Sarah Hanley

With the long hot days of August upon us, I have found myself with some time to reflect on the work we do here at The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia (CFGP). There is a rich fabric of life and stories woven into everything we do.

Some of those stories emerge through the work of our consulting services, which were designed to take the pressure off Catholic institutions so they could focus on their mission.  Today, I’d like to share some of those stories with you.

Sitting in the heart of Philadelphia is the Cathedral Parish of SS. Peter and Paul, which forms a vibrant Roman Catholic community in Center City and serves all who come to the Cathedral Basilica, the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The importance of a dynamic Mother Church cannot be overstated. In fact, Father Dennis Gill, the cathedral’s rector and pastor, said the Mother Church “is not only the center of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, (but) is, in many ways, a significant center to the life of the City of Philadelphia.”

Helping to maintain this active community is CFGP. Through Keys & Sword, a yearly fundraising effort that works to provide additional money for the many missions and initiatives of the cathedral, CFGP and the Cathedral Basilica raise funds that go directly towards helping to maintain this community.

Another amazing place is the Holy Family Home on 53rd Street and Chester Avenue in West Philadelphia. Operated by the Little Sisters of the Poor, the home offers the neediest elderly of every race and religion a place where they will be welcomed, cared for as family, and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.

The Little Sisters of the Poor have embarked on the exciting and vital endeavor to rebuild Holy Family Home, which is in one of the most impoverished communities of all the homes administered by the religious order in this country. Philadelphia’s elderly population is proportionally the second largest in the nation, making the services provided at Holy Family Home even more essential. We are honored to be working with the Little Sisters of the Poor to ensure that the elderly poor in our area continue to have permanent access to the best care.

Also working with the impoverished are the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Founded by St. Katharine Drexel and guided by her spirit, they are called to share the Gospel message with the poor, especially among the Black and Native American peoples, and to challenge all forms of racism as well as other deeply rooted injustices in the world today.

The sisters do this by providing social services, education, health services, counseling, spiritual development, and much more. These ministries are funded in part by a yearly gala which CFGP and the Sisters work on together. The theme of this year’s gathering was a garden party, representing how seeds of empowerment and evangelization, planted and nourished, burst forth to bring beauty and growth.

On the front lines of food insecurity in our community is Martha’s Choice Marketplace in Norristown. Operated by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services, the site is a choice model food pantry that provides access to healthy food options. By giving clients the chance to select the foods they want, Martha’s Choice is working to end the stigma that arises from the typical food pantry dynamic of the server and the served. Instead of simply distributing food boxes, Martha’s pantry is set up like a grocery store, full of fresh produce, meats and dairy, which are labeled in several languages to help clients find items quickly and easily, and allowing them to shop for food that fits their needs.

Most recently, Martha’s Choice added a community farm offering resources that help empower learning about healthy food and how to grow it. In partnership with Martha’s Choice, CFGP offers support with fundraising and development initiatives, marketing, and major gift consulting services. All of this helps Martha’s Choice Marketplace remain the amazing place it is today.

Also doing remarkable work are the Communities of Don Guanella and Divine Providence (DGDP), which transform the lives of people with intellectual and physical disabilities. DGDP nurtures vibrant lives filled with love, care and acceptance based on the Catholic faith. The organization’s incredible programs provide a continuum of care, offering a wide range of options including community and campus-based living arrangements, life sharing through family living, in-home support, respite care, and day programs. We are honored to have solidified an exceptional collaboration with DGDP. Through our annual consulting partnership, DGDP enjoys a thriving, sustainable group of engaged supporters fully committed to its mission.

CFGP also partners with a number of archdiocesan parishes to foster a strong, dynamic future in faith. Our team is helping St. Katharine of Siena Parish in Wayne accomplish a variety of projects aimed at ensuring the future of the parish, including an annual stewardship appeal and the second phase of a capital campaign. At St. Frances de Sales Parish in West Philadelphia, we helped support an inaugural golf classic to support both the parish and its school, a wonderful urban center of education operated by the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters. Both parishes have been hugely successful in planning for the future, while also providing for the present. We are proud to be on their team.

Working at CFGP is not work in the traditional sense; it is rather a privilege, because we are fortunate enough to do work that helps people. In the words of the St. Teresa of Kolkata, “let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received, and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

To learn more about CFGP and the work we do here, visit our website at www.TheCFGP.org.

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Sarah Hanley is the president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia.