Archbishop Richard Smith

Archbishop Richard Smith

July 13, 2015

EDMONTON – Catholic Social Services serves as an island of mercy in what is often a vast ocean of cruelty and indifference, says the archbishop of Edmonton.

Speaking at the agency's annual meeting at the Winspear Centre June 24, Archbishop Richard Smith said CSS, much like Jesus, brings good news to the poor.

"What has long being termed the Alberta Advantage has proven to disadvantage many who, for a host of reasons, are left behind and unable to cope," the archbishop said.

In his talk, Smith touched on Pope Francis' encyclical on the environment, saying it contains a teaching which underscores the importance of CSS.

That teaching, he said, is that natural ecology is inseparable from human ecology.

When that premise is not respected, he said, great harm comes to both the individual and community and is manifest globally in family breakdown, abandonment and addictions.

CSS offers a ministry of healing and of restoration to help people overcome the pain, he said.

Smith noted the meeting took place on the feast of St. John the Baptist. One episode in the life of St. John the Baptist highlights the beauty and importance of CSS as a ministry of the Church and an island of mercy.

While imprisoned, John heard what the Lord was doing in his ministry and wondered whether Jesus is the one humanity has long been awaiting.

He sent messengers to ask the Lord, "Are you the one who is to come or are we to wait for another?"


To that Jesus answered. "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the leprous are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have good news come to them."

"In other words, Jesus to that question of John is saying, 'Yes, I'm him. You need look and you need wait no longer,'" explained Smith.

The archbishop said all the acts Jesus performed, including restoring the sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, are acts of mercy that his followers should emulate.

"What Jesus teaches us is that acts of mercy herald the very presence of Jesus himself."


Whenever we engage in acts of mercy, like CSS does on a daily basis, "we too are signaling the presence among us of Jesus and thus we are announcing to others the joy and the hope that has to be heard."

Today, he said, many are blind to all possibility of hope because of the enormity of societal pressures.

Moreover, many people today are crippled by fear and by self-doubt because abandonments, betrayals and infidelities have robbed them of a sense of self-worth.

Our acts of mercy reaffirm their inherent goodness, call them to walk in self-confidence and "alert them to the nearness of the Lord," he said.

In many ways, CSS serves as "an island of mercy in what is often a vast ocean of cruelty and indifference," Smith said.