Riddle: What do a Catholic deacon, a Jewish cantor and a Muslim professor have in common?
Answer: They all participated in a Geneva interfaith peace forum sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes.
Although the agency’s partnership with Catholic parishes is invaluable in responding to the Gospel mandate to care for and advocate for those in need, Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes also works closely with its interfaith neighbors to serve and advocate for communities that respect the lives and dignity of all people. This interfaith partnership is reflected in community members who are honored each year at the Sharing the Light dinner in Geneva and the Works of Love dinner in Auburn. Both dinners honor people who work selflessly on behalf of their neighbors, regardless of religious affiliation.
The partnership is lived out at the Geneva Lunch Program where Catholic Charities staff members coordinate preparation and serving of a nutritious meal five days a week. The program is hosted by the First United Methodist Church and is regularly staffed by volunteers from Zion Lutheran Church, Trinity Episcopal Church, Our Lady of Peace Parish and First Presbyterian of Geneva, as well as individuals from many faiths. Together they work to serve nearly 16,000 meals annually.
The relationship is exemplified at the Thompson Clinic in Canandaigua — a partnership between Thompson Health, Canandaigua Churches in Action and Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes — which provides no-cost, basic medical care for people who are uninsured, underinsured or who lack a medical-care provider. The Auburn office of Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes works cooperatively with the interfaith community to serve the poor. Many churches refer clients to Catholic Charities and respond generously when Catholic Charities requests funds for assistance. For example, the United Church of Auburn makes a generous gift each year to assist with Catholic Charities’ emergency needs. Benevolent Care Grants from the Cayuga-Syracuse Presbytery allow the agency to provide direct financial assistance to seniors. In addition, Catholic Charities collaborates on hunger issues with members of the Food Providers Network, which has a majority of members that are faith-based.
In Auburn and Canandaigua, individuals from several faiths came together to learn about criminal justice through the JustFaith program "Church of the Second Chance." The Auburn program was cosponsored by Westminster Presbyterian Church, while the Canandaigua program benefitted from the wisdom of a Mennonite leader in local restorative-justice efforts.
Whether advocating for children, immigrants or prisoners, feeding the hungry or healing the sick, Catholic Charities of the Finger Lakes lives out the Corporal Works of Mercy through the hands of its Catholic and interfaith partners.