Developing Housing and Jobs on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Some of the most intriguing and successful CCHD-funded groups are those that surmount the biggest obstacles. The Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation (CDC) in Porcupine, South Dakota, is one of them.

The group works on the remote Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, a huge expanse that takes two hours to cross in a car. It’s no secret that Native Americans have been marginalized and mistreated in the history of our country. Government, church, and private efforts to improve their living conditions and prospects for the future have enjoyed mixed success. To be fair, there have been missteps on all sides, but one of the recurring stumbling blocks has been the attempt by outsiders to determine what the native people need and want.

Three young adults smile in front of a Thunder Valley CDC sign

These young adults were part of Thunder Valley CDC’s Workforce Development Through Sustainable Construction program where they learned construction skills, advanced their education, and developed individual success plans.

We were cautiously optimistic when we heard about Thunder Valley CDC, a relatively new group of young people committed to building sustainable communities in the very tough economy of the reservation. Jobs are scarce. Housing is substandard. Infrastructure barely exists. The reservation is in the poorest county in the country. But the people have hope and determination. The Thunder Valley CDC organizers began by talking to their neighbors and ASKING what they needed to improve the quality of life for themselves and their families. Housing and jobs were at the top of the list. They were not asking for charity but the opportunity to create systemic change and achieve self-sufficiency.

A team of people push up a frame of a wall on a cleared lot

Thunder Valley CDC staff raises a wall for the Sustainable Agriculture Education Center where youth and families will be able to learn about healthy local foods.

Two young Lakota girls in athletic gear and holding small basketballs smiling

Through Thunder Valley CDC, Lakota children participate in sports and wellness activities that are run by older Lakota youth in the Youth Leadership Development program.

Thunder Valley CDC identified land near an important crossroad on the reservation. They purchased it, and with CCHD’s help, they are implementing an ambitious master plan that includes infrastructure, home ownership, jobs, education, training, and mentorship.

Thunder Valley CDC takes CCHD’s mission to heart: the group is led by the people it serves and the people who participate have a stake in the outcome. By listening carefully and planning meticulously, Thunder Valley CDC is creating tangible, sustainable change in the community. It has become a force for justice in an area that longs for it. CCHD is honored to support the effort.

Thank you, as always, for your prayers and support of CCHD.

You are a crucial partner in our ceaseless mission to break the cycle of poverty.

Photos Courtesy of Thunder Valley CDC

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

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


Learn more about Thunder Valley CDC in the latest edition of the CCHD quarterly newsletter Helping People Help Themselves.

See other CCHD groups’ Stories of Hope on PovertyUSA.

Permanently Affordable Housing Transforms Lives and Communities

I have mixed feelings when I see new construction in residential neighborhoods. I’m a curious passerby and I like to watch the slow progress of the heavy equipment preparing the foundation and moving girders into place. I’m excited (and maybe a little envious) to envision families having an opportunity to be the first to live in a bright, clean place where everything works. Then I start to wonder if long-time residents were displaced for the new building. If so, where did they go? And how do they afford the rent? What happened to the community they built over many years?

Housing is one of the justice issues we address at the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). On San Juan Island in northwest Washington State, as in so many areas, housing prices have skyrocketed in recent decades, squeezing low-income workers and others out of formerly affordable housing. Families who once relied on finding a decent place to rent on the scenic island were pushed out by owners eager to tap the new Airbnb and lucrative vacation rental markets instead. Older sale or rental properties were replaced with more expensive options. Even housing built as “affordable” re-sold at market prices when the first owners moved and original deed restrictions expired.

Enter San Juan Community Home Trust, a small local group that receives funds from CCHD. The trust shares our belief that homeownership is a transformational tool, especially for low-income people stressed by frequent moves. It enhances the sense of human dignity, self-worth, and stability for hard-working people.

San Juan Community Land Trust construction site where new affordable housing is being built.

San Juan Community Land Trust construction site where new affordable housing is being built.

The San Juan Community Home Trust helps individuals and families access permanently affordable housing that is innovative and sustainably “green.” The trust has developed two neighborhoods whose active, growing communities are living reflections of Catholic social teaching, including care for creation, responsible stewardship of the resources we’ve been given, and the moral imperative to reach out to the less fortunate.

a barge carries a large home across the sea

Homes from Vancouver, British Columbia being brought to San Juan island via barge.

The trust has built new homes and floated in sturdy early 20th-century houses once slated for demolition in nearby Vancouver, British Columbia. One of my associates who makes regular visits to the San Juan Community Home Trust neighborhoods says the new communities are a tangible expression of God’s love. She also marvels that the renovated old houses have unique features worth restoring and celebrating, much like the individuals who will call them home. By creating permanently affordable housing, the trust addresses income disparities, supports community structures, and helps people sink in deep roots to weather turbulent times. CCHD is proud to support the trust’s initiatives.

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Thank you, as always, for your prayers and support of CCHD. You are a crucial partner in our ceaseless mission to break the cycle of poverty.

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.

Photos Courtesy of San Juan Community Home Trust


Learn more about San Juan Community Home Trust in the latest edition of the CCHD quarterly newsletter Helping People Help Themselves.

See other CCHD groups’ Stories of Hope on PovertyUSA.

Always Walking, Always Acting with Justice

“Lord, who shall be admitted to your tent and dwell on your holy mountain? He who walks without fault; he who acts with justice…” – Psalm 15:1-2

This past Friday, Monsignor Marvin A. Mottet, diocesan priest for the Diocese of Davenport, died peacefully. He was 86.

Monsignor Mottet established the Social Action Office in the Diocese of Davenport in 1969. Later, he served as the National Director of the Campaign for Human Development, which is now known as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. He was instrumental in incubating four dozen projects which were spun off as autonomous service agencies still active today. He would walk with them to the point that they could do so on their own.

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In 2012, Msgr. Mottet received the Servant of Justice Award from the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors.

For the past seven years, while serving as the Director of Social Action for the Diocese of Davenport, I have benefited greatly from Monsignor Mottet’s wisdom, from his written words and legacy, and from his personal mentoring.

Shortly after beginning, I familiarized myself with The Two Feet of Social Justice, created by Monsignor Mottet, now known by many more in the United States as the Two Feet of Love in Action. I first learned of the combination of charity and justice as Monsignor described and was empowered to share with parishes groups across the diocese. It might seem a simple model, but it is no less powerful. And folks have shown they can go from their experiences of providing for immediate needs to looking at ways to make systemic change.

And Monsignor Mottet supported and encouraged my development as a diocesan director by encouraging me to attend week-long, faith-based community organizer training. He stated his belief that every diocesan director should go through training in order to learn how to affect change, how to empower the disenfranchised, how to teach about power so that it is understood as meaning the ability to affect change. Learning about and in turn teaching others about the benefits of mutual self-interest is at its very core a means of showing dignity and respect to the life of the other, so very necessary in pursuing peace and justice.

Even during his last years, after he was no longer joining us on legislative visits, at rallies and protests, he still attended office team meetings, still wanted to get updates over meals. He continued on with phone calls and emails to elected officials on a variety of justice issues. And most importantly, he supported us and encouraged us on our team.

During his last few days, as people came to visit him, he began to leave each individual with a similar message; as long as you are breathing, use your power and do the work. It was never Monsignor’s work, but rather God’s work walking with both feet towards justice. To honor his legacy, we now continue our walk with his/our Two Feet.

Kent Ferris is Social Action and Catholic Charities Director in the Diocese of Davenport.


 

Msgr. Marv, Friend of the Poor, Companion to the Oppressed

Last week, like many people, I paused, shed a brief tear, offered a prayer, and then found myself with a big smile. So many people were saddened to hear of the death of Msgr. Marv Mottet, my predecessor as Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. I shed a tear at the loss of such a champion for the poor who worked most of his 86 years on behalf of those in need. He was always one with quick wit and charm. But he was also one who would swiftly challenge systems that oppressed and kept poor people down. His embrace of the Gospel was synonymous with his embrace of “the other.” He could not separate the two. Monsignor had a way of correcting, confronting and instructing a person in way that neither demeaned or degraded. I stand as a beneficiary of his strong affirmations and his quick and appropriate admonishments. He had a way of doing both with Christian love. His humility led him to live in Catholic Worker houses and homeless shelters, and to eat at soup kitchens; not because he couldn’t do better but because he placed high value of encountering the poor and looked for creative ways to embrace them and understand their stories.

He once shared with me that one of his proudest moments was when he had the audacity to invite Martin Luther King Jr. to receive the Diocese of Davenport’s Pacem in Terris Award. Msgr. Marv, in his humble manner, called up MLK, told him about the award and asked him when he would be arriving in Iowa to receive it. Dr. King, taken aback, told him that despite a busy schedule, he was honored. In a cassette tape Marv shared with me of the award presentation, Dr. King remarked “Who would believe that a Black Baptist minister named Martin Luther would be receiving an award from a Catholic priest?”

Upon hearing of Msgr. Marv’s death, I also had to smile. Just thinking of Marv’s smile, I could not help myself. Smiling within my grief. I recalled the joy he shared and the contagious laughter he so often freely offered. He has been a wonderful gift to me and countless others. I had to smile because I know what has been promised to those who live lives like Msgr. Marv Mottet. Those who care for the poor, those who pursue justice, those who walk humbly. Rest in Peace Msgr. Marvin Mottet, Good and Faithful Servant.

 

Ralph McCloud is Director of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

I don’t know how I feel . . .

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Today, as usual, I stopped by my local coffee shop where the friendly, courteous barista asked me, as she does every day, “How do you feel?”

I blurted out my routine, perfunctory, usual, everyday customary response: “Fine, and you?”

I walked out and pondered the lie. . . . I wasn’t fine. In fact, I don’t know how I feel. I returned to the coffee shop and spent an hour talking with her. Neither of us was “fine.”

After the recent killing of those sworn to protect and serve in Dallas AND the killing by  those sworn to protect and serve in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Baltimore, Ferguson, and so many other cities… I honestly don’t know or understand this feeling. It has gone beyond sadness, gone beyond disgust, gone beyond anger, beyond sorrow, beyond fear. This feeling for me and for so many others is new, yet to be defined or given a name.

Angrily, I am prepared to answer the standard litany of questions from folks about the victims:

“Why didn’t he just not resist?”

“Did he have an arrest record?”

“Did he have a job?”

“Was he married to his children’s mother?”

“Why aren’t you as upset when it is ‘black on black’ murder?”

“If the officers are guilty, why are there never any convictions?”

“Were the officers white?”

“Was the sniper black?”

“Was he connected to any ‘terrorist’ movements?”

ENOUGH!

Sadly, more people are killed. More people not going home for dinner tonight or ever again.

Police officers who overwhelmingly help us sleep comfortably at night and are often times underappreciated were senselessly killed as they protected folk who voiced displeasure and concern about the killing of young men around the country.

Earlier this week, we witnessed yet again young African American men killed at the hands of a system that is paid for and sanctioned by our tax dollars or by society. Young lives and children of God also taken too soon. Lives that have dignity, persons who by U.S. legal standards are innocent until proven guilty. And yes, the lives of those shot dead in inner cities are just as valued, just as precious. Life matters. For urban youth, for law enforcement, for us.

… I don’t know how I feel . . . perhaps a bit guilty for still being here, as an African-American male who has also, like so many other persons of color, looked down at an un-holstered revolver during a traffic stop. For some reason, I and the persons traveling with me were spared. I don’t know how I feel.

… I don’t know how I feel as I joyfully celebrate progress while simultaneously sadly lamenting regress. Poverty, crime, unemployment, environmental racism, and despair flourish throughout the country, yet disproportionately in black and brown communities.

…I don’t know how I feel. I have so many good friends in law enforcement, mostly in North Texas, including Dallas, who are experiencing intense pain, and feeling vulnerable and exposed as they protect and serve with dignity and professionalism.

… I don’t know how I feel when folks still find comfort in asking the same old, tired questions that seem to comfort and appease their consciences and not address the problems.

I feel confused as we chalk this one up and wait for the next one, and then the next one, and then the next one. The next government sanctioned, gang related, rage-filled, terroristic, domestic violence, or mental illness caused- killing of another of our brothers, our sisters, our children . . . and then wait on the next one.

There will be vigils, prayers, protests, and screams of anguish, trials, and tons of tears but will there be change?

I don’t know how I feel . . . hopeless, in despair, weak, I just want to just sleep, but can’t. Because to use the mantra of the new movement, I have to “stay woke”. To heed the words of Pope Francis, “Let no one consider themselves to be the ‘armour’ of God while planning and carrying out acts of violence and oppression!” To heed the words in Matthew 26:52: “Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

I don’t know how I feel, but I feel like there has to be a better way.

A retired prison warden friend of mine reminded me that on most prison yards, there are no guns. Prison guards don’t have them and yet they figure out a way to take down the most hardened criminals without shooting or killing them.

Sometimes I feel like giving up but then I remember that anti-violence and restorative justice efforts are steadfast and aren’t giving up despite overwhelming odds. Fr. Michael Pfleger and the faithful around St. Sabina’s Catholic Church in Chicago are not giving up. The California Catholic Conference is not giving up. Rev. Michael McBride and the dedicated folks in the Live Free Movement aren’t giving up. Despite all, folks aren’t giving up!

I feel encouraged by this new movement of young folk of all races that seem to have more energy, more clarity, and more optimism than movements of the past. For the most part, they are peaceful and determined.  They are not giving up.

I thank God that I can still feel … feel for Dallas AND Minnesota AND Baton Rouge AND…

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.


 

Turning Passion into Progress

Members of the Essex Community Organization, an MCAN affiliate in the North Shore of MA, join together at Zion Baptist Church in Lynn at a meeting with the Lynn Police Department Chief, and participate in a liturgy of justice to ground their work in prayer.

Members of the Essex Community Organization, an MCAN affiliate in the North Shore of MA, join together at Zion Baptist Church in Lynn at a meeting with the Lynn Police Department Chief, and participate in a liturgy of justice to ground their work in prayer.

“They are passionate in everything they do. They are passionate in their concern for the underdog. They are passionate about leveling the playing field. They are passionate about helping people who have no voice to find a voice.”

When I heard this description of the people of the Massachusetts Communities Action Network (MCAN), it took on the cadence of a litany. It was a litany of what it takes to grow a handful of local community groups into a successful, well-respected statewide organization that has earned its place at the table. MCAN has received Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) grants from both local and the national offices throughout their existence to help translate the passion of its organizers and members into effective, lasting progress for low-income people throughout Massachusetts.

MCAN members gather with coalition partners at Raise Up Massachusetts outside the Massachusetts State House to turn in a record-high number of petition signatures to raise the minimum wage.

MCAN members gather with coalition partners at Raise Up Massachusetts outside the Massachusetts State House to turn in a record-high number of petition signatures to raise the minimum wage.

MCAN has strong roots in Catholic parishes and has been a resonant voice for immigrants and low-wage workers. Each of the member organizations has an impressive decades-long record of accomplishment with local grassroots issues. But when they came together, they created energy, momentum, and passion. With months of persistent, patient door-to-door visits and community meetings, MCAN and the Raise Up Massachusetts coalition mobilized support in the state legislature and among voters for two measures that affect more than one million low-income people: an increase in the minimum wage and employer-provided earned sick time.

In recognition of their enthusiasm and unflagging work in support of and in solidarity with oppressed people, MCAN was presented the Sr. Margaret Cafferty Development of People Award. I assure you we were delighted to recognize a longtime funded group that is passionate about holding elected officials accountable and creating solutions to the underlying causes of poverty.

MCAN engages younger generations in the importance of community organizing and voting. These four children of leaders in Brockton helped canvass for the 2014 Earned Sick Time Ballot Initiative in Massachusetts.

MCAN engages younger generations in the importance of community organizing and voting. These four children of leaders in Brockton helped canvass for the 2014 Earned Sick Time Ballot Initiative in Massachusetts.

MCAN is not resting on its laurels. It continues its work to reform the justice system and is already gearing up to support a 2018 constitutional initiative that will fund education and transportation with a new tax on people who make more than $1 million a year.

“They are passionate about everything they do.” What a terrific accolade!

Throughout the long, gray winter and this joyful Easter season, I thought about the myriad people who step out of their natural comfort zones to work for justice. I have been blessed to meet many people who work for CCHD-funded organizations and consistently put their families and others before themselves as they strive to help the entire community move beyond poverty. Thank you to all of the supporters of CCHD who help us offer training, support, and encouragement to groups like MCAN. I am grateful.

 

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.


Learn more about MCAN’s organizing work and the Sr. Margaret Cafferty Development of People’s Award in the latest edition of the CCHD quarterly newsletter Helping People Help Themselves.

See other CCHD groups’ Stories of Hope on PovertyUSA.

Francis, Frontera, Faith and Family

I was blessed to be able to join “Pope Francis VIPs” as they attended a Mass on the United States-Mexico border.

These VIPs were not CEOs, VPs, or celebrities. Rather these VIPs were, as defined by Pope Francis, migrants, undocumented immigrants, unaccompanied minors, and family members separated by massive fences, armed security, and outdated immigration laws and policies.

IMG_3544 croppedPrior to the Mass, we gathered for a couple hours in St. Pius parish hall waiting for our turn to be processed through security. In the hall was an air of nervous enthusiasm, as we really didn’t fully grasp what we were about to experience. The VIPs were excited to meet cardinals, bishops, and Church leadership. There was an obvious gratitude for the work of the Church on immigration and legitimate care for the migrant.

After being processed through security, we were bussed to a levee that separates El Paso, Texas USA and Juarez, Mexico.

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Pope Francis ascends memorial to pray for migrants. Photo taken from the U.S. side of the border.

Heavy on most of our minds were the thousands of people who have died in efforts to cross the border in hope of a better life for themselves and their families. Pope Francis himself spent several minutes of silent prayer on behalf of those lost lives.

In his homily, the Holy Father said: “The human tragedy that is forced migration is a global phenomenon today. This crisis, which can be measured in numbers and statistics, we want instead to measure with names, stories, families. They are the brothers and sisters of those excluded as a result of poverty and violence, drug trafficking and criminal organizations. Being faced with so many legal vacuums, they get caught up in a web that ensnares and always destroys the poorest. Not only do they suffer poverty but they must also endure these forms of violence. Injustice is radicalized in the young; they are ‘cannon fodder,’ persecuted and threatened when they try to flee the spiral of violence and the hell of drugs.”

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Painting at Casa de Migrante in Ciudad Juarez

I was reminded that how, when wanting to prove our points, we recite numbers, indices, and statistics, not sharing the human story, overlooking the faces of people and the reality of our shared humanity. This “holy” sharing hit me hardest when persons on the Juarez side of the border and the El Paso side received communion: one God, one Church, one faith, and one family — all sharing simultaneously in the Body of Christ. I heard Pope Francis at the end of his homily when he said “…we can pray, sing, and together celebrate the merciful love that the Lord gives us and that no border can stop us from sharing.”

During the Mass, despite a well-fortified border and active patrolling security, an incredible peace surrounded us, a calmness that was not the result of fences or firearms. For a brief moment, the border was inconsequential. Prayers and supplications flowed on both sides as freely as the birds that circled above us. Together we prayed for generations past and for those yet born. We prayed that their lives may be lived to the fullest, and we remembered that no border can stop us from being one family.

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud serves as the director of the USCCB Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Learn more about the work of CCHD and follow on Twitter @EndPovertyUSA.


Go Deeper!

Communities of faith across the United States are taking up Pope Francis’ call to see the names, stories, and families behind the human tragedy of forced migration. Here are just a few:

Francisco, Frontera, Fe y Familia

Tuve la bendición de poder acompañar a las “VIPs del papa Francisco” cuando asistieron a una Misa en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México.

Estas VIPs (personas muy importantes) no eran directores generales, vicepresidentes o celebridades. Más bien estas VIPs fueron, como las definió el papa Francisco, migrantes, inmigrantes indocumentados, menores no acompañados y miembros de familias separadas por grandes vallas, seguridad armada y leyes y políticas inmigratorias obsoletas.IMG_3544 cropped

Antes de la Misa nos congregamos un par de horas en el salón parroquial de San Pío esperando nuestro turno para pasar el proceso de seguridad. En el salón había un aire de entusiasmo nervioso, ya que realmente no comprendíamos del todo lo que estábamos a punto de experimentar. Las VIPs estaban contentas de reunirse con cardenales, obispos y líderes de la Iglesia. Había una obvia gratitud por el trabajo de la Iglesia en materia de inmigración y cuidado legítimo del migrante.

Después de pasar por el proceso de seguridad, fuimos trasladados en bus hacia un dique que separa El Paso, Texas, Estados Unidos, de Juárez, México.

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Papa Francisco asciende monumento a orar por los migrantes . Foto tomada desde el lado de EE.UU. de la frontera.

En la mente de la mayoría de nosotros estaban muy presentes los miles de personas que han muerto tratando de cruzar la frontera con la esperanza de una vida mejor para sí y sus familias. El propio papa Francisco pasó varios minutos de oración en silencio en nombre de esas vidas perdidas.

En su homilía, el Santo Padre dijo: “Esta tragedia humana que representa la migración forzada hoy en día es un fenómeno global. Esta crisis, que se puede medir en cifras, nosotros queremos medirla por nombres, por historias, por familias. Son hermanos y hermanas que salen expulsados por la pobreza y la violencia, por el narcotráfico y el crimen organizado. Frente a tantos vacíos legales, se tiende una red que atrapa y destruye siempre a los más pobres. No sólo sufren la pobreza sino que además tienen que sufrir todas estas formas de violencia. Injusticia que se radicaliza en los jóvenes, ellos, ‘carne de cañón’, son perseguidos y amenazados cuando tratan de salir de la espiral de violencia y del infierno de las drogas”.

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Mural en la Casa de Migrante en Ciudad Juarez

Me hizo recordar cómo, al querer probar nuestros argumentos, recitamos números, índices y estadísticas, que no comparten la historia humana, que pasan por alto los rostros de las personas y la realidad de nuestra humanidad compartida. Esta compartición “santa” me impactó más cuando las personas del lado de Juárez de la frontera y del lado de El Paso recibieron la comunión: un solo Dios, una sola Iglesia, una sola fe y una sola familia, todos compartiendo al mismo tiempo el Cuerpo de Cristo. Escuché al papa Francisco al final de su homilía cuando dijo: “…podemos orar, cantar y celebrar juntos ese amor misericordioso que el Señor nos da y que ninguna frontera podrá impedirnos compartir”.

Durante la Misa, a pesar de una frontera tan fortificada y el intenso patrullaje de seguridad, una paz increíble nos rodeaba, una calma que no era resultado de los cercos o las armas de fuego. Por un breve momento, la frontera fue intrascendente. Oraciones y súplicas fluían en ambos lados tan libremente como los pájaros que daban vueltas encima de nosotros. Juntos oramos por las generaciones pasadas y por las aún no nacidas. Oramos para que sus vidas puedan ser vividas al máximo, y recordamos que ninguna frontera puede impedirnos ser una sola familia.

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud, CCHD

Ralph McCloud es el director de la Campaña Católica para el Desarrollo Humano de la Conferencia Catolica de Obispos de los Estados Unidos.