In the 2 years since I was honored and humbled to become president of Catholic Relief Services, we have conducted a thorough self-examination to see how we can best serve the poor in the coming decades.
In all of this work, there was probably nothing more difficult than coming up with a new tagline for CRS. How do you boil down all that we do in a few words?
I would like to take this opportunity to meditate on the words we chose.
Faith. This is fundamental. CRS does not exist without faith. It is why we do what we do—because we believe that we have been given life in order to be of service.
Everything CRS does links back to our faith, to our Church. When we make difficult decisions, we do so in an atmosphere of prayerful reflection. We seek to understand how we can best embody and exemplify our faith in the Gospels, our belief in the message of redemption that the son of God brought to us.
Faith is our cornerstone. Faith is our foundation.
Action. A foundation is not enough. We must build on it. To understand that, we can turn to the second chapter of the letter to James, verses 14 through 17, in the New Testament:
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Or as the 26th verse puts it:
“For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
Our faith requires us to act. We have no choice. And we know that one of our faith’s highest calls to action is to help the poor. Every day we see those to whom the letter to James speaks of—those who have nothing to wear, no food for the day—and we try to give them the necessities of the body.
We strive to be the hands of Jesus as he reaches out to help those in need.
Results. Our faith also demands that we work as hard as we can to see that our actions are effective, that they achieve what they set out to do. We owe this to all whom we serve: the poor and those who seek to carry out their Gospel mission of helping the poor.
To take what the letter to James says a step further—if someone has nothing to wear and is cold, should we take him in, warm him and then send him on his way? Or should we give him clothes so he will stay warm? Is that enough? Or should we then see that he has a livelihood so when those clothes are old, he can provide new ones for himself and his family?
We do not want to have to help people twice. If their home blows down in a storm, we want to help them build one that will withstand the next storm. If their crops die from drought, we want to give them seeds that will grow when there is little rain.
God gave all of us intelligence. It is our duty to use it so those in need can live lives of meaning and fulfillment. That is how we become the hands of Jesus.
In the new year, look for a new tagline for CRS: Faith. Action. Results.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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