Catholic Charities is bringing youth and Catholic social teaching together in a radical new way this summer in the hopes of sparking a nationwide movement for the future of the Church. Christ in the City, as the program is called, seeks to form young people at all levels and send them out in the world to bring Christ into all sorts of ministries.
“The vision of Christ in the City is to have hundreds of young people from throughout the country serving in cities across the nation,” Dr. Jonathan Reyes, President of Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver, told CNA. “It’s a vision of a program that includes an intellectual dimension, a spiritual formation dimension, and a service dimension.”
“We want to integrate the whole human person in the service of those most in need,” said Reyes, “and we believe we can do that through strong education in Catholic social teaching, through living situations that are centered around the spiritual life and that include professional spiritual formators, and we know we can do that by getting people out on the streets and into our homeless shelters, and our emergency assistance care centers, and into the places that most need help.”
“In all of these locations, you are going to see the elements of God, care, love, home,” said Patrick Tracy, a college student who has been helping Catholic Charities set up the Christ in the City program. “And I promise you, that if you come to this Christ in the City program, you will not only be spiritually nourished in the act of serving others, you’ll be physically nourished from the sites.”
“In Christ in the City, you are going to see people, you’re going to see humanity, in its place, as they are,” described Tracy. “You’re going to meet people at their level and step out of your world.”
This year, the program begins as a two week “adventure,” said Reyes. Participants will walk around the city and get a tour of Denver’s homeless population. They will visit homeless shelters, meet with professionals with years of experience working to serve those most in need, speak with lawmakers, local business owners, and even Denver’s bishops, about what can be done to help serve from different perspectives in the community.
The hope is that, after experiencing the intensity of the two-week program, participants will be key contributors in setting up a year-long program with the same focus.
One of the goals of Christ in the City is to help people, not just in their material needs, but spiritually as well.
“We believe that Christ in the City is a program oriented towards serving the poor in all of their needs: the Spiritual Works of Mercy, the Corporal Works of Mercy,” Reyes said, extending his invitation to college-aged youth nationwide. “To help them, to befriend them, to serve them, is a testimony that the Holy Father is calling for.”
“Recently, the Holy Fathers, John Paul II and Benedict XVI, have issued a summons to youth in particular to be involved in the formation and the transformation of our society,” recalled Reyes.
“We at Catholic Charities believe that a fundamental approach to this transformation is to have youth not only learn their faith and study their faith, but to literally take it to the streets.”