By Edward J. Lis

In his recent encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI calls charity “an extraordinary force … which has its origin in God.” The 2009 Annual Report of Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia gives testimony to this extraordinary force of charity, which transforms the lives of thousands of men, women and children throughout our region every day.

More than 162,000 people benefitted from the broad array of programs and services that comprise Catholic Social Services. Here are the stories of just a few of them.

Zari is a resilient 19-year-old girl who, three years ago, left an abusive family situation and was homeless for a summer before being placed with St. Vincent Home. Through the compassionate care and support she received, Zari graduated from high school with honors and is now a full-time college student living in her own apartment.

Kieran is a 33-year-old man born with a developmental disability who lived at Don Guanella Village for 18 years. Although happy there, he desired a more independent living situation, and Life Sharing through Family Living matched him with a family that welcomed him to live with them. He has become fast friends with them, is able to take ParaTransit to his job and sees his parents weekly for dinner.

Nasiir is a 10-year-old boy who suffered a life-threatening stroke a year ago. After a miraculous recovery, he returned to DePaul School, but still faced many obstacles. Attending the DePaul Out of School Time Program in the same building, he received the wrap-around support and personal attention he needed to bolster his confidence, reassuring his mother that Nasiir would be able to “catch up.”

Luz is a 63-year-old native of Puerto Rico and longtime Philadelphia resident who found herself on the brink of homelessness, unable to afford rent and utilities while on her own. The Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program administered by Casa del Carmen Family Services was welcome relief for her, paying the security deposit so Luz could move into a nice apartment in a safer neighborhood.

Angela is a 52-year-old woman whose abusive partner led her into drug addiction that nearly destroyed her life and alienated her from two teenage daughters. She entered the recovery program at Mercy Hospice, and after 14 months of treatment and support, she has moved on to reclaim her life and family, working full-time as a peer support specialist with recovering addicts and pursuing a degree in the field.

Lamar came from a tough neighborhood where he got into trouble with the law as a juvenile. Through a day treatment program at De LaSalle Vocational school he earned his high school diploma and learned culinary arts. Now 18, he lives in a supervised apartment with life skills support provided by St. Francis-St. Joseph Homes and is a full-time college student with a part-time dietary services job.

These works of charity are possible because of many generous benefactors who give to the annual Catholic Charities Appeal, which supports 75 social service programs throughout the region. To read more about these remarkable “changing faces of charity” go to the CSS website at

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