Dwight Longenecker is a Catholic priest who also blogs on Patheos. Dwight and I have been engaged in a discussion over the last few months where we are asking one another questions in order to better understand (and explore) the relationship between Catholics and Evangelicals. Here’s my question for Dwight this month along with his answer.
Frank Viola: One of the areas where Catholics, in general, are more advanced than Protestants, in general, is in the area of helping the poor and oppressed. My question is very simple: Suppose that an evangelical Christian cannot find anyone in his or her small town that’s interested in co-laboring in ministering to the poor and oppressed. We’ll call this person Tom and he is 32 years old. Tom doesn’t want to join a Catholic Church (he differs with many Catholic teachings). However, he’s wide open to develop a friendship and a co-working relationship with another Catholic, preferably his own age. How does Tom go about finding a Catholic in his small town who would want to co-work with him in this ministry, despite the differences in viewpoint? I know cases like this so my question isn’t theoretical. Thanks.
Dwight Longenecker: Thanks for your question. Most Catholic communities will welcome newcomers assist in their work with the needy. This is one of the ways we should be working more together to proclaim Christ’s love by our actions as well as our words. The best thing for your friend to do is get to know some local Catholics and ask what work their community is doing. Many parishes have a St. Vincent de Paul Society. This is a group of people who meet together for prayer, Bible study and to plan community outreach. They may run a soup kitchen or a food pantry or have office hours in which the needy can ask for assistance with utility bills, get advice on legal issues, get second hand clothes…or a whole range of assistance.
He should also check out his local office of Catholic Charities. This is usually run on a larger basis and they will advise him on how to be involved. I’d also suggest that he meet to pray and fellowship with the others involved in this work. That way he’ll learn more about the Catholic faith, and the Catholics will learn more about his approach to following Christ.
What say you?