On Feb. 14, we begin our Lenten journey with Ash Wednesday. These 40 days are a time when we can give things up, prioritize prayer, grow closer to God, and find ways to care more for the good of others than for self. We do this to prepare ourselves for the joy of Easter morning when we celebrate that Christ has risen!
As I begin to think about my own Lenten journey, I have been drawn to the parable of the Good Samaritan. Who today is lying by the side of the road needing my help? Who has been forgotten or marginalized? How can I reach out to support the stranger?
St. Augustine said, “Do you wish your prayer to fly toward God? Make for it two things: fasting and almsgiving.”
On Ash Wednesday, parishes throughout the Diocese of Burlington will take up a collection to support the outreach work of Vermont Catholic Charities. For more than 95 years, Vermont Catholic Charities has met individuals and families where they are — serving anyone in need, regardless of their faith, gender, race, or ethnicity. Serving means walking alongside our neighbors in need, making sure they are seen and heard. It means allowing ourselves to experience some part of their pain, so that we can truly connect with them, so that we can help them to find services and resources that will ease their burdens.
Guided by our faith, we do what we do because we are Catholic, not because those we serve are Catholic.
The clients that come to our “doors” are some of the most vulnerable in our communities. Due to budgetary constraints and increased needs because of rising costs, we are calling on you to join us in being a Good Samaritan so we can continue to serve fellow Vermonters. The work that you will support will help transform people’s lives.
Emergency Aid: Assisting more than 2,100 children and adults
Betty cares for her adult daughter and was concerned about how they would pay for their next fuel bill as the colder days of winter approached. “Thank you for ensuring we have continuous heat in our home,” she said.
Prison Ministry Transition Assistance: Helping more than 28 clients
Mike had just been released after 12 years of incarceration and was in desperate need of warm clothing as well as items to help set up his residence. Vermont Catholic Charities provided vouchers to help acquire the items he needed. “I am grateful for this support to assist me in getting a good start to re-establishing myself as a productive member of the community,” he said.
Counseling Services: Supporting more than 160 clients a year
Megan and Dan shared the impact of counseling on their relationship: “Our marriage was good the first few years, and then we became overwhelmed with the stressors of children, work, etc. and in addition did not have good communication and conflict-resolving skills. We lived in silent misery and even considered divorce but are so glad we decided to go to marriage therapy. Our marriage is better than ever.”
Residential Care Homes: Caring for more than 150 residents a year with more than 80 percent on Medicaid
“How do we measure how grateful our families are for the wonderful care given to our mother and our children’s grandmother and our children’s children’s great grandmother? You have a magical way of making it all work so seamlessly. Our mother is always made to feel comfortable, special, and dignified. You do this and so much more with such grace!”
As we begin this Lenten journey together, we ask you to prayerfully consider participating in the Ash Wednesday collection — any gift, no matter the size, makes a difference. As a Catholic community, let us be the hands and feet of Christ to our neighbors in need. Let us be like the Good Samaritan who bent down to the stranger in need and took care of him. Let Christ’s love shine through our actions.
Donations can be mailed to Vermont Catholic Charities, 55 Joy Drive, South Burlington, VT 05403 or made online at vermontcatholic.org/ministries-programs/catholic-charities/ash-wednesday-appeal.
May you have a Blessed Lent,
Mary Beth Pinard
Executive Director of Vermont Catholic Charities