Some Almsgiving Options During Lent – and Beyond

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Originally posted on http://digitaldiatribes.wordpress.com on February 24, 2008.

Since it’s Lent, and I have yet to give a good Lenten post, what better day to take care of that than a Sunday? Last year, I put together this post on some of the actual practices during Holy Week. I also addressed our plan for giving to charities here. Giving alms is one of the key Lenten practices, but it is an important part of the Christian life at all times. And while that post discussed a strategy to both challenge your giving levels, but in such a way that you can accommodate it, it did not discuss the charities and/or causes we donate to.

To be a good steward is to give prayerfully, and not recklessly. Supporting a cause that, for example, supports embryonic stem-cell research is not consistent with Catholic teaching. Thus, this giving would actually further an intrinsically evil act. As such, it is not simply the act of giving that counts, but to whom and what you are giving.

This post is certainly not meant to imply that there are not a myriad worthy causes. But this post is to provide a list, links, and information we support (where applicable). Our resources only go so far, so we do not support every single worthy organization that we come across, but I have also included the ones that are on our list of next in line to receive support, should finances allow.

First and foremost, we support our home Parish. I encourage everyone to do the same. If not Catholic, then the church you attend. But this really should be the “first fruits,” because it directly supports the mission of the Church where you are – and where God has placed you for a reason. There are a few circumstances where people are not satisfied with how their parish operates, or perhaps a new priest brings a more liberal theology, etc. In these cases, I still am a supporter of staying a member of the Parish, in order to help bring about change in the right direction. But if you feel giving needs to be re-directed, then give what you would have otherwise given to some other faithful parish or worthy cause. Better yet, though, if you can earmark your funds towards a project in your Parish that you do support, that may be an option as well.

Secondly, we support our Diocese’s Annual Appeal, as well as its We Belong to Christ Capital Campaign. It is very important to us to humble ourselves and trust our Bishop in obedience when he says we need to support this.

The next area is one for the most discernment. United Way is an organization that many people choose to not donate to, because some branches support Planned Parenthood. If your local chapter allocates any funds to objectionable causes, I also recommend not participating. It is largely up to local chapters where the funds go, with a very small portion covering the administrative costs of the national organization. Our company promotes giving to the United Way, and after consideration, we have chosen to participate, since our local chapter does not provide funding to any objectionable causes. In addition, I always direct my funds to the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross so that I know my funds go to causes that I support.

One thing that we also wanted to do is support a child through a good organization that provides their basic needs, as well as education and faith formation. Compassion International is not a Catholic organization, but it is a very good and reputable organization. We have a girl in the Phillipines whom we support, and they also do a nice job of encouraging communication between sponsor and child. If you are looking for good Catholic alternatives, I am aware that Catholic World Mission is a good option, and one I plan to support in the future.

We are very strongly Pro-Life. We have chosen to support Priests For Life, Wisconsin Right to Life (or one could choose to give to National Right to Life as well, though we prefer to stay more local. Unless you are giving to the education funds, however, donations are not tax deductible. We also contribute to the National Pro-Life Alliance. These donations are also not tax deductible, but I support the cause because it is a strong proponent of advancing a Human Life Amendment.. We also want to support Pro-Life crisis pregnancy centers. We support a local center that is in the Care Net network. It is not Catholic, but our local priests are very supportive of it and Father Frank Pavone of Priests For Life is also a strong supporter of the work of Care Net. We wish we could give to more causes, but we also strongly recommend the following, which are on our list of future considerations: Human Life International, Life Legal Defense Foundation, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, Population Research Institute, and Pro-Life Wisconsin (I haven’t looked into a National Chapter). This list is by no means exhaustive.

We also support Make A Mark Foundation for their work with children in Africa. This is a secular organization. Other organizations who do mission work with children in very destitute parts of the globe that we support are The Salesian Missions, Franciscan Mission Associates, Oblate Missions, Marist Brothers (Merrifield, Virginia – no web site), and Food for the Poor, Inc. We also strongly support the Catholic Medical Missions Board, which helps bring health care to impoverished areas. For a good place that supports the less fortunate right here in the U.S., the Mercy Home for Boys and Girls is an organization that we plan on supporting in the future, and is certainly worthy of your contributions.

We strongly support the mission of education and evangelization of the Catholic faith. The most local support goes to Relevant Radio the Catholic Radio that is broadcasting in our area. The Society for the Propagation of Faith is one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies. The Catholic Resource Center specializes in apologetics and education of Catholics, as does Catholic Answers. We also support the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, which not only spreads the word through great lay-ministries and Bible Studies (I encourage a perusal of the web site for many free resources), but also instructs seminarians and priests as part of its mission. Another group that we do not currently donate to, but which is a very good organization in this area is Catholics United For the Faith.

One interesting order we support is that of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers. I came to support their order after I was diagnosed with a degenerative condition of my cornea, called Keratoconus. One of the patronesses of the eyes was St. Odilia. After reading more about her, I found out that the the national shrine to St. Odilia was in Onamia, Minnesota, and was maintained by the Crosiers. My wife and I made a weekend pilgrimage shortly after. I have supported their order ever since. As I type this, I realize that my devotion could be more consistent, though I do wear her medal. While I encourage support for this order, perhaps each of you has your own causes that are dear to you, which you feel called to support. I believe that one of the reasons God allows afflictions to some is so that it can draw attention to support of the many. In this same vein, there are causes we all probably support where friends of ours draw attention to some family member or friend who is afflicted with some illness or disease. We have chosen to support The Parent Project for Muscular Dystrophy due to a friend of ours who knows the family well who got this whole ball rolling. Again, God uses the afflictions of some to do so much good for others.

When disasters strike and aid is needed, there are many good organizations that assist. The one that we support in this area is Catholic Relief Services.

There are many good orders of sisters one could choose to support. We have decided to support the Dominican Sisters of Mary – Mother of the Eucharist.

Unfortunately, our Catholic Faith needs defending from others, and in some cases, from ourselves! We support the Cardinal Newman Society in its efforts to draw attention to spiritual attacks on our Catholic campuses. They not only bring colleges to task for unfaithfulness to Rome, but also helps inform us parents who will be sending kids to school some day which colleges will be spiritual bastions versus spiritual mine fields. On our “future support” list is the Thomas More Law Center, which comes to the assistance of those who need legal defense, generally for issues regarding religious liberty. Also at the forefront of calling attention to unjust attacks against Catholicism, a group we plan to support in the future, is The Catholic League: For Religious and Civil Rights.

It would not be right to forget about those who have sacrificed for our country so that we may enjoy the freedoms we have. I am sure there are many worthy organizations to assist in this area. We have selected two to support: The Wisconsin Paralyzed Veterans of America, and the Veterans Assistance Foundation for those who seem most in need. We also donate a small amount to the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Association.

One of the things that really strengthened our faith was a realization that life was to be welcomed into this world, and to let go of our fears and selfishness. One organization that we have supported, both because of the message and also because of our own utilization of their services is the Couple to Couple League. Those who are using contraception in marriage to limit family size, I strongly encourage you to pray about the reasons why you are choosing to do that, and to please consider reading and understanding the issue from the Catholic Perspective. One place to start is Humanae Vitae and other good sources are studies on the Theology of the Body, and Christopher West.

As for charitable contributions to colleges or universities, we currently only give a small amount to the University’s Alumni Foundation where both Wendy and I graduated. If I were to donate elsewhere, it would likely be to one of the quality Catholic Universities that are faithful to the Magesterium of the Church. One such university is Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida. Another is Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. There are certainly many others, but perhaps not as many as you think. The National Catholic Register offers this list of schools that most meet the criteria of having – and desiring – a Catholic identity.

Finally, the Family Research Council does a nice job of informing of the issues of the day, and being actively involved in challenging certain laws. We do not donate (yet) but only because we can’t give to everyone. It is a worthy organization to support. It is not a Catholic organization, but it is Catholic friendly in that it speaks highly of Church leaders who stand up for the Catholic viewpoint on social issues, and defends the Church against governmental intrusion or attacks.

This is pretty long, but hopefully this provides assistance to those looking for worth places to give alms during this season – and beyond.

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