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CCHD goes beyond any immediate crisis to strengthen families and neighborhoods for a better future: Bishop David G. O’Connell

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Boys ride their bikes past boarded-up and abandoned rowhouses in Baltimore May 26, 2019. Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, chairman of U.S. bishops' Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, said May 22 the next federal stimulus package for pandemic economic relief must include help for the poor and vulnerable. (CNS photo/Stephanie Keith, Reuters)

Responding to editors’ requests for a regular sampling of current commentary here is a column provided to Catholic News Service. It was written by Auxiliary Bishop David G. O’Connell of Los Angeles, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Subcommittee on the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. (Most parishes take up the collection for CCHD at Masses the weekend of Nov. 20-21.)¬†

In his 2020 encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti,” Pope Francis asks us to dream together of a better world — one in which we care for one another, regardless of our backgrounds or beliefs¬† and aspire toward uniting in fraternity and social friendship:

“No one can face life in isolation. … We need a community that supports and helps us, in which we can help one another to keep looking ahead. How important it is to dream together. … By ourselves, we risk seeing mirages, things that are not there. Dreams, on the other hand, are built together.” (“Fratelli Tutti,” 8)

Further on, he writes, “when the good of others is at stake, good intentions are not enough.” (185)

Our Holy Father’s vision of social fraternity in action is the same one that inspired the U.S. bishops to establish the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) more than a half-century ago. CCHD is about uniting to help our brothers and sisters who are poor, marginalized or wounded to achieve their dreams.

That includes the American dream of providing for their families through the honest work of their hands. It encompasses the dreams of St. Joseph, who, when he appeared to have no safe path forward, followed a new course guided by angels. CCHD does not work in isolation. Our efforts complement the vital charitable and emergency assistance provided by the Catholic Church — such as Catholic Charities and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Each of us have distinct missions that address immediate needs and systemic issues that keep people in poverty, that when woven together empower those in poor communities to make a better living and build stronger, healthier neighborhoods for the long-term.

Never has our mission been more critical than during the COVID-19 pandemic. While local health and government officials encouraged everyone to “stay at home” as the coronavirus spread in the early days of the pandemic, our labor force was impacted heavily. Essential workers in agriculture and food production, food service, as well as in critical retail such as grocery stores were unable to work remotely.

We saw just how essential those in the meat-packing industry were when the supply chain was interrupted and supermarket shelves were bare of beef, poultry and pork. Many of these workers are immigrants with language barriers that make it difficult to speak up for workplace safety, including the need for masks and other personal protective equipment, and socially distanced workspaces. At a pork processing plant in Missouri where crowding and lack of protective gear endangered both employees’ lives and the food-supply chain, workers sought help from a CCHD-funded advocacy group, the Rural Community Workers Alliance. After negotiations failed, the alliance filed a lawsuit that moved the company to supply personal protective equipment such as face masks, install protective barriers and take other safety measures such as sanitizing stations for workers — even before the matter reached court. It was through the advocacy of this alliance that the health of vulnerable workers was protected and the supply chain continued to operate to keep affordable food on American tables.

This mission of empowering vulnerable people goes beyond any immediate crisis, to strengthen families and neighborhoods for a better future. No matter where you live, CCHD will make an impact nearby. A quarter of every dollar that parishioners give to CCHD stays in their local diocese. It will be distributed where local church leaders see local needs and local people eager to improve their communities. These dreams and improvements are not dictated to the poor, but are discerned together, in accordance with the principles of Catholic social teaching.

In the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas, local and national funding from CCHD goes to ARISE Adelante, a grassroots organization that the Sisters of Mercy and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word co-sponsor among immigrants in unincorporated areas of the Rio Grande Valley. This region is one of the poorest in the nation, lacking essential services such as running water and electricity.

ARISE Adelante has trained thousands of residents to advocate successfully with county officials for infrastructure improvements and access to schools. The organization offers personal development opportunities as varied as job skills training, English-language classes and spiritual retreats. Voter registration drives are coupled with education in Catholic social teaching. Those who receive assistance from ARISE give back to their neighbors by becoming ARISE volunteers.

Whether in the remotest of rural regions or in the largest of our nation’s cities, CCHD is helping our most marginalized neighbors to dream of better communities and enabling them to bring those dreams to life. When you give to CCHD, you are part of that success.

If you miss the Catholic Campaign for Human Development collection at Mass or wish to give outside of the collection, #iGiveCatholic Together accepts funds for this program.

More information on the history and impact of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development can be found at www.usccb.org/committees/catholic-campaign-human-development. Learn more about poverty in the United States at www.povertyusa.org, where you will also find fact sheets and stories about how gifts to this collection have changed people’s lives.