In 2006, Adam left the United States for Lima, Peru to receive his initial formation as a consecrated layman in the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. After nearly five years of dedicating himself to the poor, both in Lima and the Andean highlands, he returned to the United States to announce the Lord Jesus to those most in need in his native country. He has worked in Christ in the City for nearly two years as its spiritual director as well as the head of its outreach to the homeless.
What is the mission of Christ in the City?
Our mission is to love serving those most in need. We have a vision: Christ in the City must be a holistic service program that integrates charitable works with Catholic spirituality and educational advancement. We aim to form college-age Catholics as missionaries, faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.
The spiritual and intellectual components of the program are designed to encourage participants to advance in their maturity as Catholics. Personal growth is a fundamental aspect of the program’s overall success as a charitable organization. We are guided by the firm belief that no one can give what he or she doesn’t have.
That sounds very interesting. How do you do it?
Authentic Christian charity, such as the one exemplified in the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, irradiates naturally from the personal encounter with God Incarnate, the Lord Jesus. Through facilitating this encounter, we trust that we are also fortifying our participants in their efforts to effectively address both the material and spiritual needs of others. This is why we believe that charity, the participation in God´s own divine Love, is a natural extension of any authentic Christian life.
Adam, please tell us something about the origins of this initiative. How did it start?
Christ in the City was founded by the president of Catholic Charities of Denver, Colorado in 2010 with the support of a local graduate student. The original premise of the organization was to offer a volunteer program that both formed missionaries integrally in the Faith while at the same time providing them opportunities to live authentic Catholic caritas with the city’s poorest and most marginalized residents. The organization came under the legal auspices of the Christian Life Movement in 2011, at which time both Sodalits and Fraternas came to play a vital role in its direction and unfolding.
Who do you reach through Christ in the City?
We want to reach two groups of people. First and foremost, we seek to serve the Lord’s poor through corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We want “to love until the end”, as our Lord Jesus said, with those most in need. We also want to form college-age Catholics so that they become mature in their faith and can live a full, dynamic, and authentic Christian life in the program and their lives afterwards. We serve the poor through well-formed college-missionaries. We couldn’t serve one without having the other.
It seems a combination of both social justice and evangelization…
[pullquote]Certainly. The division between “social justice,” as it’s often coined in the English speaking world, and evangelization is a rupture planted by ideology. No such division really exists in a Catholic worldview because of our understanding of the human person. He is created in the image and likeness of God, and is a bio-psycho-spiritual being. His needs are multiple, not excluding nor exclusive. There are innumerable examples from Scripture that illuminate this point: the Visitation, when Mary brings the Messiah to Elizabeth, thus responding to her deepest spiritual needs, while at the same time offering necessary material support to her expectant cousin; on many occasions, Jesus relieves the suffering of the sick and destitute, but also says “man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4). And, the list goes on and on.[/pullquote]
There is tremendous pressure when working with the poor to focus entirely on their material and psychological needs. However, we are insistent that without a transcendental perspective, one where in which God’s grace can work through us so that we truly become “Christ in the City,” our efforts lose their ultimate efficacy. They are insufficient because they neglect what is most proper to man, his theologality.
Christ in the City is a great initiative and it has involved a lot of people. We are sure many lives have been changed. What is your experience?
I am in charge of the program’s spiritual formation as well as our work with the homeless and Hispanics who are at high risk of losing their Catholic Faith. My experience as an apostle has been challenging, but one of tremendous growth. I am constantly challenged by my daily work with the poor and by the missionaries to be consistent with the responsibility of announcing Christ “in and out of season.” How can I ask others to “love to the end” unless I am leading the way? Am I willing to take it to the ultimate consequences with the people we meet in the street or with the missionaries who are part of the program? That examination of conscience is a constant way to remain in tension towards the mission.
I also see how much the poor and the missionaries long for the true face of Christ. People hunger for Him. That observation has made me focus more on my own daily encounter with the Lord, and assess if I am announcing Him first and foremost.
Are you currently working on any specific initiative?
We’re doing many things, especially expanding our work with the homeless. As of right now, we serve about 500 people a week.
Recently, our missionaries began a program working with Hispanics who are at a high risk of losing their Faith. That includes a Spanish Mass, formation in the Sacraments, Marian Groups, Adult Formation, Reading Classes, and Tae Kwon Do Leadership Classes. That’s a very exciting program because of the number of people we have seen return or be renewed in their faith.
One last question: Any plans for the future?
We’re moving to a new location in downtown Denver, where the missionaries will live and we can have our offices. The property is a tremendous blessing because of its central location, its on-site chapel, and the space it has for in-take of the homeless. This coming year we hope to consolidate our service work as well as the formation program. God willing, there we will duplicate the program in another diocese in the coming year.