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Catholic Relief Services envisions a world without need for orphanages


Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — Catholic Relief Services has released an emotion-filled video as a way of starting a conversation about the world’s orphanages. Read more »

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Catholic leaders call on Congress to increase humanitarian aid in budget


BALTIMORE — The head of Catholic Relief Services and the chairmen of two U.S. bishops’ committees have urged congressional leaders to approve additional funding for humanitarian relief and recovery operations as part of a comprehensive budget measure for fiscal 2017.

The Catholic leaders wrote a letter Nov. 28 in support of a request by the Obama administration for Overseas Contingency Operations funds to address the growing needs of those forced to flee their homes because of natural disasters around the world or as a result of the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants.

A damaged statue of Mary is seen in a church in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

A damaged statue of Mary is seen in a church in Qaraqosh, Iraq, Nov. 25. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)

They urged action before the Dec. 9 deadline that Congress faces on the federal budget. The government is funded through that date because of a continuing resolution the House passed, and President Barack Obama signed, at the end of September to avoid a government shutdown.

“More than 50,000 people have already fled Mosul, joining the approximately 3.3 million Iraqis who have been internally displaced since ISIS began occupying parts of Iraq in 2014,” stated the letter, released by Baltimore-based CRS Nov. 29. “(We) believe that as the world’s wealthiest nation, we have an obligation to help the innocent who fall victim to war, to protect the marginalized and to lift people out of poverty.”

It was signed by Carolyn Woo, outgoing president and CEO of CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency; Bishop Joe S. Vasquez of Austin, Texas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Migration; and Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Addressing the House and Senate Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, the Catholic leaders also pointed to increased suffering in other places besides Iraq, such as Southern Africa, which is suffering a severe drought.

They also named South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Lake Chad Basin, a region that comprises parts of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria. Ongoing violence and military conflicts in those places have displaced whole populations and exacerbated food insecurity, resulting in acute malnourishment for many. According to a recent report from the U.S. Agency for International Development, an estimated 9.2 million people, primarily in northeastern Nigeria, require humanitarian assistance.

Additional funding from Congress, the Catholic leaders said, will help ensure CRS can continue to respond “to crises like these that don’t make the headlines.”

They acknowledged Congress’ steadfast commitments to humanitarian and development needs around the globe” and urged lawmakers to incorporate the administration’s amendment request for humanitarian relief and recovery activities” in their final appropriations bill.

September’s short-term measure included full funding for military construction and Veterans Affairs for the new fiscal year, but left undecided were 11 remaining annual appropriations bills for various federal agencies.

Woo and Bishops Vasquez and Cantu praised the current proposals before Congress for funding “key humanitarian accounts” — $3.2 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance; $2.8 billion for International Disaster Assistance; $1.6 billion for Food for Peace; and $60 million for Emergency Refugee and Migrant Assistance.

But they asked Congress also appropriate new Overseas Contingency Operations funds. The Obama administration has requested $14.9 billion.

“We urge you to respond generously to the administration’s request of Nov. 11 for additional humanitarian and recovery assistance,” they wrote.

“As we have already learned in Iraq, individuals, communities, and countries divided by war face significant challenges amidst their suffering,” Woo and the bishops continued. “They must rebuild their communities, and establish inclusive governance that protects majorities and minorities.

“We must provide them with humanitarian help and durable solutions to their plight because it’s the right thing to do, and because their security and prosperity is critical to the stability of the entire region,” they added.

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CRS announces agency veteran as new CEO


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — A six-month search for a new president and CEO for one of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world ended at its doorstep, with Catholic Relief Services announcing Sept. 16 that it is hiring a veteran employee, the agency’s No. 2, Sean Callahan, as its new president and CEO.

Sean Callahan, the new CEO of Catholic Relief Services, one of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world, is seen greeting children in an undated photo in El Salvador.  His new position begins Jan. 1, when he succeeds Carolyn Y. Woo, who ends her five-year term at the end of 2016. (CNS photo/Oscar Leiva, Silverlight for CRS)

Sean Callahan, the new CEO of Catholic Relief Services, one of the largest humanitarian relief agencies in the world, is seen greeting children in an undated photo in El Salvador. His new position begins Jan. 1, when he succeeds Carolyn Y. Woo, who ends her five-year term at the end of 2016. (CNS photo/Oscar Leiva, Silverlight for CRS)

“We looked all across the nation and found that the best person for the job was Sean, already working for us,” said Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, head of the CRS Board Search Committee, in a statement announcing Callahan’s new position, which begins Jan. 1, 2017. He succeeds Carolyn Y. Woo, who ends her five-year term at the end of 2016.

Callahan began his career with CRS 28 years ago and has served as director of Human Resources, regional director for South Asia, head of its Nicaragua program and executive vice president for overseas operations. Four years ago he was appointed as the agency’s chief operating officer.

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of the CRS board, said in a statement that all that experience is what makes Callahan eminently qualified for the top spot.

Callahan said mission, not climbing the corporate ladder, is what has motivated him in his almost three decades at CRS, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency based in Baltimore. In his new leadership position, he said he wants to inspire and motivate staff and CRS partners around the world to be united in humanitarian efforts, incorporating different elements of the Catholic Church to help humanity.

That means emphasizing the sanctity of life and how charitable efforts to help those suffering around the world is part of that Christian mission.

“Sacredness of life is key,” Callahan said in a phone interview with Catholic News Service from Montreal. “We need to be aware of the situation of the least among us. We have a responsibility.”

That means teaching others about situations that bring suffering and snuff out lives around the world. It means finding a way, whether by prayer, voting, volunteering or giving financially, to become involved with finding a solution to the hardship of others.

In Pope Francis and the recently canonized St. Teresa of Kolkata, whom Callahan met while working for CRS in Asia, the church has great models and inspiration to meet that mission and understand that Christians have a call to help those in distress, including the poor, refugees and migrants, Callahan said.

As head of CRS, he said he wants to help connect those in the United States to see “brothers and sisters in other parts of the world … connect those who have more with those who have less.”

It also means helping others understand that leaving one’s country is not the preferred option for those who leave their homelands, which is why CRS has programs to help people not emigrate.

“Many of these people, what they want is safety and security,” he said. CRS tries to provide a livelihood, health care, education, but sometimes they still are faced with having to leave their homelands.

“Once they do migrate, it’s our responsibility that they’re safe and protected. … That’s where we have been inspired by the Holy Father” in reaching out, teaching those who may not be comfortable with foreigners, whether migrants or refugees, understand that Jesus was a migrant, he was a refugee, too, Callahan said.

While Americans are rightly proud of their homeland, not all immigrants who are here have chosen to leave what’s familiar to them by choice and they would stay in their home countries if they had had safe and secure places to live, he said. That’s where organizations such as CRS step in to put mechanisms in place that build stronger communities and try to alleviate some of the hardship.

Callahan, 56, has master’s degree in law and diplomacy from Tufts University, and is president of Caritas North America. He also is on the board of trustees for Catholic Charities USA and has served on the Executive Committee and Representative Council of Caritas Internationalis, a Vatican-based confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations.

When he takes over in January, he will be leading an agency of 5,400 worldwide. In a statement, CRS said its operating expenditures will reach almost $900 million in fiscal year 2016, the highest in its history, rising from $585 million in fiscal year 2013.


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Diocesan parishioners, students donate more than $83,000 to Rice Bowl in 2015


Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has sent a thank you note to the faithful of the Diocese of Wilmington for raising $83,924 for the 2015 Rice Bowl collection.

Rice Bowl, CRS’ 41-year-old Lenten program of prayer, fasting and almsgiving during Lent to help provide lifesaving aid for millions of people living in poverty. Read more »

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Catholic Relief Services investigates if sex ed publication violated church teaching


WASHINGTON — Catholic Relief Services is investigating an allegation that a publication it used in connection with a program in Rwanda violates church teaching on human sexuality.

A statement from the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and develop agency said that former and current staff are being questioned about the publication to determine how or if it was used in the small African nation in 2009 and 2010.

The query opened after Michael Hitchborn of the Lepanto Institute charged that the publication, “My Changing Body: Puberty and Fertility Awareness for Young People,” promotes abortifacient contraception, masturbation and condom use.

CRS said it would issue a final report when its investigation concludes, but offered no specific date for the release.

Hitchborn cited a report from Georgetown University’s Institute for Public Health that said CRS, Caritas Rwanda and Family Health International were partners in revising and piloting a sex education program for children 10- to 14-years-old using “My Changing Body.” Funding for the program came through the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The Lepanto Institute describes itself as “a research and education organization dedicated to the defense of the Catholic Church against assaults from without as well as from within.”

CRS said the partnership developed under its Avoiding Risk, Affirming Life project, a five-year effort that promoted sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity in marriage to combat the spread of AIDS and the human immunodeficiency virus.

“We are currently investigating whether the version of ‘My Changing Body’ that the Lepanto Institute references, or any other version, was every used in Rwanda,” the statement said.

The CRS statement explained that it has reduced its presence in Rwanda since 2010 and that it is attempting to reach many of staff members who worked with the project who are no longer with the agency.

“CRS takes all concerns raised about our programs seriously and reviews them carefully, correcting any problems if needed. CRS is steadfast in our commitment to uphold Catholic teaching throughout our programs. In the last five year CRS has taken extensive steps to strengthen our systems to ensure that all of our staff are trained in Catholic identity, that our policies for reviewing and vetting programs and related relationships effectively uphold church teaching and that all materials used in CRS programs are in compliance with church teaching,” the statement said.


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Vikings’ teacher visits Rwanda for CRS


Dialog reporter


Teacher and youth minister visits African nation 20 years after the genocide that left 800,000 dead


WILMINGTON – Citizens in Rwanda could teach the local population something about conflict resolution, according to a St. Elizabeth High School teacher who visited the east African country in August.

Melissa Pollio traveled to Rwanda with Catholic Relief Services, one of 12 people from across the country and the only delegate from the Diocese of Wilmington. It was part of a CRS program, “Called to Witness,” which brings youth leaders to a developing country. Pollio is also the youth minister at St. Elizabeth Parish. The point of the trip is immersion, not service, where the delegates study what the country does for and with its young people. Read more »

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Philippines relief efforts require long-term support, Congress told


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Expect the rebuilding in typhoon-ravaged regions of the Philippines to take up to five years, a Catholic Relief Services official said at a congressional hearing.

Because the recovery will be slow for millions of displaced Filipinos, Sean Callahan, chief operating officer at CRS, urged congressional representatives to commit funding for the long term so that progress can continue after the disaster that has claimed more than 5,600 lives is no longer in the headlines.

A man repairs his house, which was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan, at a coastal area south of Tacloban Nov. 16. Rebuilding in typhoon-ravaged regions of the Philippines is expected to take up to five years, a Catholic Relief Services official said at a Dec. 3 congressional hearing. (CNS photo/Damir Sagolj, Reuters)

“It’s not over. The disaster hasn’t disappeared,” Callahan told a Dec. 3 hearing of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations. At the same time he credited the U.S. Agency for International Development and the U.S. military for their roles in the first wave of response since Super Typhoon Haiyan swept through the central Philippines Nov. 8.

“It’s important that we don’t forget the Philippines and let that country go down,” Callahan continued in response to a question from Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., subcommittee chairman. “Thirteen million people were affected. This is going to affect the whole country over the long term. It really needs a significant three- to five-year response.

“I think the Filipino people and the Filipino (Catholic) church and the government are ready to put their shoulders to the grindstone (to rebuild). If we do it in solidarity with them, they can achieve that goal. If we let it go, frankly, shame on us,” Callahan added.

Smith, who led a small congressional delegation to Tacloban and surrounding communities in the Philippines Nov. 22-26, called the hearing. The delegation included Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Rep. Al Green, D-Texas.

Smith said he and his colleagues wanted to witness firsthand the devastation and relief efforts. The U.S. has committed an initial $60 million in typhoon-related aid.

The New Jersey Republican said his main concerns focused on ensuring that aid was reaching devastated communities quickly, steps were being taken to limit the outbreak of diseases, and women and children were being protected from exploitation by human traffickers.

“We know traffickers are ready to prey on the vulnerable. The Philippines has a huge problem of women being trafficked and children as well,” Smith said.

Nancy E. Lindborg, assistant administrator for democracy, conflict and humanitarian assistance at USAID, assured Smith that food and emergency supplies were reaching affected communities within days of the typhoon. She said the expertise of faith-based organizations such as CRS and World Vision has helped ensure that aid distributions were reaching isolated communities.

USAID, working in cooperation with the U.S. military and UNICEF, was able to get the water system in the city of Tacloban functioning within eight days and that fogging was underway to limit mosquito reproduction in the vast puddles of standing water that remained.

Callahan credited the local church for mobilizing quickly to begin registering people in an effort to ensure that aid reaches victims most in need.

Lessons learned during the agency’s response to the work in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, after the 2004 tsunami and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti are helping CRS workers respond to the typhoon, Callahan said. As a result, Filipinos are being urged to shelter in place in familiar communities rather than relocating to areas where they have no connections and would be vulnerable to exploitation, he explained.

Callahan also said CRS had secured $15 million in private contributions in the three weeks after the typhoon and expected to raise another $5 million from those sources. U.S. parishes, directed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, were collecting funds at the end of November and into December as well for relief and rebuilding efforts.

Through early December, Callahan estimated that CRS had provided shelter for 80,000 people and has begun planning to provide assistance for housing reconstruction efforts.

Chris Palusky, senior director of humanitarian and emergency affairs at World Vision, echoed Callahan’s comments to the subcommittee, describing the recovery effort as a marathon. He called for a coordinated transition from emergency response to recovery and urged Congress to recognize the importance of remaining committed to the aid effort for years to come in cooperation with the Philippine people

“We want to make sure we’re not doing programs for people,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re doing programs with people.”


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