By Edward J. Lis

It is inspiring to see how many people are motivated to donate their time and money to help those less fortunate than them. Doing good deeds gives us a genuine sense of gratification that we have made a difference, but sometimes makes us think: Is there something else that we can do to make an impact on their lives in a more long-lasting way?

Charity often involves providing material assistance to others in need. Yet Pope Benedict reminded us in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, that true Christian charity ultimately has a deeper purpose and goal – I give myself to others in love, so that they in turn are renewed in hope for a better future.

Recently 25 women were acknowledged for successfully completing a child care training program delivered by Casa del Carmen in North Philadelphia. Most of these women are bilingual, yet needed other marketable skills to find a good-paying job. CSS supplemented Catholic Charities dollars with a competitive grant awarded by the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corp. to help fund the training.

Despite the rigorous full-time schedule, all 25 women who began the program graduated. Staff members from Casa del Carmen are now assisting these women in securing jobs at day care centers and after-school programs in the area, with a number of successful placements already. During the reception after the graduation, the sense of pride and optimism for good things to come was evident on the many smiling faces.

Another 26 women were honored at the Mercy Hospice transitioning ceremony for their personal victories in substance abuse recovery and subsequent move back into the community.

The stories of transformation in the lives of these women, some with young children, were inspirational. One former Mercy resident spoke of her promise to herself to always “look up, not down, and look forward, not back.” After she finished speaking, her teenage daughter shouted out proudly, “That’s my mom right there!”

Many of these women are now working, others are pursuing college studies and a few plan to pursue careers in helping professions to “give back what they’ve received.” The keynote speaker was a former Mercy resident who has since earned a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and is pursuing her doctoral degree. She said that with the help of Mercy Hospice, she rediscovered courage, resilience and hope.

The programs of Catholic Social Services exist to provide the kind of help that creates hope. In all we do, we strive to fulfill our Holy Father’s exhortation in his second encyclical, Spe Salvi, to be witnesses to the power of Christian hope that transforms lives.

Edward J. Lis is the director of Catholic Mission Integration for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Secretariat for Catholic Human Services.