CRS 70th: Story from Paris, 1948

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Catholic Relief Services is celebrating our 70th anniversary in 2013. Throughout the year we will be sharing stories from our annals. This chapter comes from France. The words are from Sister Clothilde Régereau, Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul who witnessed the overwhelming generosity of American donors in the wake of World War II, and offered her appreciation to an audience in New Orleans in 1948.

“Once upon a time…
there was a country in Europe which was very unhappy. A Second World War had reduced it to ruins. Occupied by the enemy, deprived of millions of her sons by death, imprisonment and detention in Concentration Camps—France suffered bitter loses since 1939. By her prayers and her sufferings she implored the help of God. In answer to this plea, God provided AMERICA to relieve the people of Europe…

“When I recall how the activity of War Relief Services—National Catholic Welfare Conference began—grew and developed in France, I feel as if I were reading a fairy tale, which, — like all fairy tales—ends on a note of happiness and hope…

“More than 2,000 towns and villages have received the visit of the White Wings upon the large trucks loaded with large cases and showing wonderful emblem of N.C.W.C.—emblem of Love, in the same lands where the guns and cannons had brought the emblem of hate…

“Without giving long speeches all the country people, children and priests could immediately understand that it was the gifts of the Catholic American people. How many times have I regretted that you could not see, like myself, the joy of an old woman receiving a can of milk, a sick prisoner of war a warm pull-over, the smile of the young girl trying on nice Chicago coats, or the tears of young Mothers covering their children with lovely layettes. How happy you would be to hear the happy exclamations of the children receiving a Vita-Snack Bar. But the most emotional for me was always the strong hand shake of the workers, who received with stupefaction the splendid American shoes.

“You have sacrificed time, money and energy and you have sent food, clothing, medical supplies and a thousand other items to your needy brothers and sisters across the sea. Yes, dear friends, you have not only preserved the body – but you have helped our Church give new life to the very soul of France.”

“Often I could not stop my tears at the sight of so much happiness brought about by your generosity in the name of Christ.

Sister Clothilde Régereau, Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, Paris, from her speech to the National Council of Catholic Women in New Orleans (1948)

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