Catholics Committed to the Global Human Family

Julie Bodnar

Julie Bodnar

Many Americans believe the United States spends a significant portion of its budget on foreign aid. One frequently cited survey reports that Americans believe this number to be as high as 25%. In reality, the United States spends less than 1% of its budget on foreign aid. This number is already startlingly low, but with every round of budget negotiations it risks further cuts.

The world’s needs are great. Too many families know the reality of having their lives upended by war, famine, natural disasters and other crises. Even today, the number of people experiencing poverty is still too high, especially in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. One in seven people experience extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 per day. Over 50 million people were forcibly displaced in 2013, largely due to conflict and human rights violations. Given the violence in Iraq, Syria, the Central African Republic and South Sudan – to name just a few of the countries experiencing conflict – the data for 2014 may be even more alarming. The 2014 Ebola outbreak was the largest in history and could have been mitigated if affected countries had stronger health systems in place.

There is good news. International poverty-focused development and humanitarian aid make a real difference. Thanks to the global community’s commitment to addressing these development challenges, great progress has been made in recent years. For example, in just 15 years, extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half. Meanwhile, proven partners like Catholic Relief Services work every day to improve the lives of people across the world in very real ways. In Syria’s neighboring countries, CRS helps refugees survive the winter by providing medical assistance, cash transfers, food, blankets, heaters and other winter essentials. They’re working to create schools and child-friendly spaces where kids can begin to heal from the trauma they’ve experienced.

Aid is especially impactful when used for programs that involve the local community in planning and implementation. Community-based programming builds the capacity of local communities and promotes long-term sustainability, allowing even the small amount the budget the U.S. spends on aid to go a long way.

As Catholics, global development is more than just a practical matter of budgets and program efficiencies. It is rooted in our faith. All people are created in the likeness and image of God. We must work to preserve and strengthen poverty-focused aid in order to ensure that everyone is able to live in a way that promotes their human dignity. As Pope Francis tells us, accepting poverty in today’s world, a world of great wealth, is a scandal.

“Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this” (June 7, 2013).

As January, USCCB Poverty Awareness Month, winds down, our commitment to strengthening poverty-focused aid remains strong. Next month, hundreds of Catholic leaders will gather in our nation’s capital for the 2015 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. Living out this year’s theme, To Go Forth: Encountering Christ in the Heart of the World, these leaders will meet with their elected officials to advocate for policies that bring about a more just world. One of the key messages Catholics will bring to Capitol Hill this year is the need to strengthen funding for poverty-focused international development and humanitarian programs that save lives, reduce crushing poverty and build peace.

Julie Bodnar is an intern at the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

To Go Forth: Encountering Christ in the Heart of the World. The 2015 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering!

Germain headshot

Nicole Germain, USCCB

One effective strategy can enhance a program. One resonant message can inspire new creative ways to do your work.

Become inspired by hundreds of your colleagues at the 2015 Catholic Social Ministry Gathering (CSMG), February 7 -10, in Washington, DC. With our nation’s capital as the backdrop, learn the latest strategies and best practices from leaders in social ministry, while also celebrating the gifts we each bring.

The theme for CSMG 2015 is inspired by Pope Francis, “To Go Forth: Encountering Christ in the Heart of the World.”

Pope Francis reminds us:

“The Church must step outside herself. To go where? To the outskirts of existence, whatever they may be, but she must step out. Jesus tells us: ‘Go into all the world! Go! Preach! Bear witness to the Gospel!’ (cf. Mk 16:15). . . In this ’stepping out‘ it is important to be ready for encounter. For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. Why? Because faith is an encounter with Jesus, and we must do what Jesus does: encounter others . . . with our faith we must create a ’culture of encounter‘, a culture of friendship, a culture in which we find brothers and sisters.”

CSMG logo 2015
Our Gathering’s theme is a call to go forth and encounter each other, encounter those who are marginalized, encounter our elected officials, to listen, learn and act together. We are a missionary Church – we don’t stay within our churches; we are sent out. We are opened up to transforming our work, ministry, our relationships and ourselves. Through a focus on encounter, CSMG invites you to reflect not only on possible social, political and cultural transformations, but also on the opportunity to grow stronger in our faith as Catholics.

How does our spirituality inform our work? How do we effectively apply strategies and best practices? Learn how by registering for CSMG 2015, where we will celebrate Mass with Archbishop Kurtz, president of the USCCB and hear from speakers like Father Daniel Groody, a scholar, teacher and award winning author and film producer. Engage with leaders and emerging leaders. Attend community building and policy workshops. Advocate for the issues important to Catholics on Capitol Hill. Gain real-world advice you can put to use immediately. Share in the experiences of experts on everything from building intercultural competence to new avenues for expanding solidarity. Glean unique insights from diverse and vibrant social ministry professionals from around the country. All this and more is at CSMG 2015!

Young leaders present at CSMG 2014

Young leaders present at CSMG 2014

Those making the trip will have the privilege of attending the central annual event in the Catholic social ministry community.  Those present or not can follow us on Twitter @togoforth and tweet using the #CSMG15 hashtag. Join us on Facebook @CatholicSocialMinistry to track and discuss the latest Gathering news.

Registration for CSMG is open. Early registration rate is $330 if you register before November 15, 2014-then the rate increases, so register now!

So let’s break it down, shall we? This is one event you can’t afford to miss. We have saved a spot for you and can’t wait to hear what you have to share. For more information, visit the CSMG 2015 website

Nicole Germain is a program associate at the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

Where are all the young people? Right here!

As a young adult who has worked for the Church my entire adult life, it irks me when I hear questions like:

   Where are all the young people?
   Why don’t they care about the Church’s work in [insert topic being discussed]?
   Why aren’t they here?

In my experience, the major reason we don’t see “young people” is because we haven’t invited them. When we do invite them, they come. And when we respect their interests, experience and contributions, they keep coming.

Case in point: in February 2015, we will welcome over 100 Catholic student leaders from colleges and universities around the country to the annual Catholic Social Ministry Gathering—the preeminent gathering of US Catholics in social ministry, presented by 16 national Catholic organizations, under the leadership of the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.

CSMG logo 2015

The Gathering attracts around 500 participants—so college students will likely make up at least a fifth of the total attendees in 2015. This wasn’t always the case: just a few years ago, the Gathering was limited to social ministry professionals. But we realized we were missing out, so we created the Young Leaders Initiative, a special effort to attract and invite emerging student leaders.

Involving younger Catholics led to contagious energy, dynamism, faith and creativity. Long-time participants in the Gathering felt renewed hope in the future of social ministry. Young Leaders Initiative participants couldn’t stop talking about their experience.

Students at the University of Notre Dame reflected about how participating in the Mass, adoration, the Rosary, and other forms of prayer at the Gathering were “the most powerful action,” sending them on a mission to do God’s work.

Participants from St. Mary’s University in Minnesota discovered their essential role in calling lawmakers to pay attention to the real people impacted by poverty and injustice.

Students at Australian Catholic University spoke about connecting their faith with their “passion” for social justice, developing friendships, and being inspired by those who have “committed their lives” to this work.

A student from the University of Dayton reflected that the Gathering helped him “ask the hard questions about how we put the things that move our heart, our faith, our spirit into action? How do we make a real difference and stand with and for others?”

Such questions are a challenge to us, too. Instead of asking, “Where are all the young people?” let’s think about even more ways we can ask talented, passionate, faith-filled emerging leaders to join us in the work for the Kingdom.

Rauh headshotJill Rauh is assistant director for education & outreach at the USCCB’s Department of Justice, Peace & Human Development.