An ancient, great work of love
Public Policy Outreach Coordinator, TCCB
Christians have always cared for abandoned children and orphans, and welcomed those otherwise without a family into the universal family we call the Church. This practice does not come out of a vacuum but from the long, rich tradition of our Jewish ancestors.
In many biblical stories, God seeks out the poor, the vulnerable, and the abandoned of the world and calls upon his people to embrace them. From Moses, to Ruth, to Esther – just to mention a few – we see how God blesses his people when we open our hearts to others.
Jesus continued this practice of hospitality, exhorting his followers, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. Paul also used filial imagery to describe how we are all children of God through adoption, and can now call God “Abba” or “Father.” In response to such merciful love, we offer specific works of mercy.
The first Christians would rescue infants abandoned to death from exposure. During the Middle Ages, monasteries and convents accepted children from parents who could not care for them. In modern times, Christian ministries and missionaries have established schools, hospitals, and orphanages around the world to care for children. Nuns and other courageous men and women have rescued thousands of children from the Holocaust, prostitution, human trafficking, and war.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church calls on all Christians to become involved in this sacred ministry, as individuals, families, and members of society:
The family should live in such a way that its members learn to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped, and the poor. There are many families who are at times incapable of providing this help. It devolves then on other persons, other families, and, in a subsidiary way, society to provide for their needs: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction….” (2208, quoting James 1:27).
Today, there are 30,000 Texas children in the foster care system, and there are many ways to care for foster families. In partnership with your local diocese, the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB) is developing a ministry to meet this urgent need. There will be details on the ministry for foster families in March 2018.
Meanwhile, please pray for children who are not loved as they ought to be; pray they are offered loving homes. Please consider donating to non-profits such as your local Catholic Charities, supporting a Rainbow Room (http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/Child_Protection/Rainbow_Rooms), providing respite care or a Parent’s Night Out, or volunteering to be a mentor.
Serving these children and their families is how we can say “yes” and honor the God who has welcomed us – indeed, loved us – into his own family.
Rachana Chhin is the public policy outreach coordinator for the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops (TCCB), the association of the Roman Catholic bishops of Texas which represents 15 dioceses and 19 active bishops. Through the TCCB, the bishops provide a moral and social public policy voice, accredit the state’s Catholic schools, and maintain archives that reflect the work and the history of the Catholic Church in Texas.