Pope Francis greets people outside the Vatican Embassy before leaving for the White House during his visit to the United States. Photo courtesy Jaclyn Lippelmann/CNS
Wasn’t the recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States energizing and inspiring? The Holy Father spoke so directly to all of us who share his faith, communicating his deep understanding of how our faith demands that we look to those too often overlooked.
Though he spent just a few days with us in the United States, that was time enough to direct our focus to his messages―that we have special responsibilities to care for this common home that God has given us, and for the poor and oppressed who so often are the ones that bear the burden of our failure to care for that home.
Whether living around the corner or around the world, such people are all sacred members of God’s family―of our family. This message particularly resonated, coming as Catholics gathered in Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.
During his visit, Pope Francis was not telling us anything that we do not know, but his compelling pastoral style and consistent emphasis on the actions that need to accompany our faith forcefully remind us of eternal truths about our Church and our beliefs. Personally, it has been a humbling honor to be able to spend time in his presence, both at the Vatican and in the United States.
The challenge for all of us in the extended Catholic Relief Services family is to make sure that the energy and inspiration Pope Francis brought us did not get on the plane and fly away with him. We must heed his messages and, indeed, grow them into forces and actions that will lead to genuine, sustainable change―in our lives and in the lives of those Pope Francis focuses on, who are too often confined to the margins of our societies.
We are now entering autumn―the season of harvest. It is when we reap the bounty of what was sown in the spring, when warmth returned to our hemisphere in God’s yearly renewal of promise and hope. That warmth increased over the summer and now, as it begins to disappear, we thankfully enjoy the life it has once again sustained.
But as we harvest those spring plantings, let us not forget that we plant in this season as well. The fall is when we plant bulbs―daffodils, tulips, iris, hyacinths―that will lie dormant beneath the barren ground of winter, but burst forth with vibrant color in the spring.
So, even as we harvest the bountiful inspiration that Pope Francis has left us and use it to extend our care and compassion to everyone he’s ministered to, we must also allow the seeds of his message to germinate within us so they will burst forth months from now and renew our commitment to the demands of our faith.
This is important because the tasks that Pope Francis calls us to undertake are not easy ones.
The refugees from Syria and Iraq are not going to disappear. The violence that drove them from their homes has been going on for years. Even as we use our voices to call for peace, we must ensure that those forced from their homes are treated with dignity and respect.
The damage that our Earth endures each and every day is having real impact on those who did nothing to cause it. Even as we push to lessen the emissions and the waste that are causing damage, we must do all we can to help the people most affected adapt to climate change in ways that sustain and empower them.
There are many more tasks that will need your continuing commitment. But never forget―and this is so crucial to what the Holy Father tells us―these are not burdens. Undertaking them brings the joy that comes when you let God work through you―through your hands, through your feet, through your mind.
Every day at CRS we learn over and over again something that Pope Francis knows so well: Serving the poor is a privilege.
May blessings overflow.
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
Jeff Knowles, a retired USDA employee recently completed a three week assignment in rural Uganda with the Farmer To Farmer program sponsored by Catholic Relief Services. While in Uganda, Knowles worked closely with a local farmers cooperative to provide technical assistance to its 1,800 farmer membership.Knowles with local host, Joseph Mugushi, traveled to seven different villages and gave presentations on soil conservation, composting and best management practices.
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Thank you for joining the Catholic Relief Services and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops online Catholics Confront Global Poverty discussion: Caring for Our Common Home: Following Pope Francis’ Call to Action on Climate Change. A transcript of the conversation is below.
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In a few weeks, Pope Francis will be in the United States, focusing the attention of so many Americans on the beliefs and works of our wonderful Church. This Pope has garnered admiration from all segments of our society by steadfastly proclaiming the eternal verities of Catholicism while projecting the caring, warmth and love that Christ asks from all of us.
Francis will meet with the powerful—the President, Congress, the United Nations—and the poor. He will obey a command of Matthew 25 and visit prisoners at a jail in Philadelphia. He will also address the World Meeting of Families—the triennial gathering begun by Saint John Paul in 1994 to celebrate, examine and strengthen this essential of our society.
When we think of the Church as the bride of Christ, we realize that the family is the building block of our faith. We are all brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of these parents. And then we come to understand that all of us are God’s children—part of the family that is mankind.
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By Michael Trujillo
CRS Fair Trade benefactor Adonis Santiago, 5, with his mother Maria Escalante. Photo by Alex Núñez. Used with permission.
Last month, Stephanie Bossee, CRS program coordinator for the Diocese of Orlando, spoke to students at St. Francis of Assisi’s Vacation Bible School. She talked about CRS’s commitment to fair trade and our partnership with companies to ensure livable wages and better lives for those we serve overseas. St. Francis of Assisi’s Children’s Faith Formation Coordinator Yahaira Olmeda and her students were inspired and decided to collect funds to help their brothers and sisters in other countries.
Adonis Santiago, 5, came in one day with a bag full of coins to put in the collection jar. Because other kids in the crew did not have anything to put in the jar that day, Yahaira’s sister, a Vacation Bible School teacher, asked the boy if he would be willing to have the other kids put some of his money into the jar. Adonis agreed and started handing coins to the other kids. Expecting Adonis to give maybe a coin or two to each kid, Yahira’s sister was surprised and delighted when he stuck his hand in the bag and started handing out coins by the fistful.
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Catholic Relief Services was founded as War Relief Services in 1943 initially to help refugees from the cataclysm that was World War II. The unprecedented devastation of that war left tens of millions dead and even more homeless and seeking shelter and safety. The relief and recovery efforts supported by the Catholic community in the United States lasted for years.
World War II lived up to its name as its devastation was genuinely worldwide. It affected my parents who fled Japanese-occupied Hong Kong where I grew up. Perhaps it affected your family as well. When it ended with nuclear horror, there was a firm commitment to ensure that the world would never see anything like it again.
Out of that came the United Nations, a forum built on the hope that words would be an alternative to weapons. In recognition of the tens of millions who had become war refugees, this new body included the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to help protect the rights of people forced from their homelands, giving them aid and upholding their dignity. In the decades since World War II, CRS has often worked with UNHCR to help refugee populations.
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I was honored to be asked to the Vatican last month to be one of the speakers at the press conference announcing Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment. It was an honor that really goes to Catholic Relief Services—including all of you who support CRS—because it was a recognition of the important work we do to help the poor around the world.
Because of my background in business education, I was asked to address the issues the encyclical raises with the business community. I have always felt that the true purpose of business is to contribute to the common good by harnessing its power and importance with appropriate ethics. The environmental issues that our world faces as we contemplate the fate of God’s creation give business just such an opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »
Scratching out a living in a homeland once hospitable to farming and grazing, Ethiopians say climate change is real. Their searing question: How will we feed our children?
Rain has all but ceased. When it does come, it’s often too little, too late, too early, or too much too soon. Generations of knowledge about when and what to plant no longer applies.
In Ethiopia, communities are learning ways to cope through a CRS-led project working with the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat in Oromia State. It’s funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
In the following posts, six people living under these harsh conditions discuss their hopes and expectations for the future. They represent millions of people around the world whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by climate change.
|Akuri Worku: “We have to teach the next generation—my child—the knowledge of how we can address climate change.”
|Fatuma Ali Sali: “We’ve seen the impact of climate change harm our lives time and time again. The problem of drought has been getting more and more serious over the last 20 years.”
||Alemayehn Ayele: “I hope the project will result in greater awareness of climate change, and that there will be no more dependency on external support.”
|Serif Lulseged: “Climate change has changed the way we’re cultivating our crops. It’s different now. For example, this month we’re going to plant because of the early rain. But it suddenly stopped, so our crop may fail.”
||Martha Simon: “We lack productivity because of the shortage of rainfall.”
|Idris Tuna: “We depend on a single source of water: rain. If there’s no rain, there’s no hope. I’m very worried. It worries me more than anything else.”
All photos by Kim Pozniak/CRS
Kim Pozniak is a CRS communications officer covering sub-Saharan Africa and global emergencies. She is based in Baltimore, Maryland.
Martha Simon, 25, a small-scale coffee farmer in Ethiopia, is one of hundreds of thousands of people faced with the effects of climate change. Photo by Kim Pozniak/CRS
Martha Simon, a small-scale farmer who grows coffee and chat, a plant used as a stimulant and cultivated as a cash crop in Ethiopia’s Oromia State, is optimistic about the future. The mother of a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl has seen the benefits of long-term development support in the region but is adamant that people have to be able to stand on their own two feet.
“I don’t believe that as part of the community, the external support should continue.,” she says. “I want to be self-reliant. I would like to build a home in a bigger town. If I save enough money, I can buy land and a home there.”
She’s been able to accumulate some savings through a CRS microfinance program called SILC, which also allows her to borrow money. The program is part of a safety net that also provides emergency assistance like food, but it emphasizes self-sufficiency through better farming techniques and business ownership.
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