ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.—At 5:00 in the evening, just before sunset, dignitaries from both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Roman Catholic Church met to celebrate their strong partnership. On Friday, February 15, representatives from both churches gathered in an intimate meeting of about twenty individuals at Casa de Corazon, the new building for Catholic Charities on Bridge Blvd.
The group congregated in a large adult classroom specifically dedicated to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in honor of the positive relationship they have had over the years.
Both churches have worked with each other to serve the community, particularly reaching out to the hungry, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned, as suggested in Matthew 25 in the New Testament.
Some of the LDS church leaders present at this Friday evening event included Elder Lynn G. Robbins, President of the North America Southwest Area; Elder Maxsimo C. Torres, Area Seventy; Stake President L. Martin Schaap, and Stake President Robert D. Saxton. Some of the Catholic dignitaries were Archbishop John C. Wester of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Monsignor Bennett J. Voorhies, and James Gannon, CEO and Executive Director of Catholic Charities in Albuquerque.
After brief introductions of all who were in attendance, the main activity involved the exchange of gifts. Elder Robbins presented Archbishop Wester with a generous monetary donation for Catholic Charities, and said, “We have done great things together and will continue to do so.” He expressed appreciation for all that Catholic Charities does in Albuquerque and worldwide. Elder Robbins also gave Catholic Charities a monetary gift in March 2015.
James Gannon responded, “The generosity and commitment to the community by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is inspiring. We share the same concerns, the same worries, and the same enthusiasm to be a difference not just for ourselves, or with each other, but even with the neighbor who is in need and might not possess faith.”
Casa de Corazon provides six Centers of Excellence at its new 36,000 square foot, three story facility. Some of its services include Affordable Housing programs, Refugee Resettlement assistance, Immigration Legal Services, a Bilingual Children’s Learning Center for infants through pre-K, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, Citizenship and High School Equivalency (HSE/GED) courses, and Senior Transportation Services. Both staff and volunteers work together there to serve the community.
Robert D. Saxton, LDS President of the Albuquerque New Mexico North Stake, has enjoyed interacting in partnership with Catholic leaders. He has worked closely with James Gannon; Kathy Freeze, Director for the Center of Community Involvement at Catholic Charities; and Archbishop Wester over the last several years. He explained that “the outreach ministries of the faith-based community, clubs, and networks have assisted many individuals and families in their quest for refuge.” He added, “We are grateful to be a part of this effort to strengthen individuals and families within our communities.”
To express appreciation for the monetary donation, Catholic Charities presented awards to Elder Robbins and Elder Torres, a decorative wooden box with a picture of Simon of Cyrene. This was the person who helped carry the cross for Jesus as he prepared to become the savior of us all. Catholic Charities likens the assistance of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to Simon, because it partners with them “in honoring human dignity and putting faith in action to improve the lives of those in need.”
As part of the ceremony, Archbishop Wester shared a story about LDS leader Thomas S. Monson, which took place before he became the President of the Church. Some years ago, Catholic Services in Salt Lake City, Utah, provided sandwiches for the homeless. However, at a certain point in time they had a shortage of funds and could not afford to purchase bread. Elder Monson, who had responsibilities for some of the humanitarian needs in the area, promised, “As long as I am here, you will always have bread.”
After light refreshments, mingling, and photos taken on the main floor near a stained-glass artwork of Saint Francis, the various leaders went their separate ways. Following this brief celebration of their partnership, they plan to continue forward. They will support one another as they seek to emulate the Savior by serving the local community and helping people in need.
Regarding the partnership of the two faiths, Msgr. Voorhies expressed, “I was deeply moved by the spirit of unity we had to be the hands and feet of Jesus in reaching out to the poor together. Whatever our faith background, it is surely pleasing to the Lord Jesus to see us working in unity for the good of others.”