At Catholic Charities St. Augustine, our mission is to put our faith into action to serve the most vulnerable in our community. Each day, as we live out our call to make a difference, we are guided not only by the compassion of God in Christ, but also by the teachings of the Catholic Church.

These social teachings provide wisdom in navigating a life of holiness and integrity amidst the challenges of modern society. At the heart of the Church, there are seven key themes – each of which guide and encourage our organization to stay rooted in tradition and focused on our mission.

As we dive deeper into each teaching, we hope to illustrate why we serve while highlighting how we center our programs in the community around these lessons, providing hope where it is needed most.

The first lesson we’re spotlighting – “Option for the Poor and Vulnerable” – is one that has been especially topical for the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the common good stems from the dignity, unity and equality of all people, the Catholic Church teaches that those who are vulnerable and most in need should be our preferential “option” – our main priority and concern. With the divisions between rich and poor deepening more and more each day, this teaching urges each of us to look beyond ourselves and make constant efforts to provide assistance to those facing hardship.

Our work at Catholic Charities St. Augustine has never felt more intensely needed. While local hunger relief has remained a longstanding effort, the number of those needing food assistance has grown significantly over the past several months.

Due to the shifting of the economy, the need for financial assistance steadily increased, too. As individuals and families faced furloughs, lay-offs or limited hours, bills quickly piled up. Without a steady stream of income, many struggled to make ends meet and feared past-due bills, loss of electricity or water and more.

More than ever, our organization is aware of how crucial it is to live out the Church teaching of serving those who need it most before any others. Although few could have prepared for the challenges that would arise from COVID-19, we feel so blessed to still provide support for our neighbors during such difficult times. Since the start of 2020, we distributed more than $270,000 to provide relief to those experiencing a financial crisis.

As we reflect on the previous year and this teaching of the Church, we are reminded of the message of Luke 4:16-21:

“Jesus proclaims his mission: to bring good news to the poor and oppressed.”

When good news feels distant and circumstances feel hopeless, we must lean further into our calling: doing the most we can for those who have the least.

Even now, as we all look to get back on our feet, we know our work is far from finished. If you are facing food insecurity or financial hardship, you are not alone. To learn more about our food and financial assistance programs, please visit ccbstaug.org/our-services/#services.