As a Catholic organization, the task of Catholic Social Services is to continue to serve people in need with dignity, respect and love, says the agency's CEO, Stephen Carattini.
Speaking at the agency's annual meeting at the Hotel MacDonald June 24, Carattini said the fact CSS has the word "Catholic" as part of its name carries a lot of weight.
"Names often tell us a great deal about an organization," he said. "Organizationally, of course, it means that we carry out our ministry in accordance with Church teaching and with the approval and support of our archbishop."
Spiritually, he continued, it means that we give concrete witness to the great commandment by Jesus Christ to all of us to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves.
"Practically it means that we care for people of all faiths or no faith. We engage in our work with compassion and competence, always keeping in mind the personal freedom and dignity of each person in our care."
There is something unique about the way in which a Catholic organization carries out its work, Carattini observed.
"For those of us in social ministry it means that we see and understand that those we care for are material and spiritual beings, that there is a supernatural dimension to all of human life and activity and that there is, in fact, a revealed truth that has been provided for the benefit and common good of all humanity."
Carattini said because of who we are at CSS "we can take the risk of truly loving and giving ourselves" to those who come to the agency for help.
A few months ago he had the opportunity to visit Kairos House, one of the agency's ministries that provide care for men and women with HIV-AIDS. There he met a man in his own journey of faith named David.
Several years ago David had been a resident and after a year-and-a-half he was able to move out and live on his own. "But late last year he realized that the disease had run its inexorable course and he was told he only had a few months to live."
David asked to come back to Kairos House because this is where he wanted to die. Carattini was deeply moved by the man's request and thanked the staff for allowing him to come back.
David died in Kairos House on May 29. "He died at home surrounded by people who cared for him. And what is home if not the place where we are loved and forgiven, accepted and not judged, embraced and not abandoned," Carattini said, almost tearfully. "This is the essence of who we are and what we do at Catholic Social Services."
Carattini, 52, came to CSS late last year from Catholic Charities in Denver, a multi-function social service provider that operates about 30 ministries. A man of faith, he spent 35 days last year walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain trying to discern God's will for him.