Believe me – Albany in February is not a junket to a Caribbean Island! Much thanks and appreciation to all the Catholic Charities people who made the trek in menacing weather earlier this week to speak about the needs of very vulnerable New Yorkers to our elected and appointed New York State officials. About 75 Catholic Charities leaders from Montauk to Niagara Falls spoke about the need for New York State to continue and enhance its commitment to provide help and create hope for New Yorkers in need of assistance to live their lives in dignity. We spoke about basics: a safe affordable place to live and sufficient nutritious food. We talked about the protection and nurturing that children need when tragically families do not provide these. We mentioned those with disabilities – made in God’s image and likeness – who need a little or a lot of extra help to live their lives with dignity. That’s why we went – even as many of our conversations dealt with the technicalities of government contracting, funding, and regulations – necessary to ensure accountability. (NB I’m not endorsing every regulation and in fact much of our focus was how to cut the red tape while maintaining control and accountability.)
Maybe to the surprise of some, or even many, we encountered so many public officials committed to fulfilling their responsibilities to ensure that New York State is a compassionate and just place to live. I mention this because the media, rightly, reports on those who fail in these responsibilities and abuse their positions. (In fact, I rode the elevator yesterday with more than one official who recently was in the news for such abuses.)
This is the 5th year that Catholic Charities agencies from the Archdiocese of New York went to Albany to speak about these issues. This year the day was expanded to include Catholic Charities leaders from throughout New York State. This added to the day’s value and demonstrated the reach of Catholic Charities work into each of the 62 counties of New York State.
There are three particular parts of the day worth sharing and reflecting upon:
- The dedication of the Catholic Charities people who made the trip and spoke so passionately and intelligently about the people we help;
- The widespread appreciation for that work expressed by our public officials who recognize the value we bring their communities (would they might say this more often and a bit more publicly, but…) and;
- The overarching focus was not the institutional needs of agencies, but rather the needs of our neighbors – of all religions – each made in God’s image and likeness.
It wasn’t a junket to a Caribbean Island, but not a bad way to spend on an early February day – there was warmth, joy and inspiration. I’m glad I went. Thanks much to those who made the effort.