Written on: September 1, 2015
Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus now cares for this wounded world. At her side in the Holy family stands Joseph. He cared for and defended Mary and Jesus delivering them from the violence of the unjust. He can teach us how to show care. He can inspire us to work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world. LAUDATO SI (Ch. 6, VIII) encyclical letter of Pope Francis.
In these words, Pope Francis is speaking of the Holy Family as a model for Families today.
For over 30 years families have been a part of my life as a Social worker for Catholic Social Services in our Family Service Outreach Centers in Philadelphia and in Levittown,Pa. My ministry beings me into contact with families who may need food, clothing, shelter financial aid, counseling and/or pregnancy services among other concerns. Families of varying races, cultures and languages, the young and the old, are welcome. Another important aspect of what we do here is to provide connections to resources that may be available in the area. We help families access and complete applications to receive the available services. For example, transportation is very limited in Bucks County. Providing tokens to catch a bus may help to keep a person working.
Single parents often need help in providing for their newborn babies. Hard working parents need help with educating their children and providing school supplies. Volunteers and donors are partners in our ministry to those in need. We depend on their partnership with us. Mary’s Food Cupboard provides food and supplies three times a week to needy families. Over 83 volunteers, men and women, most of them seniors participate in this endeavor.
In a recent Sunday Inquirer, I was struck by a few lines in an article by Orlando Barone, a writer from Doylestown. He writes, “The Pope asks us to not merely swipe a credit card at them, (the poor) but to TOUCH them as Jesus did ACCOMPANY them in their strife, WORK with them, take their JOURNEY as part of our own.”
At our Family center in Levittown, we cannot solve everyone’s problems with money but we can be welcoming and compassionate and treat everyone with dignity and respect.
Over a year ago, it came to my attention that we were seeing many grandmothers requesting help for their grandchildren. These older women are the primary caregivers of their grandchildren, ranging in age from toddlers to teens. These women are assuming responsibility for the children because the parents could not or chose not to care for the child. We all know the many reasons this is happening. In the past 30 years there has been a significant increase in the number of grand-parent headed families. Census data indicates that there are approximately 2.4 million grandparents raising 2.5 million children.
We now have a program we call The Grandparent Café, a support group which meets twice a month. The women come together to experience some time for themselves, a time to enjoy some conversation, refreshment, and support. They exchange ideas; listen to each other’s stories; receive information about resources to help them in their struggles to parent these children. We even have a great-grandparent in our group caring for a beautiful, active 2 year old!
Orlando Barone ends his article by reminding us that when Jesus was told that his mother and brothers had arrived, he looked around and said, “These are my mother and brothers.” When Pope Francis celebrates the World Meeting of Families, he will be celebrating this truth that “we are all family.”
Sister Pat Kelly was featured in the Bucks County Courier Times last year for her work with families. She lives what she believes- “we are all family” -every day.