Catholic workers: How you can get to work
Inspired by the people featured in our Catholic workers story, but still can't think of where you might want to get involved? The U.S. Catholic editors are here to help. We've compiled a list of different ways any old average Catholic can put their faith to work.
Already a regular volunteer? We'd love to hear about what you're doing in our comment section!
Mentoring and Teaching
Did you have a background in education or are you one of those people who always hear, "You'd make a great teacher"? Consider getting involved in a mentorship or adult literacy program. Immigrant and refugee resettlement agencies are often in need of volunteer teachers and mentors because many immigrants and refugees could use a friend and a mentor to teach them things that seem commonplace to residents who've grown up here, such as grocery shopping or enrolling children in school. Many local chapters of Catholic Charities USA have resettlement programs, so that's a great place to start.
If you were particularly inspired by Michael Denson's ministry, ask around at your parish to see if there is already a prison ministry. If not, consider organizing one. An easy first step is to start by organizing a vigil for all those on Death Row.
With tax time upon us, the ministry of James McLaughlin will be especially welcomed by those who experience more than the usual frustration with filing taxes. If you have accounting skills and have already filed your own taxes, why not volunteer with an organization that offers free accounting services to those with low incomes? Ladder Up, the organization McLaughlin volunteers with, is located in Chicago, but the IRS's VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) program will allow you to help out no matter what your location.
Medical and Dental Missions
Despite where you stand on the health care debate, there's no arguing over whether there's a need for health care. And it's especially needed among the poor, who often don't seek medical attention because of its financial cost. If you are a doctor, nurse, or dentist, look into free health care fairs and clinics where you can volunteer your time. Free clinics are located everywhere and most often found in large cities.
There are so many ways to volunteer if you're passion is for the environment, because the wellness of the environment is affected in so many ways. Concerned about sustainable farming practices? Help out a local small farm in durin the harvesting season by volunteering to man their stand at farmer's markets. Live in an area where natural habitats are endangered? Why not organize a watch group in your parish and make sure to publicize your findings and advocate for less run-off in your water ways and cleaner air quality in your community.
The Catholic Coalition on Climate Change is an excellent resource for finind church teaching on the environment and keeping up with developments in national environmental policy. You can also organize a group to sign the St. Francis Pledge to care for the earth and the poor.
One of the most effective ways to contribute to change among the poor in other countries is through fair trade. In our society, where we value endless choice and cheap commodities, caring about fair trade can feel like you're swimming upstream. The good news is that you can volunteer your time at organizations that are doing a lot of great work already. 10,000 Villages stores operate with a volunteer staff and could always use more help. If one of their stores isn't located near you, do a little research to find a store that specializes in fair trade that is, and call and see how you can help. Another way to advocate on a personal level is by getting your parish to serve fair trade coffee after Mass and at social events. Sure, it will increase the budget, but attempt to collect extra donations to make up for the cost.
Working in a legal clinic
Unfortunately, it is the poor who often end up with raw deals when it comes to legal representation. Fancy yourself a knock-em-dead lawyer? Why not volunteer at a clinic that provides free legal aid to the underserved? Legal Aid is probably the most well known organization doing this kind of work, but many states have volunteer legal assistance programs and there's also CLINIC (Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.) if you're interested in immigration issues.
Caring for animals
If none of the suggestions above appeal to you, take a look at this list to get your imagination going:
If you have HR skills, help disadvantage students develop interviewing skills. Contact your local school's guidance counselor for some suggestions on how and who to help.
If you are a skilled craftsman, carpenter, or plumber, help fix up houses for the poor.
Able to teach at the college level? Help prisoners get college degrees.