In a time that may feel overwhelming, it’s good to remember that it’s often individuals who tackle a problem and make a difference in the world.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Beatitudes as shedding light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of the Christian life; they are the paradoxical promises that sustain hope in the midst of tribulations. The Beatitudes also call on us to act as individuals — as do so many other areas of the Gospel.
We’ve seen so many instances in the Archdiocese of St. Louis where individuals make a difference, and we are so much better for it. On a grand scale, examples include the late Edith Cunnane who founded St. Patrick Center, a Catholic Charities agency that provides opportunities for self-sufficiency and dignity to people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. On a bitterly cold day in the early 1980s, Cunnane asked a group of people why they were outside. One man responded, “Lady, where do you think I would be welcome today?” This was the inspiration that surged her forward with a new mission that gave a voice and face to people experiencing homelessness. In partnership with the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Catholic Charities of St. Louis and Msgr. Robert Slattery, Cunnane founded St. Patrick Center in 1983.
Then there’s the late Dr. Peter Danis. When Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter was considering a tribute to Cardinal John Joseph Glennon, who led the archdiocese from 1903 to 1946, Dr. Danis approached with a proposal to build a memorial hospital for children and a pledge never to turn them away for a lack of funds. Leo Wieck, Frank J. Guyol, and the Franciscan Sisters of Mary are among the individuals and societies who worked to make the dream a reality.
Sts. Joachim and Ann Care Service in St. Charles was founded in 1981 by five volunteers, with $500 and a desire to help others. Little did those five realize how far their dedication to assisting those in need would go, or how many thousands of people would be empowered, encouraged and uplifted by that spirit.
In this week’s issue of the Review is the story of the Our Lady of the Holy Cross Senior Center, which is filling a gap and making inroads in bringing people together, helped along by a grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It was begun by individuals who saw a need and acted.
There are the countless others who do many smaller things, perhaps with a Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference, a parish group or on their own tutoring students perhaps. They are driven to be peacemakers, full of mercy, full of righteousness.
So let’s not despair over an election or bickering that goes on over so many other issues. We can make a big difference, even when we act on our own.