Individually, the Catholic social service agencies operating in the Diocese of Trenton make a true difference in the communities where they are located – bringing desperately needed services and resources to the poor and marginalized.
But together, these agencies form a network of care that spans the four counties of the Diocese and fulfills a wide range of needs.
Sharing information and insight, and identifying ways that they can better serve their communities, the Catholic Social Service network of the Diocese of Trenton comes together quarterly at the invitation of Daughter of Charity Sister Joanne Dress, diocesan executive director of Catholic social services.
In their fall meeting, representatives of agencies were visited by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., who took the opportunity to praise them for their work. He said, “You put the faith in action. You give flesh and blood to the faith. You are God’s hands, backbone, sweat and the tears. “
The Bishop continued, “Day in and day out, you see the people we don’t -- people who we will never know – those whose lives are touched by your services.
“I encourage you in the work you do, to make it a prayer, to make each day of your lives a dialogue with the Lord,” the Bishop said.
Each of the agencies, from the expansive umbrella of Catholic Charities, to Good Counsel Homes, which provides a home and support for pregnant women in crisis, reflected on universal trends they continue to see in their work. Whether running food pantries, thrift shops, job networking or rental assistance, the shared sentiment is that struggles from the slow economy and Superstorm Sandy persist in the lives of many.
“The economy for a bunch of these folks hasn’t changed,” reported Sal Cortale, executive director of Project Paul , which is located in Keansburg and serves the Bayshore area.
Many of the agency leaders underscored the importance of people who support their ministries with their time and treasure. Several reported that the generosity of others through holiday food drives and matching grants make it possible for food shelves to be restocked and outreach programs staffed.
Sister Joanne emphasized the need to do more than charitable works when helping the poor. “Yes, we need to give charity. We also need to do things to change the system so people don’t go back into the poverty they were in,” Sister Joanne said, underscoring that systemic change has become a priority for such groups as the St. Vincent de Paul Society, both nationally and locally.