BOSTON — Catholic Charities celebrated employees, volunteers, donors and the organization’s history at their annual Spring Celebration, which this year was held at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum on June 1.
Brother Celestino Arias, OFM Cap., who will soon be moving on to a new assignment in Africa, was honored for his service of five-and-a-half years during which he helped establish the Teen Center at St. Peter Parish in Dorchester.
The center allows space where teens receive homework help and have the opportunity to participate in sports and dance activities, workshops and field trips. The program has expanded since its opening and now includes resources for children from kindergarten to seventh grade.
Paula Barbosa, an 18-year- old who goes to the center, said she has made friends there and enjoys reaching out to the wider community through service opportunities.
“It’s like a family,” said Barbosa, who attends Elizabeth Seton Academy in Dorchester.
In his remarks Boston Catholic Charities’ president Father J. Bryan Hehir said that children need help to reach their full potential, especially when they face dangerous neighborhoods.
“We are in the midst of the violence of the city, and we seek to tame the violence, help people in the midst of it and to help people to grow in the fullness of their humanity in spite of the violence,” he said.
Catholic Charities also serves the immigrant community and the poor, he said. The organization helped over 200,000 people last year, but strives to meet a growing need.
“We’re doing what we can do, but we need to do more,” he added.
Also honored was Pat Dunn, who is retiring as director of Catholic Charities West.
“It’s been a wonderful adventure being part of Catholic Charities this last decade,” she said.
Father Hehir introduced Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, saying that his constant support and encouragement has sustained Catholic Charities. He also praised the cardinal for his “lifelong commitment to the poor.”
Cardinal O’Malley said that the work of charity is the obligation of every disciple.
“We cannot say we love God whom we cannot see if we do not love the image of God that we find in our brothers and sisters, especially those in need,” he said. “I am very grateful for your commitment and support of Catholic Charities.”
Jeffrey J. Kaneb, who was appointed as chair of the board of trustees in January, said that he arrived in the midst of the controversy over adoption by same-sex couples. Catholic Charities announced on March 10 this year that they would discontinue adoption services.
While this news was covered by most media, much of the good work of Catholic Charities goes unsung, he said.
“We’re not here about headlines,” he said. “We’re here because of the works of Catholic Charities that don’t make the papers.”
Thomas H. O’Connor, Boston College historian, was the celebration’s keynote speaker on the topic of “Catholic Charities in a Changing Church.”
One hundred years before the central organization called the Catholic Charitable Bureau was formed in the early 1900s, Catholics in the archdiocese formed organizations to reach out to those in need. In the face of persecution, they provided for the needs of the poor and homes in which orphaned Catholic children could be raised in the faith, he said.
Several decades later, “Catholics in Boston had essentially won their battles against the earlier forms of 19th century bigotry,” he said. “Now, well into the middle of the 20th century, Catholic social agencies found themselves struggling less with the threats of a militant Protestantism, and more with adjusting to the complex administrative policies and social regulations of various government agencies and bureaus — both at the state and federal level.”
The government had taken over relief programs that had traditionally been carried out by private charitable institutions.
“As we know, it is still a challenging atmosphere in which Catholic Charities continues with its long and consistent tradition of charitable works,” he said.
The organization is poised to articulate more effectively the unique religious values that define its mission of mercy, O’Connor added.
“Although the form may have changed, the mission has always stayed the same,” he said.
That mission will continue to grow and flourish, he said.