Labor Day 2019: On the Hundredth Year of the United States Bishops’ Program of Social Reconstruction

OT Photo TwoIn his 2019 Labor Day statement, On the Hundredth Year of the United States Bishops’ Program of Social ReconstructionBishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, invites us to consider how we can work together to address the persistence of low wages and inequality in our workplaces:

In the Gospel for this Labor Day, Jesus proclaims in the synagogue the words of Isaiah: that he, like the prophet, has been “anointed” “to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Lk. 4:18). How do we bring glad tidings to the poor today? As Pope Francis said earlier this year, “today’s tendency is toward slowing down the pace of reducing extreme poverty and increasing the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. . . . Many do not have food to eat and live adrift while a few drown in excess. This perverse current of inequity is disastrous for humanity’s future.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the “Bishops’ Program for Social Reconstruction,” published by an early predecessor of the current U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Following World War I, the bishops recommended a series of “practical and moderate” reforms because “the only safeguard of peace is social justice and a contented people.” Today’s economy, if measured by the stock market, has the most money and wealth it has ever had, and unemployment is around the lowest it has been in fifty years. And yet, roughly four in ten Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 bill, and would fall below the poverty line after three months without income. More than one in five jobs in the United States is in a low-wage occupation where the median wage pays below the poverty threshold for a family of four. Real wages have been largely stagnant for decades, and workers’ share of the fruits of the economy has been declining for decades. Why does this situation persist? It is worth revisiting the “Bishops’ Program,” which presented three themes from Catholic social teaching that, as recent research suggests, may help explain the present.

It is up to us, as Bishop Dewane reminds us, to live and act in solidarity with all workers as we seek to live out the call of the Gospel:

As the “Bishops’ Program” concluded 100 years ago, “[c]hanges in our economic and political systems will have only partial and feeble efficiency if they be not reinforced by the Christian view of work and wealth.” In this view, workers and owners both have rights and duties towards each other; a business enterprise must view itself as a “society of persons” rather than a mere commercial instrument. As Pope Francis recently said, “[t]he new course for sustainable economic development needs to set the person and work at the center . . .”16 To this end, no merely technocratic policy changes will bear the fruit that is so desperately needed today. Rather, with consideration for the treasury of the Church’s social teaching, let us consider “new processes” that can build up justice in the workplace over time. Let us then proceed as a people who, through Baptism, share in Christ’s anointing “to bring glad tidings to the poor.”

Read the complete 2019 Labor Day statement (also available in Spanish), and find ways to help your community respond with prayer and action in the 2019 pastoral aid. (en Español)

Additional ways you can help your community support workers and strive for just workplaces:

Fe en el Valle: Poniendo nuestra fe en acción

Faith in the Valley (FITV), o Fe en el Valle, es una organización comunitaria con base religiosa en el Valle Central de California, que representa a más de 100,000 familias de los condados de Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus y San Joaquín. Nuestro trabajo es dirigido por líderes voluntarios que se encuentran entre las personas más impactadas por desigualdades, y se enfocan en campañas sobre problemáticas tales como calidad del aire saludable, justicia restaurativa, dignidad para todos los inmigrantes a través de políticas justas y viviendas asequibles para todos. Financiada en parte por la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano (CCHD), Faith in the Valley empodera a sus miembros para que trabajen juntos en transformar sus comunidades en lugares de oportunidad.

Creemos que es posible un futuro diferente y mejor para los habitantes del Valle Central si trabajamos juntos. Un futuro en que todos estén incluidos, tratados como seres sagrados, con la oportunidad de prosperar y vivir una vida saludable y decente. Un futuro en que nadie sea visto como “menos que” o viva con temor debido al color de su piel, su estatus legal o la cantidad de dinero que gane. Un futuro donde todos tengan acceso a buenos empleos, aire limpio, agua limpia, alternativas al encarcelamiento, atención médica de calidad y vecindarios seguros.

Una forma poderosa que elegimos para llevar a cabo esta visión profética es asegurar que nuestro proceso democrático sea accesible para las personas más impactadas por las decisiones políticas. Los obispos católicos de los Estados Unidos exhortan a los católicos de toda nuestra nación a participar en el proceso político: “La obligación de la Iglesia de participar en la formación del carácter moral de la sociedad es un requisito de nuestra fe”. ¡Los líderes de las parroquias católicas de todo el Valle Central viven esta santa vocacion! Esforzándonos por ser pacificadores de nuestra nación, y como seguidores de Cristo, estamos comprometidos a defender la dignidad de todos y buscar el bien común de nuestros vecinos mediante ser ciudadanos fieles  y la participación cívica.

En los últimos meses, nuestros líderes han entrado en conversaciones con varios candidatos políticos* para asegurar que, independientemente de líneas políticas, nuestros futuros representantes electos escuchen lo que es importante para nosotros como comunidad de fe. Confiamos en que las historias compartidas por los miles de votantes anteriormente no comprometidos nos den el poder de hacer que nuestros líderes electos rindan cuentas por nuestras demandas de justicia y dignidad para todos.

Los líderes de Faith in the Valley y miembros de la comunidad también tocaron cientos de puertas e hicieron llamadas telefónicas a votantes alejados, quienes a menudo se han sentido marginados y no representados. Los educamos en proposiciones importantes acerca de viviendas asequibles, aumento de la inversión en espacios públicos y protección de fondos escolares, y alentamos a sus comunidades a hacer escuchar sus voces votando el 6 de noviembre.

Estos son algunos de los puntos importantes y los poderosos testimonios de algunos de nuestros líderes:

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Maura, de la Iglesia San José en Selma, California, invitando a su congregación a votar como un símbolo de compromiso santo, el 21 de octubre de 2018.

 

 

 

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“Muchas de las medidas locales tienen el poder de impactar directamente y hacer un cambio inmediato si nos tomamos el tiempo para educar a nuestra comunidad y animarlos a votar. Estoy comprometido porque sé lo que se me ha dado. Puede que nunca conozca a ninguna de ellas, pero tengo un profundo agradecimiento por las personas que abogaron por las leyes de amnistía de 1986, y, gracias al compromiso de tantas personas, ahora soy un ciudadano. Ahora es mi turno devolverlo. Mi fe en Dios también es mi fundamento. Mi único hijo tenía serios problemas respiratorios cuando era bebé, hasta el punto de ser hospitalizado. Desde entonces, me resultó difícil dormir porque temía que se ahogara. Me sentaba toda la noche teniéndolo en mi pecho mientras oraba a Dios por mi hijo. Un año después, a mi hijo le diagnosticaron asma y recibió medicamentos. Esa fue una oración respondida. Por todas las bendiciones que Él me ha dado, es importante que ore y actúe por los demás.” –Amador, Iglesia Católica San José en Selma, CA (izq.)

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“Me ofrecí de voluntaria para exhortar a las personas a votar porque, como soy menor de edad, no puedo votar. Así que quiero hacer todo lo que esté en mi poder para tratar de mejorar la vida de mi comunidad, mi familia y la mia”. Kazzandra, Saint Anthony Mary Claret en Fresno, CA (fila posterior, izq.)

Nuestros esfuerzos al rededor a las elecciones intermedias de noviembre de 2018 fueron solo una de las muchas problemáticas sobre las que los líderes de Faith in the Valley están organizando su comunidad. Como personas de fe, continuaremos nuestro compromiso con nuestros valores sagrados apoyando a los más marginados y vulnerables de nuestras comunidades.

¡Profundizando!

¿Está buscando formas de apoyar a grupos como Faith in the Valley en su propia comunidad? Descubra dónde hay en el país grupos comunitarios que trabajan para abordar las causas fundamentales de la pobreza que reciben fondos de la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano (CCHD). ¡Use el mapa interactivo para ubicar y contactarse con un grupo local de la CCHD en su área y conocer cómo puede participar!

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Faith in the Valley es una nueva organización comunitaria de base religiosa en el Valle Central de California de 120 congregaciones que representan a más de 100,000 familias en los condados de Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus y San Joaquín.

(*FITV no es partidista y no está alineada explícita o implícitamente con ningún candidato o partido. Aunque FITV está trabajando para promover la participación cívica, incluyendo el registro y educación de votantes, no respaldamos ni apoyamos candidatos a posiciones políticas).

 

Journeying through Lent with Catholic Social Teaching

povertyusa 7One of my favorite parts of my job as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Intern for the Archdiocese of Seattle is the work that I get to do around education and outreach on Catholic social teaching.

At the core of Catholic social teaching is the belief that all people are made in the image of God who desires to pour forth love into the world. So, to begin this conversation with students, I often like to begin with a seemingly simple question: “Who is God? What is God like?”

Responses are often straightforward and profound: “God is present in everyone.” “God is caring and loving.” “God’s image looks like us.” “God is like a friend to me.”

When we live into our authentic call as children of God, attentive to the ways the Holy Spirit is already at work in the world, these are characteristics we are invited to model.  We are called to be caring and loving, brave and powerful, like a friend, vessels of love and justice in the world.

And yet, as Pope Francis reminds us in his Lenten message: “The root of all evil, as we know, is sin, which from its first appearance has disrupted our communion with God, others and creation itself.”

When students are asked to brainstorm ways that life is threatened in their schools, communities, and the world, responses cover the spectrum of our shared brokenness: “Racism.” “Bullying and bad friends.” “School shootings.” “Family and school drama.” “Lack of opportunity.” “Gun violence.” “Discrimination.” “Climate change.”

As we move towards the end of this Lenten season, we know sin. We see sin’s destructive power in our lives, in broken relationships with friends and family, in the toxic and debilitating forces of shame and self-criticism, in gossip and untruths. We know sin in our communities and in our world; In the heart-breaking injustices of racism, hatred, poverty, and inequity. We both participate in and are harmed by broken systems and structures in our country and our Church. We know sin all too well.

In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus says: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn 8:7). It is difficult to look at the world through God’s eyes of compassion. It is difficult to acknowledge our own sinfulness and the ways that we perpetuate systems of harm.

Similarly, our Lenten practices can sometimes be uncomfortable. We experience hunger during our fasting. We may experience awkwardness or discomfort in trying a new prayer practice.  It is also true that embodying the invitation of Catholic social teaching can sometimes be a challenge. It is hard to consider our lives as deeply interconnected to the well-being of our neighbor, and it is challenging to know how to act out of this.

Organizations funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) work to address the systemic roots of poverty in our communities. We must each confront the ways in which we have allowed systems and structures to perpetuate the cycle of poverty. When we learn how to identify unjust systems that undermine the dignity of God’s children, we can more authentically live out our call to Catholic social teaching. The work of CCHD and the groups it funds is unique and often creative because it goes beyond a “helping” model and into developing creative and sustainable ways of making systemic change.

Rooted in Catholic social teaching, CCHD works to embrace in new ways the realities of the preferential option for the poor, the call to family, community, and participation, the life and dignity of the human person and solidarity. CCHD responds creatively to the invitation of Catholic social teaching to bring us back into right relationship with one another. It does this in new and creative ways, and in ways that may be challenging.

During Lent, we are invited to see differently, and then to act anew. We are also invited to see that God is working in new ways through CCHD to bring us back into relationship with one another.

As we continue to move through Lent towards the new life of Easter, the invitation and wisdom of Catholic social teaching, as embodied through CCHD, patiently awaits us: Come back to who God is, come back to who we are.

Going Deeper!

As we continue to journey through Lent, take a moment and reflect on how your choices and actions reflect our call to live in right relationship with our neighbors with this examination of conscience in light of Catholic Social Teaching (also available in Spanish). Afterward, learn more about the power and work of CCHD and find ways to get involved in your community.

Claire Lucas

Claire Lucas is a senior at Seattle University studying Psychology and Theology & Religious Studies, and is currently the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) intern at the Archdiocese of Seattle. A self-proclaimed Catholic social teaching nerd, Claire is passionate about fostering attentiveness to the signs of the times and building communities of loving solidarity via fair-trade coffee and spontaneous dance parties.

Honoring the Dignity of Life at Every Stage

povertyusa 10Throughout the month of January, we participate in Poverty Awareness Month and from January 14th through the 22nd we observed the 9 Days for Life Campaign. All Catholics must work together to protect the life and dignity of all persons, at every stage of life, and this demands we both join the work to end abortion and also address the systems and structures that perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

In the United States, nearly 40 million people live in poverty. In addition, 75% of women who received abortions in 2014 were categorized as low income, and 49% lived beneath the federal poverty line. Taken together, these facts suggest important systemic issues that have significant implications for how to work towards creating a society that supports life and the flourishing of life from conception to natural death.

The Guttmacher Institute reported that 75% of women who received abortions cited the inability to afford to have a child as the reason for seeking an abortion. No parent should have to worry about being able to feed, clothe, and care for children or make choices between paying rent and buying food. Yet so many are in exactly this situation.

Access to quality maternal and prenatal healthcare is a challenge for many across the country. For example, in Washington, D.C., where the maternal mortality rate is twice the national rate, several hospitals closed their maternity wards in recent years, leaving many women and families in low-income neighborhoods multiple bus rides away from access to maternal and pediatric healthcare. The infant mortality rate in these low-income neighborhoods is ten times the rate in wealthier areas of Washington, D.C. Access to quality healthcare throughout every stage of life is an important part of upholding the preferential option for the poor and defending the dignity of human life.

In addition to advocating for comprehensive health care, benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), access to affordable housing, quality education and child care, paid family leaves, all create conditions which help families to thrive. We must also invest in family stability by ensuring that job training opportunities, family-sustaining wages and adequate benefits are available for all. Catholic Social Teaching tells us that support of these initiatives is imperative to living out the Gospel call to justice.

Watch this video about the cycle of poverty, and then imagine that you found out that you would soon be having a child. For many families living at or close to the poverty line, a missed paycheck or broken-down car can be enough to upset the delicate balance between making it and not. The time and cost associated with having a baby can seem insurmountable. The immense pressure and lack of accessible resources available to those living in poverty may leave many feeling that abortion is the only option.

It is a tragedy that in the United States many women and families feel forced into abortions because of their economic plight. The high rates of abortion among low-income families is a clear indication that we have not met the needs of low-income moms and families. For this reason, it is key for pro-life Catholics to support families and to help them bring new life into this world, and to support them beyond the birth of the child through access to quality food, education, and healthcare. As a Church, we must see the connection between abortion and poverty as a pivotal point of the pro-life work. We must advocate for systems and structures that support life in every stage and support and empower parents and families in every situation. Only then will we truly be a people of life.

Going Deeper:

Much of my work with my college’s pro-life group has centered around supporting low-income mothers. On campus, I have organized an annual Pregnancy and Parenting Resource Forum to raise awareness for an understanding of the options and support available to students should they become pregnant.  My club has also been involved with a local pregnancy resource center and maternity home that offers counseling, parenting materials and supplies, and even housing for low-income and immigrant woman who need support during their pregnancies and early years of parenting.  I have babysat at their maternity home, collected diapers from Safeway, and hosted fundraisers for the center.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) seeks to do more than the charitable works that I have participated in at my pregnancy center. CCHD transforms communities and addresses the root causes of poverty. Addressing why so many families living in poverty seek out abortions requires more than diapers; it requires an evaluation of issues such as affordable housing, access to healthcare, and paid family leave. CCHD funded organizations set the stage for women to choose life in moments of crisis.

Join CCHD in this work to address the root causes of poverty. First, take our Poverty Quiz and test your knowledge about poverty and the systems and structures that impact our communities. Then, discover a local CCHD funded group in your area and get involved in the work to end the cycle of poverty.

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MyLan Metzger is an intern with the Education and Outreach office of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Faith in the Valley: Putting Our Faith into Action

Faith in the Valley (FITV) is a faith-based grassroots community organization in California’s Central Valley, representing over 100,000 families in Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties. Our work is led by volunteer leaders who are among the people most impacted by equity gaps and focuses on issue campaigns such as healthy air quality, restorative justice, dignity for all immigrants through just policies, and affordable housing for all. Funded in part by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), Faith in the Valley empowers its members to work together to transform their communities into places of opportunity.

We believe that a different, better future is possible for the residents of the Central Valley if we work together. A future in which everyone is included, treated as sacred, has a chance to thrive and live a healthy, decent life. A future in which no one is seen as “less than” or lives in fear because of the color of their skin, their legal status, or the amount of money they earn. A future where everyone has access to good jobs, clean air, clean water, alternatives to incarceration, quality healthcare, and safe neighborhoods.

A powerful way we choose to carry out this prophetic vision is to ensure that our democratic process is accessible to the people that are the most impacted by policy decisions. The Catholic bishops of the United States encourage Catholics across our nation to engage in the political process: “The Church’s obligation to participate in shaping the moral character of society is a requirement of our faith.” Leaders at Catholic parishes across the Central Valley are living into this holy calling! Striving to be peacemakers of our nation, and as followers of Christ, we are committed to standing up for the dignity of all and seeking the common good of our neighbors through participation in faithful citizenship and civic engagement.

Over the last few months, our leaders engaged in conversations with several political candidates* to ensure that, regardless of political lines, our future elected representatives heard what is important to us as a community of faith. We are confident that the stories shared by the thousands of previously disengaged voters will give us the power to hold our elected leaders accountable to the demands of justice and dignity for all.

Faith in the Valley leaders and community members also knocked on hundreds of doors and made phone calls to those previously disengaged voters, who have oftentimes felt marginalized and unrepresented. We educated them on important propositions around affordable housing, increase in investment for public spaces, and protection of school funding, and encouraged their communities to have their voices heard by voting on November 6th.

Here are some of the highlights and powerful testimonies of some of our leaders:

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Maura, from St. Joseph’s Church in Selma, CA, inviting her congregation to pledge to vote as a symbol of holy commitment on October 21, 2018.

 

 

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“Many of the local measures have the power to directly impact and make an immediate change if we take the time to educate our community and encourage them to vote.  I’m involved because I know what has been given to me. I may never know any of them, but I have deep gratitude for the people that advocated for the amnesty laws of 1986, and thanks to the commitment of so many people, I am now a citizen. Now it’s my turn to pay it forward.  My faith in God also grounds me. My only son had serious respiratory problems as a baby, to the point of being hospitalized. From then on, it was hard for me to sleep because I was afraid of him choking. I would sit up all night having him in my chest as I pray to God for my child. A year later, my son was diagnosed with asthma and received medication. That was an answered prayer. For all the blessings He’s given me, it’s important that I pray and step into action for others.” –Amador, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Selma, CA (left)

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“I volunteered to encourage people to vote because since I am a minor, I cannot vote. So I want to do everything in my power to try and make life better for my community, my family, and myself.” Kazzandra, Saint Anthony Mary Claret in Fresno, CA (back row, left)

 

Our efforts around the November 2018 midterm election were just one of the many issues Faith in the Valley leaders are organizing their community around. As people of faith, we will continue our commitment to our holy values by standing with the most marginalized and vulnerable in our communities.

Going Deeper!

Looking for ways to support groups like Faith in the Valley in your own community? Discover where in the country there are community groups working to address the root causes of poverty that receive funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Use the interactive map to locate and contact a local CCHD group in your area and learn how you can get involved!

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Faith in the Valley is new faith-based grassroots community organization in California’s Central Valley of 120 congregations representing over 100,000 families in Fresno, Kern, Merced, Stanislaus, and San Joaquin Counties.

(*FITV is non-partisan and is not aligned explicitly or implicitly with any candidate or party. While FITV is working to promote civic participation including voter registration and education, we do not endorse or support candidates for office.)

 

The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering: Inspiring, eye-opening faith-in-action

This past February was my first opportunity to attend the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering in Washington, DC. Having recently begun working at the Catholic University of America as an assistant campus minister, I took several of our students to participate in the Young Leaders Initiative. We met with over one hundred other young people from college campuses across the country, all of whom are active in works of service and justice in their particular communities. It was a time to share ideas, learn new things, and be inspired by the many speakers and participants who are working for a better world in many different fields and in all different corners of the globe.

The opening mass set the tone for the whole conference. The room was packed, and Monsignor Ray East’s energy and liveliness woke us up to the strength and beauty of a faith lived through action. Songs and readings were done in languages from the Americas, Africa, and Asia, and the room of people of all ages and races were united by a love of God and love of justice. It was impossible not be touched by the Spirit moving in that room.

Sunday evening we were honored to meet several members of Living Hope Wheelchair Association. Founded by people with spinal cord injuries, they serve others with spinal cord injuries and wheelchair-confining disabilities. They told stories of how they were founded, how they have grown, and how they have fought to overcome obstacles both external and internal. Seeing people who are physically limited have so much strength and resilience, and who have done so much for others who suffer, helped us to have a more hopeful perspective. These people were truly shining examples of positivity and solidarity in a world more and more threatened by negativity and individualism.

Throughout the conference, we heard from many different speakers and participated in different discussions about social justice issues both domestic and international. One of my students has spent a lot of time tutoring low-income students in a predominantly black school, and he was able to learn more about racial inequality in our educational systems, criminal justice systems, and even in our own Catholic Church. One of my students is a social work major, and was able to learn more about affordable housing and the homeless population in the U.S. Another one of my students, who would be leading a group of his peers to the U.S./Mexico Border the following month, was able to learn more about immigration and the struggle of Latino immigrants. Having lived the last several years in Latin America myself, I was fascinated to hear speakers from Ecuador and Brazil, and attend presentations on Colombia and Cuba. The diversity and the expertise of the speakers and presenters was fantastic.

The final day of the conference was spent on Capitol Hill, meeting with Congresspersons and staffers, and advocating for those victimized by unjust policies and systems. This was the first time I, and most of my students, had lobbied on the Hill. Armed with the knowledge gained at the conference, and our own experiences, we united our voices to call for change.  Though it may be a drop in the bucket, civic participation is the responsibility of every citizen of a democracy, and the experience has spurred us on to continue advocating.

The CSMG conference was inspiring and eye-opening. It was an opportunity for growth, both for myself and my students, and something we will not soon forget. Let us pray that it was also an experience that will continue to move us to more action and a more authentic and lively faith.

Going Deeper!

Join us for the 2019 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering on Feb. 2-5. Registration is open until January 11, 2019!

Student leaders from colleges and universities and accompanying campus staff can participate in the Young Leaders Initiative (YLI) by filling out the YLI Interest form before December 12, 2018!

Harrison Hanvey

 

Harrison Hanvey is Assistant Campus Minister for Mission Trips and Community Service at The Catholic University of America.

My CCHD Internship Helped Me Respond to Christ’s Call

CCHD postGrowing up in the South Valley of Albuquerque, NM, I was blessed to have been able to incorporate my Catholic faith into everyday life due to the extensive Catholic community in my neighborhood.  My parents taught me at a very young age about Catholicism, and I practiced best as I could. As I grew up I became more involved with my parish’s youth group and Confirmation leadership team. Since beginning to pursue my masters in social work, I’ve learned that my Catholic faith and social work ethics tie had in hand, so it has become clear that my faith has drawn me towards social justice.

When I decided to apply for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) internship, I was nervous because I applied once before and to no avail, I wasn’t picked, but I still knew that it was in my best interest to try again.  In the spring of 2018, my best friend sent me the internship description, and the same day, my mom sent me the same intern job announcement that was posted in our Archdiocese’s magazine, the People of God, so it definitely felt like God was speaking to me through those around me.

As you might be able to tell, I was chosen to be the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s office of Social Justice and Respect Life’s CCHD intern, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. Through the office I am working out of, I have been able to meet and work with Pastors, priests, deacons, CCHD funded groups, community organizations, youth ministers, Confirmation teachers, Catholic school superintendents, Catholic school teachers, and many Catholic individuals and families that are a part of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.  I have made many great contacts here in the Archdiocese, and I have been able to contact these groups through email, phone call, and even local community meetings, which has given me a great step up in starting to get the word out about CCHD, the annual national collection, as well as giving informative presentations.  The topics I have been presenting on are Catholic social teaching, the two feet of love in action, sacraments and social mission, living the gospel through being disciples, an overview of CCHD, Catholic charities, and poverty awareness.

As the CCHD intern, I have been able to promote the CCHD collection and teach youth, and adults about what the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is and what it stands for, Catholic Social Teaching, and poverty awareness.  So far, I have given presentations to youth groups, youth conferences, Confirmation groups, and to adult faith formation groups.  I have seen a growing impact in the Archdiocese and a growing awareness of social justice that affects each group to whom I present.  As the CCHD collection approaches (November 17-18, 2018), I have been active in outreach and giving presentations to ensure that not only priests are aware of the collection and important work of CCHD, but Catholic parishes as a whole, including the youth, are informed and given the opportunity to could learn more about those living in poverty, as well as ways they can help if they are unable to donate to the collection.

A hope of mine as I continue my presentations and outreach to parishes, schools, and faith formation groups is to educate my fellow Catholics on why and how our faith ties hand in hand with social justice. Catholic Social teaching is the epitome of who Jesus Christ calls us to be. If I could have people understand this, I would be thankful to God for giving me a hand in molding His people to become socially aware to help those who are vulnerable and living in poverty.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has offered me a great opportunity to continue growing in my own faith and to help people learn, grow, and act in their Catholic faith so they can also become stewards and advocates for those living and overcoming poverty.  What makes my job a tad bit easier is knowing that I can rely on my fellow CCHD interns in dioceses throughout the country, as well as the resources that CCHD and USCCB provide me to ensure that my presentations and outreach are productive and are making a difference.

If I can offer one piece of advice for anyone considering being a part of CCHD, whether by becoming an intern, donating, participating in a CCHD funded group, or supporting CCHD on social media, I would say DO IT! As Pope Francis stated in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), “The poor person, when loved, ‘is esteemed as of great value’, and this is what makes the authentic option for the poor differ from any other ideology, from any attempt to exploit the poor for one’s own personal or political interest. Only on the basis of this real and sincere closeness can we properly accompany the poor on their path of liberation” (no. 199).

Going Deeper: 

This weekend, November 17-18,  is the CCHD Collection! Be part of the effort to break the cycle of poverty in the United States. Learn more about how to give!

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Rachel Baca is a masters of social work student currently fulfilling an internship in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Office of Social Justice and Respect Life as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development intern.

 

Living Hope: A Voice for the Vulnerable

Noe Ramirez of Living Hope Wheelchair Association receives the Sister
Margaret Cafferty Development of Peoples Award in Houston, TX.

Noe has been a quadriplegic for more than twenty years, ever since a drunk driver knocked him off his bicycle as he rode to work in Houston. Without a trace of bitterness, he told us, “I thank God for putting me in a wheelchair.”

Despite his struggles to get help—perhaps because of them—he and nine other people with spinal cord injuries came together to address their immediate need for medical supplies. The local public health district had stopped providing catheters, adult diapers, and urine collection bags to people with irregular immigration status. At first, the members of Living Hope focused on raising funds to buy supplies for fellow wheelchair users. Then the organization began to address the root causes of marginalization and poverty for immigrant workers with disabilities.

Today Living Hope is a strong voice for the rights of both immigrants and people with disabilities.

After Hurricane Harvey devastated south Texas in August 2017, Living Hope’s network helped identify and aid people with disabilities who were stranded. Its post-hurricane work has reflected Living Hope’s consistent call to community. Without their assistance and outreach throughout the year, many people with mobility concerns would be physically and emotionally isolated. The group uses Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) funds to train quality-of-life promoters to help reintegrate people facing debilitating injuries back into the community and ultimately help them return to full participation in society.

We were honored to present our 2017 Sister Margaret Cafferty Development of Peoples Award to Living Hope Wheelchair Association in November and at this year’s Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. The group embodies the criteria of the award with its community-based self-help model that helps poor and low-income people improve their situations and change the structures that keep them and others in poverty.

Living Hope members are strengthened by their faith in God and help from one another to advocate for basic rights and respect for their human dignity. Because of their persistence in engaging elected and appointed officials and speaking publicly about their plight, Living Hope has won small but significant improvements to health care access, transportation, and public safety.

Living Hope is a tangible example of how the preferential option for the poor translates from concept to action.

Thank you for helping CCHD address the needs of the vulnerable and poor through its support of people like Noe.

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD.

Going Deeper
Learn more about Living Hope in the latest edition of the CCHD quarterly newsletter Helping People Help Themselves. Visit PovertyUSA.org to learn more about Living Hope and hundreds of community groups that receive funding from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.

Photos Courtesy of Living Hope Wheelchair Association

Remarks from Fr. Matthew O’Donnell, the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award Winner

On June 13th the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) presented the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award to Fr. Matthew O’Donnell, the pastor at St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago, IL. Fr. Matt was honored for his exemplary leadership as his parish works to address the poverty and violence in their community. To learn more about the Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, please see the USCCB press releaseFr. Matt’s remarks offer reflections on the call to work for justice and peace in our communities:

Good evening to Bishop Talley, your eminences and excellencies, Ralph McCloud, and all that are gathered here this evening. Pope Francis, in reflecting on the Beatitudes in his recent Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, wrote “We need to be artisans of peace, for building peace is a craft that demands serenity, creativity, sensitivity, and skill. Sowing peace all around us: that is holiness” (Par. 89). These words speak deeply about the ministry I share in with the people of St. Columbanus Church on the southside of Chicago. The reflections of the Holy Father are a call to action for Christians, and all people of good will, around the world. They are more than words or reflections, for they are an invitation for each of us to grow in holiness.

My ministry is one that often makes me feel that I stand in the crossroads of life and death. This year there have been over 1,100 shootings in the city of Chicago, resulting in the deaths of nearly 200 individuals. Chicago is not alone though in facing the epidemic and sin of violence in our country. The violence in our country is not from guns alone. We know all too well the stories of our people who experience the pain and trauma from domestic violence, economic disparities, racism, unemployment and underemployment, underperforming school systems, lack of affordable housing, and the increasing hostility to the sacredness of life. The life and story of each victim of violence in our country is far more than the act of violence that either harmed them or ended their life. They are men, women, and children that come from every part of our country. They are our parishioners and neighbors, they are the people that come from our dioceses and communities, they are the ones entrusted to our pastoral care.

Stories such as these remind me daily of the great mission that Jesus Christ calls me to as I seek to live as a priest in our fractured world. We are invited to be artisans in our ministry that minister from a place of creativity to respond to the many challenges that we face. Our story, as the People of God, is one that teaches that God is love and that ultimately we are created in love, to love. It is when we live the Beatitudes we can help others to “Rejoice and be glad” (Matthew 5:12). How lucky we are as pastoral ministers, baptized believers, to be entrusted with the sacred ministry of listening to stories, encountering one another, and spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Church’s work for peace and justice is truly a ministry of hospitality and action.

Serving as a priest in Chicago allows me to hear the stories of so many individuals that inspire me to see the beauty and the hope that is alive in my city, in our country, and in our world. At St. Columbanus, we are committed to working to eradicate poverty. In 2017, our parish’s Food Pantry distributed 2.5 million pounds of food to our neighbors in two zip codes of Chicago. Our charitable work to feed the hungry is an important ministry of our parish, but we want to do more! Last year we established a Community Service Center that has several components. One program, Project Chance, offers skills training and part-time employment in our parish. From this, we have been able to offer our first full-time position for a custodian in our church and school. We will begin GED classes this fall and we are working diligently to open a coffee shop in our neighborhood. Our coffee shop, which we plan to name Holy Grounds, will focus on economic development in our community by providing several jobs, and it will be a place of hospitality that our neighbors can use for community meetings and programming. All of this reminds me, that we must strive with even greater zeal to make disciples, build community, and inspire witness.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development has been an important part of my life since 2005 when I served as the CCHD intern for the Archdiocese of Chicago. I recall visiting housing projects with Cardinal Francis George, sitting with residents at kitchen tables and listening to their stories. I remember reviewing grant applications and visiting community organizations committed to justice. I was inspired to be a part of a cohort of other young Catholics who desired to spread the message and work of CCHD as interns.

It was during my time as a CCHD intern that I discerned my vocation to the priesthood. The stories of people, the witness of priests, and the commitment of the Church in the United States to eradicate poverty allowed me to finally accept God’s invitation to explore my desire to become a priest. As a priest serving in the Black Catholic community of Chicago I am reminded daily of the important and sacred work that God calls me to. I would be nothing as a priest if it were not for the witness of faith shown to me by the people I am blessed to serve. At St. Columbanus it is part of our mission to be “an inclusive, welcoming, and loving community.” Our mission as a parish is rooted in the ministry of Jesus Christ and fortified in a spirituality that is “Authentically Black and Truly Catholic.”

I believe that a Gospel commitment to the poor can only come from authentic encounters with the poor. Such encounters require our presence and commitment to remain present with those who are hurting. This is something Cardinal Blase Cupich reminds me, and all in the Archdiocese of Chicago, of consistently. As the leader and shepherd of our local Church, he stands with the poor, even coming to St. Columbanus to distribute food to our neighbors, and calling for all of us to put in the hard work to foster stronger bonds of community. I hope the leadership I bring to my parish community is one that shows others what it means to live the Beatitudes.

Tonight, it means so much to me to be the recipient of the 2018 CCHD Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award. Cardinal Bernardin was my Archbishop growing up and his lessons on the consistent ethic of life inspire me to work harder to build a culture of life in Chicago. Cardinal Bernardin’s example is lived by so many of the Bishops gathered here this evening, and for that I am grateful. There are so many in the dioceses across our country who work tirelessly to show that every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. It is when we work together, following faithfully the call to holiness that God places upon each of our lives, that we have the power to eradicate injustice and build the Beloved Community that God desires us to be.

Thank you to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the staff of CCHD for this award. Thank you to Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Auxiliary Bishops of Chicago who support me in my ministry. Finally, thank you to the people of St. Columbanus Church who have loved me and formed me as a pastor. May we all be reminded that sowing peace all around us is holiness. Thank you.

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Fr. Matthew O’Donnell is the pastor of St. Columbanus Parish in Chicago, IL and the winner of the 2018 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award.

 

How One Worker-Owned Cooperative Offered Hope and Economic Development

When the big industry in a region closes its doors, or moves out of state or out of the country, there is justified anger, grief, and hand-wringing. Workers who depended on the jobs, checks, and benefits may have few employment alternatives.

Unemployment benefits can’t make up the lost income. The economy sags. The human toll follows.

But Opportunity Threads, a group that receives funding from the Catholic bishops through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), offers a story of hope amid such adversity.

For much of the last century the economy of western North Carolina has depended on furniture and textile industries. But when these industries closed operations in the area, local people stepped in to develop an alternative model of economic development.

Opportunity Threads is a “cut-and-sew” cooperative that employs 23 full-time workers, who in turn support at least 100 family members. Molly Hemstreet, now the general manager of Opportunity Threads, grew up in the area and taught English as a Second Language to recent immigrants. She and several community members pals identified a growing consumer interest in local, sustainable goods that support the “triple bottom line” of social, economic, and environmental benefits to a community.

Working with one used sewing machine after hours in a borrowed room, they helped start a local renaissance in micro-manufacturing. Together they turned the excess inventory of irregular socks from a local small producer into winsome stuffed animals, and introduced “up-cycling” to the area.

With grant assistance from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the U.S. Catholic bishops’ domestic, anti-poverty program, Opportunity Threads was soon established as a worker-owned business that draws on skilled un- and underemployed people in the community of Burke County, North Carolina, to create sustainable livelihoods and put a new face on textile production in the rural South.

Molly supports worker ownership because it gives people responsibility and a voice in the company and promotes dignity and respect. The long route to worker-owner may take a worker up to 18 months, but the painstaking training and vetting pays off by creating a group that works together as a balanced team. As further proof, Opportunity Threads has yet to lose an owner or “pre-member” to a vote of the worker-owners.

But that’s not all. Opportunity Threads has actively helped other suppliers and producers work together and share jobs. Molly calls it “co-opetition.” The work has developed into the Carolina Textile District, which aggregates work, screens producers, and determines who’s best for a job. Molly said the pie of the textile industry is large enough for everyone to have a piece without competing and being at each other’s throats.

In fact, so many other groups have asked Opportunity Threads how to establish a successful worker-owned model that Molly and others formed The Industrial Commons, which also got a grant from CCHD. The Industrial Commons now helps small- to mid-sized industrial firms and networks create economic opportunity for low-income workers, improve livelihoods, develop democratic workplaces, and root ownership in communities to create sustainable change.

From where I sit, that looks like a tremendously positive alternative to handwringing and despair.

Beth Griffin is a free-lance journalist with an abiding interest in social justice.

 Going Deeper

In most dioceses in the U.S., Nov. 18-19, 2017, was the national collection to support the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic bishops. Nov. 19 was also the first World Day of the Poor.  Use this Poverty Map to find out about work in your part of the country that is supported by the bishops through CCHD.