“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” is the message Pope Francis sends to all of us as we enter the season of Lent. Francis reminds us to listen to God’s word by practicing the works of mercy, where we touch the flesh of Christ in our Brothers and Sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, housed, visited, counseled, welcomed, healed, saved and loved. Each of you, our staff and volunteers, are central to this Lenten calling. So many incredibly wonderful growth opportunities took place since we kicked-off this 2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy. Catholic Charities is now the lead provider of coordinated entry for homeless service in Hernando and Citrus County. We are assisting Pasco County residents in disaster recovery from the flooding last summer and are growing our network of medical clinics (St. Andre-Dade City, La Esperanza-Wimauma, San Jose-Dover) to serve migrant farmworkers. We executed our agreement to add the Diocese of Palm Beach to launch our platform to expand adoption statewide and we lead our state in welcoming refugees from Syria and other countries devastated by war and persecution. We continue to lead Hillsborough and Pinellas County in homeless services through rapid re-housing and launching one of the most innovative solutions at Pinellas Hope: converting shipping containers to secure, private, and air conditioned single-person housing. Building more housing for the homeless, for the elderly, for the migrant and for low-income families remains one of our top priorities and in 2016 you will hear and see the opening of new projects and witness incredible success stories of mercy across our diocese, with a continued emphasis partnering with our parishes and serving our northern counties.
In his Lenten message Francis said: “In an ever new miracle, divine mercy shines forth in our lives, inspiring each of us to love our neighbor and to devote ourselves to what the Church’s tradition calls the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. These works remind us that faith finds expression in concrete everyday actions meant to help our neighbors in body and spirit: by feeding, visiting, comforting and instructing them.” That is what you do every day, living the works of Mercy.