The Riley Family Foundation celebrated three years of funding charitable works of mercy undertaken by the various ministries of Catholic Social Services (CSS) in the Philadelphia region on Wednesday evening, Oct. 4 with 130 friends and colleagues at the Overbrook Golf Club.
The event sought to develop greater awareness among the broader community about the charitable works done by CSS and their immense impact throughout the five-county region.
“We want to introduce you to some of the great things our archdiocese is doing for the poor in the community,” said Brian Riley, head of the Riley family, along with his wife Barb.
The Rileys, who have been parishioners of St. Patrick Parish in Malvern for some 20 years, have five children – four in college and one in high school. All seven members of the Riley family are active decision-makers in the Riley Family Foundation.
Brian Riley says that the archdiocese tends not to publicize all the great charitable work they’re doing, and “if people knew, they’d want to be involved.” He referenced Matthew, Chapter 6, where Jesus warns about practicing piety before others. “‘But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing,’” he quoted.
“The Riley Family Foundation continues to daily bring our mission to life for those we are privileged to serve. Their generosity is a vital component allowing us to serve over 600 thousand individuals annually,” said James Amato, Secretary for Catholic Human Services (CHS).
Created in 1987, CHS unifies 3 three divisions including Catholic Social Services (CSS), Catholic Housing and Community Services, and Nutritional Development Services. Each provides programs giving critical and life-sustaining services to men, women, and children throughout the five-county region. CSS, which has deep roots in the City of Philadelphia, was started in 1797 by a group of Catholic lay people. They started with a home for orphaned children, who had lost their parents due to yellow fever.
Archbishop Nelson Pérez attended and spoke at the event, placing the work of CSS in the context of answering the call as missionary disciples to serve those most in need.
“The passion that you have,” said Archbishop Pérez to Brian and Barb Riley, “exemplifies what the Gospel wants in a missionary disciple, to have a heart that’s burning for the Lord.”
In the last year, thanks to CSS and other CHS programs and ministries, around 6,400 people received pregnancy and parenting services at family services centers, 7.5 million meals were served to those facing food scarcity, 300 individuals experiencing homelessness received shelter, and 2,800 senior citizens benefitted from senior centers and parish programs.
Those in attendance also heard from a few of the program directors, as they described the “work they do, and more importantly, the people they serve through those works of mercy and charity,” said Bishop John McIntyre, who oversees CHS as part of his administrative and pastoral responsibilities.
Patrick Walsh and Eli Wegner, Directors of Operations for Martha’s Choice Marketplace, provide access to healthy food in their work at the largest, most visited food pantry in Montgomery County. They serve “working families trying to make ends meet,” says Wegner.
“Last year was the busiest year we’ve ever seen,” said Wegner. “We distributed 2.3 million pounds of food,” a 58 percent increase from the previous year. He said many people visited them this year for the first time.
“The food and supplies we’re giving them is the difference between them being able to stay in their housing or not,” said Walsh.
Director Heather Huot described how Catholic Housing and Community Services gives support and guidance to older adults across the archdiocese.
A network of senior centers “serve as a gathering place for seniors to engage in enriching activities” and “provide much needed social services and meal assistance,” she said.
Last year, these senior centers served 1,200 senior citizens and 44,000 meals, said Huot. Other modes of support include social worker home visits and affordable senior housing communities.
“The need is significant for this care for elders,” she said.
Renee Hudson-Small is the Assistant Director for CSS’ Housing and Homeless Services Division, which provides seven residential programs to men and women in need. She shared how these programs can transform the lives of people who find themselves homeless due to a variety of reasons. She says her staff provides residents with “lots of love and encouragement.”
Of those experiencing homelessness, Hudson-Small says, “They are the most visible and invisible population in the city and the nation. We often see the homeless, but with our discomfort, we often look the other way.”
“It was always a goal for us to do this,” says Barb Riley of her family’s foundation. She says she was inspired by her father, who frequently participated in charitable activities, such as collecting backpacks for students in need when they were returning to school.
“I grew up with that mentality of giving back and it has been so important to Brian and I to pass that onto our children,” she said.
She said she expects the Riley Family Foundation will hold more events like the one on Oct. 4.
“We’re grateful to the Rileys for the chance to make better known these works that often can be the hidden treasures of the Church,” said Bishop McIntyre.
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