The Catholic Charities Centennial Mass
Last Saturday, I attended the Centennial Mass at the Bascillica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (why it is not called the National Bascillica of the Immaculate Conception is beyond me). In 1910, the first national gathering of Catholic Charities agencies took place on the campus of the Catholic University of America. The first conference was called by the President of the University at the time, then Monsigeur (then Bishop) Thomas Sheehan - who also founded the National Shrine and is buried there. Cardinal Gibbons, who was the lead bishop in the Catholic hierarchy at the time, said the opening Mass. Cardinal George, who is the current head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, concelebrated the centennial Mass. In 1910, a picture was taken of the 400 participants in front of McMahon Hall. The thousand participants at this year's Centennial Conference posed for a picture at the same place.
You can see the picture on the conference website at http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/Page.aspx?pid=924 If you look very closely, my wife and I are in the extreme left in the front row. Not only is this gathering of progressive Catholics part of my beat as an Examiner, but my wife is the former Director of Membership for CCUSA and this was a chance to see many old friends, even though we are not attending the annual gathering. (I would include the picture here, but I don't see an open invitation to repost it - so I had best refer you to the site).
The Mass was particularly inspiring and Cardinal George's homily was excellent (I hope it is eventually posted) - although you can likely watch the playback on EWTN's web page (I never thought I would ever plug EWTN on this blog). The Cardinal was also the celebrant at the joint annual conference held some years back in Chicago with the Catholic Health Association, so he is not stranger to the annual gathering. He taught about the dichotomy between professionalism and ministry - and between service and evangelization. Both sides of the coin are essential to the Church. I would mostly agree, although it has long been dogma that if one acts charitably, one need not necessarily be a professed believer to attain eternal glory - although it is a more fulfilling experience to do so as an expression of faith, as long as one does not become self-satisified about it. Jesus can read our hearts just fine without our public proclamation. Indeed, He cautions us against doing charity where other people can see it - although that is a hard lesson for the institutional church to handle.
There is one place where being in public is justified - that is in spreading the news. Tomorrow, conference attendees are hitting the Hill to lobby for charity and social service. For more information, go to http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/capitolhillday I am sure they will appreciate an extra hand.