Gratitude and Honoring Human Dignity

I love the holidays. It’s not because of the cold weather, the falling leaves, or yummy treats. It’s just that people seem more grateful for their blessings and gifts during the holidays. Gratitude crosses all lines – age, gender, religion, and nationality.
 I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that gratitude is a choice. I can choose to be grateful or not. The good thing is that gratitude comes with other emotions – compassion, grace, abundance, joy, and humility. Gratitude has a calm, healing effect on me.
At Catholic Charities, there is so much to be grateful for. In the past year, we’ve hired many great staff who have helped advance our mission to serve the marginalized. We’ve made progress on our home for trafficked girls. We’ve expanded our mental health programs to help inner city youth survive and thrive. We’ve embraced newcomers to our country who fled religious and political persecution, and we’ve helped close to a thousand people on the path to citizenship. We’ve kept families from homelessness though rent and utility assistance. We’ve helped moms and dads learn English, become better parents, and foster the love of learning in their kids. We’ve strengthened our administrative and leadership functions to ensure that those who contribute to Catholic Charities feel confident that their investment is making a positive difference. And we did all of this while intensifying our unwavering commitment to the life and dignity of the human person.
As we sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner, I want to thank you for your grace, your gratitude, and your generosity to Catholic Charities. Happy Thanksgiving.

One of our core service areas is “Welcoming the Stranger.” It includes services for refugees and immigrants fleeing violence, child abuse, religious or political persecution.
The presidential election has questioned this core service. Our resilient staff, some of whom may be personally affected if deportation policies change, were initially devastated and scared. They saw clients who typically show up for appointments stay away out of fear. Some are young people who’ve grown up here and do not qualify for the limited forms of immigration relief available under current law. Many young people from Central America or other countries are fleeing violence or abuse.
Keeping families together, promoting humane policies that protect the refugee and immigrant, and honoring the dignity of the human person is part of our tradition and our Christian faith. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement saying, “may all of us as Catholics and Americans remain a people of solidarity with others in need and a nation of hospitality which treats others as we would like to be treated.”
We ARE a nation of immigrants. Our society is vibrant, alive, and enriched because of our diversity. Young or old, documented or not, our culture and economy could not exist and thrive without all of us, including immigrants.
At Catholic Charities, we will steadfastly stand by, support, and protect the immigrant, the refugee, the migrant. We will continue to travel the path of inclusion and immigration reform. To paraphrase Gandhi, we will be the change that the nation needs to see.
Until next month,
Chuck Fernandez
CEO Catholic Charities of the East Bay