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'The revolution of tenderness'

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We trust that during the Jubilee Year of Mercy many of you will join us in our efforts to live out the gospel message.

Debbie
Rambo

With great anticipation for all of us at Catholic Charities, on Dec. 8, Pope Francis opened the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica marking the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. In doing so, Pope Francis called each of us to take better care of one another, and more -- "I continue to say that today the revolution (needed) is that of tenderness, because justice and all the rest comes from it. We have to cultivate the revolution of tenderness today as a fruit of this Year of Mercy, the tenderness of God toward each one of us." (Pope Francis, Dec. 2)

This is what we aspire to in all that we do each and every day at Catholic Charities. Guided by our mission to build a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people, we work to advocate on behalf of those who have no voice and provide services designed to help people along the path to self-sufficiency.

Sadly, for some of our friends and neighbors the path to self-sufficiency is getting more and more difficult.

For example, one recent fall day at the Catholic Charities Yawkey Center Food Pantry in Dorchester, 375 people waited in line to receive food assistance, more than double the typical number for this time of year. Among these families are more young people than ever before, who despite maintaining jobs and often pursuing higher education are unable to afford their increasing rents, utility bills and student debt. Truly, the face of hunger in our community is changing.

More and more families are struggling with addiction -- especially addiction that began with a prescription for pain medication. In 2014, doctors in Massachusetts, which has a population of just over 6.7 million people, wrote 4.6 million prescriptions for opioids totaling more than 255 million pills, according to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health estimated 1,256 people died of unintentional opioid overdoses in 2014, a rate of nearly four people a day. Our Family Counseling and Guidance Center in Danvers offers counseling services for those struggling with addiction. At Catholic Charities Laboure Center, located in South Boston -- one of the communities hardest hit by the opioid crisis -- Recovering Connections reaches out to grandparents who find themselves raising their grandchildren because their parents are not able to be present in their children's lives. Our support services for grandparents raising their grandchildren are also available at Catholic Charities Merrimack Valley and Catholic Charities South.

Some of our children live in neighborhoods that are unsafe because of gang presence and gun violence. The Catholic Charities Teen Center at St. Peter's, located in one of the city of Boston's toughest neighborhoods reaches out to middle and high school students -- ensuring that they have a safe place for academic support and recreation -- and a path to educational success.

These are but a few examples of the work of Catholic Charities -- and work that we could never do alone. We partner with so many -- state agencies, other non-profits, funders and scores of volunteers -- in our efforts to assist children and families. We trust that during the Jubilee Year of Mercy many of you will join us in our efforts to live out the gospel message. We look forward to welcoming you as a volunteer, as a donor or as an ambassador for our work.

On behalf of all of us at Catholic Charities and those that we are so privileged to serve, thank-you for the support you have given us throughout the year, and our best wishes to you and your families for a Blessed Christmas and a healthy, Happy New Year!

Go to www.ccab.org to learn more about our work.

DEBORAH KINCADE RAMBO IS PRESIDENT OF CATHOLIC CHARITIES OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON.

Deborah Kincade Rambo is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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