts of profound charity. They used their individual power to do those acts of charity.
Yet we are all called to imitate Jesus Christ. We all have opportunities to show kindness, compassion and charity in our own environment. Sometimes it will be helping a specific troubled person. Sometimes it means protecting a specific person from harm. Sometimes it will be sharing resources generously with others directly or through Church-affiliated or secular charities.
Imagine if everyone reading this column made it their business to look for an opportunity to do at least one charitable act per day. A gracious and encouraging word; spending some time with a lonely person; visiting the sick. Helping to support a food shelf or other charitable endeavors.
The power of one person is great. The power of thousands making a concerted effort to increase the level of charitable action within the diocese is enormous. Each day we have it within our grasp to do just that. In this Year of Mercy, let's get into the habit of doing so. And that is the power of us!
Deacon Pete Gummere, M.S., M.A. serves at Corpus Christi Parish. He is a bioethicist and an adjunct faculty member at Pontifical College Josephinum, where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology in the Josephinum Diaconate Institute.
Deacon Pete Gummere, director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Burlington, serves at Corpus Christi Parish, St. Johnsbury. He is a bioethicist and an adjunct faculty member at Josephinum Diaconate Institute where he teaches courses in medical morality and moral theology.