Volunteers: Putting Faith into Action

As we approach Christmas and the end of the year, the thoughts of many Catholics turn to various kinds of giving. This week, Sally O’Dwyer speaks to us of giving through volunteering.


Volunteers Debra and Eileen

By: Sally O’Dwyer, Staff Spotlight

Many who seek to volunteer at Catholic Charities cite their faith as their motivation. Here are some answers to the question on our volunteer application, “Why do you want to volunteer for Catholic Charities?”

I want to share my joy of the Gospel! I want to be a servant in imitation of Christ. I recognize Catholic Charities as a leader in service. Through volunteering, I want to serve especially those most vulnerable and in need.

I feel that God has been so good to me and blessed me more times than I could count, and sustained me in some of my darkest hours….It’s time to step-up.

 I would like to put my hands to work. A song that I was taught as a child said, “We are the body of Christ.” I always took that as we should live a life as Jesus would and instead of watching TV, I would much rather be helping others.

Pope Francis, in his teaching, the Joy of the Gospel, points out that the “Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.” Volunteers joining Catholic Charities accept this invitation, seeking the opportunity serve the poor. Like the Good Samaritan, they want to offer hope and help to strangers. Although volunteers ask for nothing in return, Pope Francis writes that “when we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts.”


Volunteers in the food pantry at Christ House

Many of our volunteers are prosperous. According to Forbes, the Diocese of Arlington is home to some of the wealthiest counties (Falls Church, Loudoun and Fairfax) in the US.

Nonetheless, they want to be, like Jesus, close to the poor.  They are aware that among the wealth in this area, there are many who are struggling to survive. Through Catholic Charities, they are able to touch the lives of their neighbors who are hurting in some way. These neighbors are suffering poverty, whether it be material or spiritual. They may be homeless, unemployed, single-parent families, elderly, disabled, immigrants or refugees, or the imprisoned. They may also be those who are experiencing loneliness, depression, hopelessness and broken relationships.car-ministry-eartha-jones

Volunteers perform all kinds of work at Catholic Charities. It is a labor of love, and they do everything from one-on-one coaching, teaching, to stocking the food pantries. They are on the front lines, as well as behind the scenes. One volunteer, whose job it is to sort clothes at the Thrift Shop, told me that all work in service to the poor, no matter how menial, or lowly, is holy in the eyes of the Lord. Mother Teresa echoed the same sentiment when she said, “It is not the size of our actions, but the amount of time and care that we put into them that counts.” At Catholic Charities, we are blessed to work with so many beautiful people. They are happy to give their precious time and talent freely. They invest themselves and give their all in their volunteer work.  They inspire and affirm to us on a daily basis the true joy there is in serving “the least of these.”

‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

–Matthew 25: 35-40

If you are considering giving of your time and talent to Catholic Charities through volunteering, contact Sally O’Dwyer at sodwyer@ccda.net to learn more. For more information on Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington, visit ccda.net.

Sally O’Dwyer holds a Master’s Degree from The Monterey Institute of International Policy Studies. She is the Director of Volunteers for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Arlington.

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