by Rick Berube
CSS Associate Chaplain
With the recent onboarding of a new CEO, Catholic Social Services has come to another junction on its journey of serving the community consistently with its unique mission.
We experienced a similar convergence some five years ago when structural modifications were made to support a rekindling of our purpose, and our goals and principles, as well as a realignment of strategies. At that time, we were asked, in faith and poise, to trust that these variations would commit us to a stronger pursuit and enhancement of our mission. And again today, we are asked to hold fast to our vision of standing as a credible beacon of encouragement and hope for the people we serve, even as more organizational adjustments are made.
Through our varied and cumulative experiences of life, all of us arrive at many defining assumptions. These assumptions become our window to the world – to our way of seeing reality. That window needs to be scrubbed on occasion “to allow a cleaner, fuller light to enter” (Isaac Asimov). Just as this is the case in our private lives, it also applies to our organizations, especially in the face of our communities’ changing social mores, priorities, and structures.
I like to think that when adapting its leadership structures in recent years, our Agency has been applying a little Windex to the glass and responding to pressures that are deemed fitting, while hopefully holding fast to its essential beliefs, core values, and assumptions.
Over our 57 years of operation, Catholic Social Services has distinguished itself in its public persona as a faith-based organization with a special charisma. In many ways, we have proven ourselves open to change and able to adapt and evolve. We have understood that to maintain our true identity, purpose, and integrity – and to remain good stewards – we needed to safeguard our human (moral) agency, our personal/corporate capacity to act on our Christian ethos of goodness – that inherent sense of the right thing to do.
This spiritual sense is ingrained in our soul and nudges us toward a genuine fulfillment of our human nature – the special creatures we are. Retaining our human agency, for us, has meant acting out of our authentic freedom, which is to do the right thing in the face of challenges to our integrity as a Catholic agency. It has meant making choices that are not a mere reflection of (nor accommodation to) society at large, and it has definitely committed us to follow a road less travelled.
Retaining our human agency has meant being attentive to and hearing the subtle voice of the Spirit within. In associating with CSS, employees and community supporters join together in turning up the volume – at least a little – of that faint inner voice of truth, of goodness, of justice for all; it is a voice that is counter-cultural and certainly takes us on a path of much resistance – a road not-so-well-travelled.
Our essential charisma referred to above will always be vulnerable to the dominant society’s cultural trends and caprices that are determined to blur and diffuse its original character. Responding to community needs in their changing manifestations, we cannot merely act as some volatile entity allowing itself, in silence, to be shaped and directed by encroaching politics and their propensity toward ideological colonization.
Guided by the Spirit, we have resisted jumping on the band wagon of popular and emergent movements, and prevailing public attitudes or shifting cultural values when the sanctity and dignity of the person was at stake. We have certainly known the appeal that some of these social trends present and which soon become cultural imperatives that eventually subjugate. While the temptation of going with the flow and veering onto the high way may always be there, our special charisma will hopefully overcome.
It is true that our mission compels us to serve with a characteristic difference, a difference that leads us onto an unpopular path. At least partly, that difference may be in our willingness to grow in our capacity for appreciating the bigger, more lasting picture of our existence, to discover in humility the commonality, the unity, the oneness that binds us all, to discern the inherent dignity of all persons and to serve our fellow humans with integrity, respect, and compassion as Christ does.
We remain strong in the belief and hope that this road-less-travelled will make a real difference in bringing about spiritual healing and in advancing God’s justice, love, and peace.
“…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
– Robert Frost