Catholic Charities West Virginia Employees, Volunteers to Delve into Catholic Social Teaching

 By D.F. Kratzer WEST VIRGINIA— Catholic Charities West Virginia (CCWVa) is forming and planning a program, entitled “Our Catholic Identity: Orientation and Formation,” that will delve into Catholic social teaching. The program, which offers an orientation and workshops, will be provided to current CCWVa employees and volunteers and remain in place for future additions to CCWVa’s family of service and outreach. Tentatively beginning in 2009, the orientation and workshops provide perennial formation for service providers throughout the organization and will use a variety of Catholic social teaching documents—“This Land is Home to Me” and “At Home in the Web of Life,” the pastoral letters from the bishops of Appalachia—videos and discussion to provide a wealth of knowledge concerning the Church’s social teachings. “Catholic social teaching,” said Sister of Charity Mary Louise Lisowski, executive director of CCWVa, “is fundamental to our life. Catholic social teaching is rooted in the Gospel, proclaims the inherent, great dignity of each person. It proclaims our solidarity with the poor and it calls us to mission.” The goal of the program is to help CCWVa employees and volunteers become more familiar with Catholic social teaching “so that in their work they can become motivated by those qualities,” Sister Lisowski said. It is important to inform those working within CCWVa on Catholic social teaching—found in papal encyclicals and documents, Church councils, pastoral letters and a vast array of other exhortations—because it encapsulates the Church’s social mission and is the “foundation of all that we do,” said Mike Vincent, director of CCWVa Southern region. “It is important,” said Teri Monteleone, director of CCWVa Northern Region, “for employees to understand Catholic social teaching to, first of all, know what is expected of them and because Catholic social teaching identifies our work as the social service agency of the Church.” The establishment of the program was inspired by “From Mission to Ministry,” a series of workshops on mission-based leadership and organization development cosponsored by Notre Dame University and Catholic Charities USA that were held at Notre Dame in March and October and attended by Sister Lisowski; Father Pete Giannamore, associate pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Follansbee; Vincent; and Monteleone. Father Giannamore said that Catholic social teaching inspires and leads the faithful to holiness, professes the dignity of the human person, “shows us a way of building or achieving a just society in the face of the challenges of today’s world” and “helps give us an understanding of where the Church thinks that God would want us to be, the positions God would want us to take in society.” In March, Sister Lisowski said, CCWVa began talking about “the meaning of the Catholic identity of an agency and of our agency” and “how you maintain and nurture a Catholic identity,” prompting the development of the program. “What we hope to achieve is employees and staff rooted in and committed to Catholic social teaching with a visible Catholic identity,” Sister Lisowski said. The orientation and formation programs, Vincent said, provide guidance for CCWVa’s employees and emphasize the social justice and advocacy components of the organization’s services. “If someone is going to work for Catholic Charities West Virginia,” Father Giannamore said, “then they have to know where the Catholic Church stands on various problems and issues they will face with people. I think Catholic social teaching gives us a basic summary of that.” All in all, “Our Catholic Identity: Orientation and Formation” will assure that each employee of CCWVa has an understanding of the organization’s mission and goals and how those relate to the Church and its social teachings, giving them “the values that make this organization Catholic,” Sister Lisowski said, “because we are social service providers, but we are Catholic.”