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We are the World


By Gregory Kepferle
CEO, Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County and President, Charities Housing Development Corporation

Eons ago, when I was in high school, I had a wise Jesuit counselor, who asked what I wanted to do with my life. Back then I thought I wanted to be a missionary, so I responded, “I want to save the world.” Accustomed to such idealistic enthusiasms from students of Jesuit schools, my counselor wryly noted that the world was already saved. He may have added, “But most people don’t know it.” Far from discouraging my naive declaration, he only encouraged me to use my gifts to (in Jesuit language) “be a man for others.” In our Catholic Charities language, we interpret that as “to change lives for good.”

Having lived in Japan as a child and later in various parts of the U.S., I was accustomed both to being “the other” and welcoming “the other.” My parents regularly hosted exchange students from around the world, so as a family we became friends with people from different countries as far flung as Columbia, Sweden, and Vietnam. Rather than being raised as xenophobes, I think because of our upbringing, we became “xenophiles.” There was one point a few years ago when I had siblings and close relatives living on five continents.

So it makes perfect sense to me that my vocation has become changing lives for good at Catholic Charities. For here we welcome people from all over the globe and serve our Santa Clara County neighbors most of whom came from somewhere else, or whose parents or grandparents came from somewhere else.

Subsequently our board, volunteers, and staff at Catholic Charities reflect the rich diversity of our community, including race, gender, sexual orientation, age, language, national origin, disability, religion, and veteran status. I believe that it is because of this universal (Catholic) diversity, that people who need our help trust us to treat them with the compassion and respect they deserve as human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

For those who struggle with fear, hatred, or prejudice against “the other,” I invite them to open the clenched fist, release their clenched hearts, be not afraid. Come and see the beauty and love and hope created by the caring diverse community that is Catholic Charities. We are the world. All are welcome.

To learn more about Catholic Charities go to www.catholiccharitiesscc.org.