This is the Feast Day of St. Stephen, one of the first seven deacons appointed by the apostles to serve the poor and the vulnerable while allowing the apostles the opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with others. St. Stephen professed the Lord Jesus Christ and stood firmly on his faith and the Holy Spirit working within him. For his love of Jesus and his faith he was martyred.
Today, we who are blessed to work for Catholic Charities provide ministry to the poor and the vulnerable in many different settings and circumstances.
We are often criticized for not doing enough, or for doing too much. We may be criticized for standing on the teaching of the Catholic Church, which often is at odds with our communities and the larger society we live in. We face demands of funders to sometimes compromise our values and rethink our positions on issues in society that put us at odds with the mainstream.
When these persecutions occur, we can simply look to St. Stephen for our example. Undaunted by criticism, overflowing with the love of the Holy Spirit directing him to embrace his brothers and sisters in need, he stood firmly in faith and did as the Spirit directed.
I pray that we will follow his example of unwavering faith and immense love for those we are privileged to serve. May we truly serve Jesus and set aside the expectations of our society as we seek to share the light of Jesus through our actions and our words.
Deacon Gary Tester is President of Catholic Charities of Central Florida and a board member of Catholic Charities of Florida.