Reaching out to others and helping them in their time of need can be a deeply rewarding and life-enriching experience.
There are hundreds of ways you can put your faith into action through social ministry and life programs available in the Archdiocese of Washington. They include direct hands-on charity activities as well as advocacy opportunities through programs that seek to create a more just society. Some are one-time opportunities, others are short-term and others are on-going long-term opportunities. They all seek to help the poor and vulnerable in some way.
Please see the opportunities listed below. They only scratch the surface of what is available and needed in the Archdiocese of Washington, which includes the District of Columbia, and the five Maryland counties of Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s. You may find other opportunities of interest to you through your parish bulletin or in the local papers.
Keep your eyes open and your heart attentive to the volunteer opportunities, and you are likely to find something that fits your interests and abilities. Research the various opportunities, contact the organizations if you think something may be right for you, and discuss their needs with them and what you can offer to see if you are the right match for them. Some organizations have their own training programs for volunteers.
We have tried to group the volunteer opportunities listed below according to their major focus of activity, but many of them are active in several areas, so look around…
- Direct Help to the Poor and Vulnerable
- Life Issues and Unplanned Pregnancy
- Prison Outreach
- Health Care
- Legal Help
- Adult Literacy
- Furniture Ministry
- Global Solidarity, Parish Twinning, and International Outreach
- Legislative Advocacy
- Departmental Advisory Committees
Much important charity work in our parishes is done by the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Ladies of Charity.
Some parishes in the archdiocese have a St. Vincent de Paul Society and/or a Ladies of Charity group. These groups both have a long-standing history in the Church and provide direct help to those who need food, medicine, or who have fallen behind with some of their bills. They are always looking for new members and will provide training to help you become a more effective volunteer and member of their societies.
Learn more about St. Vincent de Paul online at the Vincent de Paul Society website. For information about SVDP local chapters, check with your pastor or call the local archdiocesan office at 202-281-2033. To find out more about the Ladies of Charity, visit the Ladies of Charity website.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington offers many opportunities for volunteers.
Catholic Charities goes where the need is and reaches into the communities they serve in the Washington, DC area. Catholic Charities operates eighty-eight locations throughout the District of Columbia and five Maryland counties. Services include health care, immigration assistance, language classes, vocational training, food pantries, housing, mental illness assistance and substance abuse counseling, and family strengthening programs. They focus on prevention where possible, intervention when needed, and advocacy when resources or opportunities are either inadequate or unfair. The people who fulfill the mission of Catholic Charities are an exceptional group of staff and volunteers with a commitment to the Church’s social justice mission. The many and varied programs offered by Catholic Charities always need volunteers to help fulfill their mission.
Please visit the volunteer section of the Catholic Charities website for more information on programs and volunteer opportunities.
The Spanish Catholic Center needs volunteers to help in many areas, including bi-lingual Spanish/English speakers.
The Spanish Catholic Center provides medical, dental, immigration, legal, education and social services to over 40,000 clients, primarily new Latino immigrants centered in the Mt. Pleasant, Gaithersburg and Langley Park areas. The Archdiocese of Washington founded the Spanish Catholic Center in 1967. Over the years, the Center has served immigrants from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and all points in between. Dedicated staff accomplish their mission along with hundreds of professional volunteers who provide caring services on a regular basis.
For information about the Spanish Catholic Center and volunteer opportunities, please visit its website.
So Others Might Eat (SOME) has numerous volunteer opportunities in the kitchen and serving line, its administrative office, and at shelters and other programs. There is an opportunity for just about every skill and interest.
So Others Might Eat has served the District of Columbia for 40 years, working to meet the most basic needs of DC’s homeless and poor citizens, to empower those who are ready to make real and lasting changes in their lives, and to advocate for stronger governmental solutions to poverty and homelessness in the District. Over the years, SOME has helped thousands of people get off the streets, transform their lives and learn to live independently.
DC Central Kitchen prepares food, but it is not a “soup kitchen.” Volunteers help them solve the interconnected problems of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in the DC area.
DC Central Kitchen began its first phase of operations in 1989, redistributing the excess food from the presidential inauguration. The Kitchen is founded on the premise that when fighting poverty, one must fight to win by using every resource available. Since its inception, DC Central Kitchen has recovered unused food, prepared and delivered meals to partner social service agencies, trained and employed homeless men and women for the food service industry, and intellectually engaged volunteers. As a community kitchen, they recycle over one ton of surplus food each day that would otherwise go to waste and turn it into 4,500 daily, nutritious meals for those in need in the greater Washington, D.C. region.
Parish and inter-parish food pantries, soup kitchens, and clothes closets in the metropolitan area need donations and volunteers.
Many of these organizations that help the needy are parish related; some are small, others are community-wide and inter-religious, but all are looking for help. See your parish bulletin for announcements and requests for help.
You may also ask your pastor, parish social concerns minister, Catholic Charities or the archdiocesan Department for Charity and Justice.
Pro-life pregnancy centers have numerous opportunities to support mothers facing crisis pregnancies.
Numerous volunteer opportunities are available at independent pro-life pregnancy centers located throughout the Archdiocese of Washington. The various centers provide services such as pregnancy testing, pro-life counseling and emotional, material and spiritual support to mothers facing crisis pregnancies. Volunteers are needed to provide these services, as well as provide support for running the offices.
For more information on pro-life pregnancy centers, the services available, and contact information to inquire about volunteering, please visit the Archdiocese of Washington’s preganancy help section.
Gabriel Network needs volunteers at several locations in the archdiocese, including coordinators, designated drivers, seasonal event and office administrative support, and “angel friends.”
The Gabriel Network is an interdenominational church-based outreach to women facing crisis pregnancies. Volunteers serve women who want to choose life for their children but who face poverty, homelessness, or abandonment. Participating church communities are linked in a network to provide emotional, spiritual and material support to women and families in need. The Gabriel Network exists to offer these women hope and the assurance that bringing their children into this world is possible.
Find out more about the Gabriel Network by contacting 301-262-9011 or 1-800-533-0093.
Project Rachel needs volunteers in several capacities in this post-abortion ministry.
Project Rachel is a post-abortion healing ministry sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington that offers compassionate help to men and women who have experienced emotional and or spiritual pain after abortion. A trained staff refers callers to licensed counselors or to priests specially trained in post-abortion concerns.
Information and contact information for Project Rachel may be found on the archdiocese’s Project Rachel page or by calling 301-3982-2008 or 202-269-4673.
The Welcome Home Reentry Program of Prison Outreach Ministry needs volunteers who want to help the incarcerated as they return to society.
The Prison Outreach Ministry and its Welcome Home Reentry Program live the Gospel mandate to serve men and women returning to their communities after incarceration. They seek to reduce recidivism, educate the community, and develop strong systems of support by building relationships and by matching returning individuals with compassionate volunteer mentors from communities of faith and civic organizations. Volunteer mentors are trained and receive staff support. Welcome Home currently operates in Washington, DC and in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties with expansion plans for Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s counties.
To learn more about Welcome Home and volunteer needs, please visit the Prison Outreach Ministry website.
Mercy Clinic provides medical services to uninsured and low-income adult residents of Montgomery County.
The Mercy Health Clinic is a free, not-for-profit, non-sectarian, community-based primary health care provider serving uninsured, low-income adult residents of Montgomery County, Maryland. The Clinic, with more than 150 dedicated volunteers, is committed to continually seeking ways to improve and expand the quality primary medical care, educational support and pharmaceuticals it provides free of charge to eligible patients. Mercy Health Clinic needs volunteers with all types of health care experience as well as office support staff.
For more information about Mercy Clinic and about volunteer opportunities, please visit the Mercy Clinic website.
The Archdiocesan Legal Network needs lawyers and people with legal experience.
The Archdiocesan Legal Network provides pro-bono civil legal services (e.g., family law, landlord tenant, consumer/bankruptcy, government entitlements, etc.) for low-income residents through volunteer attorneys, law firms and legal service providers.
Find out more about the Legal Network to see how you or your law firm can volunteer your services by visiting the Legal Network website.
Adult education, literacy, ESOL programs especially need people who enjoy teaching and helping others learn.
Many programs in the Washington metropolitan area need volunteers to help with adult education, literacy and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Catholic Charities offers many such programs, as do local governments and literacy councils. If you would like to volunteer, a good place to start is with the programs offered by Catholic Charities.
For information on other programs, watch your parish bulletin, local newspapers and organizations for announcements about the need for volunteers. You may also learn more about volunteering for adult education and literacy programs through Catholic Charities by visiting the Catholic Charities website.
Furniture donation ministry especially needs people who can lift and move furniture!
If you are interested in helping people in need find furniture, there are opportunities with several organizations in the area. A good place to start is with the furniture ministry at St. Rose of Lima parish in Gaithersburg. Find out more about their ministry by visiting the St. Rose website or by calling 301-948-7545.
Parish twinning is perfect for parishes that want to reach beyond their parish boundaries to help others.
A number of parishes in the archdiocese have twinning relationships with parishes, health care clinics, and schools, both in the archdiocese and abroad. Numerous volunteer activities are available for parishes that want to reach beyond their parish boundaries to help others. Parishes in the archdiocese have active twinning relationships with parishes in the Diocese of Jeremie in Haiti as well as with parishes, clinics, schools in numerous countries. Watch your parish bulletin and the Catholic Standard for more information.
Catholic Relief Services has published a “Parish Partnership Manual” with principles and practices for parishes on solidarity-based parish partnerships and a step-by-step guide for “Organizing a Global Solidarity Ministry Team in Your Parish.”
The archdiocesan Department of Charity and Justice has an active Twinning Committee. For more information, please see the Global Solidarity page, email the department for Charity and Justice or call us at 301-853-5340.
Operation Rice Bowl is about more than collecting money; it’s a perfect Lenten program for parishes.
Operation Rice Bowl (ORB) is a perfect Lenten program for parishes. Offered by Catholic Relief Services, it helps Catholics and their parishes connect with our brothers and sisters overseas. ORB calls participants to pray with their families and faith communities, fast in solidarity with those who hunger, learn about our global community and the challenges of poverty overseas, and give sacrificial contributions to those in need.
ORB is an effective way for Catholics to reach out to those in need and to grow in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable overseas. Everything you need to organize ORB in your parish is available online from Catholic Relief Services.
Fair trade is a fun way to raise money, raise consciousnesses, and help empower hardworking, impoverished people around the world.
The daily decisions we make as consumers can make a real, positive difference in the world. When we choose to buy fair trade products we are making a strong connection with hardworking, but impoverished workers around the world. The Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade network guarantees fair wages to disadvantaged artisans, farmers, and workers. It also provides the technical and financial assistance that poor people so desperately need but so rarely get in the conventional trading system. For information about how you can promote fair trade in your parish through CRS, please visit the CRS website.
Legislative advocacy helps you get involved to change the root causes of poverty and social injustice.
The Department for Charity and Justice works with the Maryland Catholic Conference, the District of Columbia Catholic Conference, and the Archdiocesan Justice and Advocacy Councils to provide opportunities which help you put your faith into action in the public square for those who are marginalized and often voiceless. These opportunities enable you to advocate on issues at the local, state and/or national levels.
Local Level: Justice and Advocacy Councils are active in Montgomery, Prince George’s, St. Mary's, and Calvert counties as well as in the District of Columbia. The J&A Councils advocate on issues that affect the poor and vulnerable by meeting with public officials at the local level, testifying before city/county councils and planning boards. They generally meet monthly in their respective jurisdictions.
For more information and for dates and times of J&A Council meetings in the Maryland counties of the Archdiocese, please contact Anthony Bosnick at 301-853-5340. For information about activities in the District of Columbia, please contact Michael Scott at 301-853-5308.
State and National Levels: The Archdiocese of Washington works closely with the Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC) and the District of Columbia Catholic Conference (DCCC) to help Catholics in the Archdiocese of Washington advocate on public policy issues locally and nationally that promote the life and dignity of the person.
Maryland residents may register with the Maryland Catholic Conference Catholic Advocacy Network to receive electronic action alerts.
Residents of the District of Columbia may email the D.C. Catholic Conference or call 301-853-5342 to sign up to receive legislative action alerts.
The Department for Charity and Justice has several advisory committees which provide council and assistance to the department. If you are interested in serving on a committee, please contact us for information or watch for notices of openings in our Ignite newsletter. The frequency of committee meetings varies. The following committees currently serve the department: Global Solidarity Committee, Parish Twinning Committee, Peace Committee, JustFaith Advisory Council, Labor Mass Committee, CCHD Grant Committee and the Department for Charity and Justice Advisory Council.
For more information on these committees, please contact Anthony Bosnick at 301-853-5349.