By Sally O’Dwyer

Catholic Charities volunteers come to us primarily because they want to make a difference in the lives of the poor and the vulnerable people we serve.

They want to help — without harming the person they serve, or themselves. The key to flourishing as a volunteer, says Dr. Michael Horne, our Catholic Charities director of clinical services, is to set healthy boundaries. After all, even Jesus, who called us to serve the poor, set boundaries.

And that’s not always easy!

Whether we’re aware of it or not, boundaries exist in all our relationships. We set boundaries in the workplace, with our families, friends and people we meet in passing. It is part of a code of behavior that helps us establish our identity and set expectations between one another.

When we consciously understand our boundaries—what we have to offer as well as our limits — we can have a powerful impact on others. If we manage these boundaries we are unlikely to be derailed in our care for others by burnout, frustration or even resentment. Without boundaries, our charity can become toxic, even though we may care very much about the person we are serving.

If you feel called to serve others, consider these principles for boundary setting:

 Empower, not rescue
 Take care of yourself
 Service time is not “me” time
 Don’t open your wallet
 Don’t shift from service-provider to employer
 Be consistent
 Be a role model
 Be accountable

Learn more at on Dec. 13 when Dr. Horne will offer a special training on setting boundaries.
He’ll explain why self-care matters and how to take better care of you. Self-care is not a dirty word. We must practice it if we want to have the staying power to be present when we are most needed.

Please join us on December 13, 7 p.m. at St. Ann’s Catholic Church, 5312 10th Street N Parish Hall, Arlington.


Want to know more about setting boundaries, but unable to attend the Dec. 13 presentation at St. Ann? Listen to Dr. Horne talk about it on this #SearchingForMore podcast.