One of the reasons for the Church’s influence on the Christian formation of Americans is her vast presence in the field of education and especially in the university world. The many Catholic universities spread throughout the continent are a typical feature of Church life in America. Also in the field of primary and secondary education, the large number of Catholic schools makes possible a wide-ranging evangelizing effort, as long as there is a clear will to impart a truly Christian education.
Another important area in which the Church is present in every part of America is social and charitable work. The many initiatives on behalf of the elderly, the sick and the needy, through nursing homes, hospitals, dispensaries, canteens providing free meals, and other social centers are a concrete testimony of the preferential love for the poor which the Church in America nurtures. She does so because of her love for the Lord and because she is aware that “Jesus identified himself with the poor (cf. Mt 25:31-46)”. In this task which has no limits, the Church in America has been able to create a sense of practical solidarity among the various communities of the continent and of the world, showing in this way the fraternal spirit which must characterize Christians in every time and place.
For this service of the poor to be both evangelical and evangelizing, it must faithfully reflect the attitude of Jesus, who came “to proclaim Good News to the poor” (Lk 4:18). When offered in this spirit, the service of the poor shows forth God’s infinite love for all people and becomes an effective way of communicating the hope of salvation which Christ has brought to the world, a hope which glows in a special way when it is shared with those abandoned or rejected by society. – from Ecclesia in America, 1999
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