Remembering Romero

By Rick Jones

“I may be an atheist, but Monseñor Romero was a saint.”

Why do you say that, Don Chepe?

“He defended us, the poor Salvadorans, when no one else was willing to risk it. He gave us a voice, a place in the world, dignity. And they killed him for it.”

Don Chepe, a Salvadoran peasant farmer, shared that with me in 1994. It was the eve of the first democratic elections since the end of the bloody 12-year civil war, and hope filled the air. The peace accords had been signed just two years earlier. I was speaking with him and several other Salvadoran men and women who had been inspired by Archbishop Oscar Romero to struggle for a more just society. Monseñor Romero said he would rise in the Salvadoran people, and I felt I was witnessing that resurrection among these humble men and women.

Read the rest of this entry »

Special Olympics, CRS Prep for World Games

Young athletes and CRS staff celebrate the new partnership between CRS and Special Olympics International.

Young athletes and CRS staff celebrate the new partnership between CRS and Special Olympics International. Photo by Philip Laubner/CRS

On May 26, a group of Catholic Relief Services staff and family members will join in the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America. The event celebrates the Special Olympics World Summer Games coming in July to Los Angeles. Team CRS will help carry the Flame of Hope through Baltimore on its way from Athens, Greece, to the World Games opening ceremony.

 CRS, Special Olympics partnership

Some 200 million people worldwide live with cognitive disabilities—the largest group of people with disabilities. Yet in many communities, they are forgotten and often neglected. In developing countries in particular, people with disabilities may be misunderstood or even feared.

The work of Special Olympics goes far beyond athletics. In fact, it is the largest global public health organization dedicated to serving people with cognitive disabilities. The mission of Special Olympics is perfectly aligned with our work at CRS.

Through our new strategic partnership with Special Olympics, we will be working together in several innovative ways to:

  • Identify children with cognitive disabilities and their families, and devise sustainable solutions to the challenges they face
  • Strengthen health systems in specific countries to identify and care for the needs of children with cognitive disabilities
  • Engage communities to fight stigma, advocate for services and mobilize people with cognitive disabilities.

Pilot Program in Kenya

The Young Athletes project, an innovative new addition to CRS’ THRIVE project, aims to expand services to 100 children with cognitive disabilities and their caregivers, and provide specialized training for teachers and community volunteers. Many of these children have never been to school, do not have birth certificates, have not received critical health services like immunizations and don’t know that there are services available to address their developmental needs. The CRS and Special Olympics partnership will help families and service providers share information so vulnerable children will have the resources they need to thrive.

CRS’ mission calls us to serve the poorest and most vulnerable. This strategic partnership is an important response to that calling. It will help us reach more children living with disabilities so they can achieve their full potential.


Baltimore’s Lesson in Peacebuilding

Dear Friend,

Many of us who live in Baltimore, where Catholic Relief Services is headquartered, heard from far-flung family and friends in April wondering if we were okay. Some of these inquiries came from the other side of the world.

The concern was understandable, after violence erupted in connection with protests over the death of an African-American man in police custody. Some buildings near our headquarters were damaged or destroyed. Following police advice, CRS closed early one day and remained closed the next. But overwhelmingly, our response to the inquiries about our safety was, “Yes, we’re fine.” The experience made me think about the challenges CRS faces in our peacebuilding work in countries around the world.

In the United States, we rarely appreciate the structures we have to maintain peace. If we have a dispute—whether it is over a business deal gone bad or a traffic accident—we consult the authorities. In general, we trust their objectivity and fairness, that the rule of law will be applied. Our peaceful electoral process is a wonderful example of nonviolent transition of power in our democracy.

Read the rest of this entry »

CRS Farmer-To-Farmer Ethiopia Experience

In March and April 2015, Elaine Kub was a CRS Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer (USAID), discussing value chain analysis at the Bora Denbel Farmers Cooperative Union in Meki, Ethiopia.

Mary Teaches Us How to Honor Love

Dear Friend,

May is the month of hope realized.

It is the hope promised by the Passion of Easter, turned into a full realization of redemption for mankind.

It is the hope promised by the minutes of daylight beginning to outnumber those of darkness, and the leaves and flowers and shoots of grass that emerge into the returning warmth.

It is in this month that we honor our mothers, thanking them for their faith when they began the journey of motherhood.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pray For The People of Yemen

Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Yemen during this time of crisis. Please join us in prayer for a speedy end to the crisis and a rapid return to security for our Yemeni brothers and sisters.


New Ways of Proclaiming Ancient Truth

Dear Friend,

Easter is upon us, our day of redemption and joy as the grace of our Lord turns the despair of the crucifixion into the joy of the resurrection. This most important day of our faith is a celebration of life, both temporal and eternal, the fundamental gift that God has bestowed upon us. It is the Good News that we must proclaim.

Easter has been celebrated for over two millennia by Christianity. Its linkage to the life-affirming celebration of Passover gives it a heritage that goes back many more centuries, to the beginnings of humanity’s understanding of the one God who is the Lord of us all.

These are indeed venerable traditions and we should be rooted in the authenticity that comes with their age. Our faith is not subject to the winds of change or the whims of fashion. It is solidly anchored, the rock upon which our Church is built.

Read the rest of this entry »

Lent, Rice Bowl, and Rich Rewards

Dear Friend,

This month we observe Lent, when we contemplate the sacrifice our Lord made on our behalf, performing acts that are both symbolic and concrete, and which are designed to lead us to a better understanding of what it means to be selfless—to sacrifice for others.

CRS Rice Bowl is a Catholic Relief Services Lenten program focused on faith formation through helping the poorest of the poor around the world. Many think it is a fundraising program, but that is not why we do it. Certainly we are grateful for the generosity of millions of Catholics across the United States who fill their CRS Rice Bowls. The money helps tens of thousands of poor people in other parts of the world.

But we look at CRS Rice Bowl as primarily being about gaining a better understanding the Gospel message that Jesus brought us.

I know that many of you, like me, can remember a moment when it “clicked”—when the faith you were taught and which you accepted suddenly took on a deeper resonance, a meaning that touched your soul as it never had before.

Read the rest of this entry »

American Farmer Applies Insights, Experience to Challenges in Africa

This article first appeared on Catholic Rural Life in this post. Reprinted here with permission.

For Reuben DeMaster, the owner and operator of Willow Haven Farm, helping others comes naturally. For instance, DeMaster put his carpentry abilities to use this past week and built a set of beds for a family in his local community whose house had burned down last year.

But his efforts to serve and support others extend beyond the confines of his hometown in New Tripoli, Pa. For two and half weeks in January, DeMaster shared his agricultural insights with farmers in Kirima Boro, Tanzania.

“It was a beautiful trip, an amazing opportunity,” he said of his time in East Africa.

Read the rest of this entry »

What Solidarity Means

Dear Friend,

The Lenten season approaches and, at Catholic Relief Services, that means the season of CRS Rice Bowl.
In 1975 a group of Catholics in Allentown, Pennsylvania, heard the cries of hungry people in the Sahel region of West Africa, which was suffering from famine. During Lent, they created Operation Rice Bowl to reach across the ocean with their prayers and donations.

Two years later, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the program as a recurring expression of their Lenten tradition. CRS Rice Bowl became a pillar of our work as the official international relief and development agency of the Catholic community in the United States. So this Lent, for the 40th time, Catholics will take part in fasting and almsgiving as we prayerfully consider the plight of the hundreds of millions in God’s family who hunger for food every day.

In the past 4 decades, much has changed. CRS Rice Bowl has spread from Allentown to the majority of parishes nationwide. You can now download the CRS Rice Bowl app—and I urge you do so. You can watch videos about the impact CRS Rice Bowl has in countries where hunger is endemic. You can also hear personal reflections on the meaning of Lent from prominent Catholics and learn how to prepare simple meals that are enjoyed by the people CRS serves. And you can get ideas for small sacrifices you and your family can make during the 40 days of Lent that will help our global brothers and sisters in need. Read the rest of this entry »