The fifth Sunday of Lent—Solidarity
Written by Sunnie Lain, Director of Conferences and Community Outreach.
“[Solidarity] is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people, both near and far. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.”
–On Social Concern (Sollicitudo rei Socialis. . . ), #38
The Catholic Social Teaching theme of solidarity may be one of the most challenging and least understood teachings of the Catholic faith. Living in solidarity with each other means that we fully understand that we belong to each other, and we are responsible for each other. It is our duty to work together to make sure that the needs of our neighbors are met. In reference to the principle of solidarity, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) writes, “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers and sisters keepers, wherever they may be… at the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that if you want peace, work for justice… The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers”.
A key element of embracing solidarity is seeing that in order for us to address issues, we must work with the people who are most affected by those issues. It is not our place as “helpers” to dictate what people’s needs are, or to determine for them the best way in which to meet those needs. The goal of St. Vincent de Paul’s work is to work with those in need to determine the reasons why they are in poverty, and what needs to be done in order for them to work toward being self-sustaining. We see ourselves as partners and friends who provide support, but we know that the people we serve know best what they need.
In our Conferences, the Home Visit is at the core of our ministry. When we meet with those we serve in their homes, our primary role is to listen. We ask questions like, “what would you like your life to look like?” and, “What do you think your most pressing need is?” We then work with them to craft a plan to move them forward and give them hope. When an individual or family comes into one of our shelters or housing programs, we learn about the unique situation that has led them to homelessness and work with them, recognizing their own gifts, challenges, and needs. We know that a “one size fits all” approach is not what we are called to use. In our Voice of the Poor advocacy program, we stand as one voice for the people we serve and encourage lawmakers to make choices that lift up the poor. Most of all, we never forget that the work of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul is to “see Christ in the Face of the Poor”.
These last weeks of Lent are a good time to look at the choices we are making and think about how we can stand with those in poverty. How can you heed the call to help our brothers and sisters in need?
Please consider helping us in that mission part of your plans this Lent: Give Hope
“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. . .If [one] part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy”.