In December, Catholic Relief Services joined people across the globe in Pope Francis’ wave of prayer. In many of the 91 countries we serve, and here at our headquarters in Baltimore, CRS answered the pope’s call by praying for the almost 850 million people who face each day wondering if they will have enough to eat.
It was an inspirational day of prayer, one whose power we must not allow to dissipate.
Ending world hunger is not something we can accomplish in 1 day, 1 month or even 1 year. And it’s not just a matter of giving hungry people food to eat. Ending world hunger is a long-term commitment that requires sustained dedication.
All of us must understand that God will answer that wave of prayer through our hands, through our actions and through his Church. We, the Body of Christ, must commit to following the Gospel command to help those in need, to answer the call of Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food.”
There are so many ways to answer that call. One is to make sure that our government meets its moral obligations to the poor by fully funding its overseas poverty assistance programs—and making them more effective and efficient. Matthew 25 speaks of the judgment of nations, and we must work to see that our nation, the world’s wealthiest, is with, as the Gospel puts it, the sheep and not the goats.
Food aid is certainly an important part of easing hunger. Many parts of the world produce more than enough food for their people. It is right that they share their surplus with those in need, whether those needs come from disasters and emergencies—both natural and manmade—or from long-term food shortages. At CRS, we have fed millions this way and will continue to do so.
But we also must work toward guaranteeing that such assistance is needed as rarely as possible. At CRS, improving agriculture around the world is one of our main missions. We help subsistence farmers find markets for their crops so they can save for difficult times. We get better seeds into the hands of farmers who work in chronically arid areas and help them stem erosion to save topsoil.
Just as important as having enough food to eat is having the right kinds of food to eat. For us, this starts before birth. CRS helps ensure that expectant mothers get the nutrition they need so their unborn babies are healthy. And it continues with programs that focus on the crucial first 3 years of life, when poor nutrition can lead to a lifetime of problems.
One of our many nutrition efforts is a simple, low-cost program that teaches people how to build small, raised gardens that can be easily tended, even by the sick and elderly. The greens and other vegetables these gardens add to starch-heavy diets can have a profound effect on health.
And we are always involved in research, looking for better ways to grow more food, to grow better food, to avoid pests and disease. We are always looking for better ways to feed the world, to end its hunger.
With your help, we can ensure that the wave of prayer that went around the world does not stop. We can ensure that it continues to circle the world again and again and again, growing as it goes, bringing more hope, more help, more results—and less hunger.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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