By ANDREW ZAMPINI
January in our Church is known as Poverty Awareness Month.
So, how do we become more informed (aware) about poverty and what do we do about it?
There are many resources that provide demographic, financial and social data on what constitutes poverty, who is deemed to be living in poverty, and the root causes of poverty. The Catholic Church, as well as numerous other entities, provide us resources to search out and evaluate this data.
It doesn’t take long to realize from the data that poverty exists, to an alarming extent, throughout the world. Nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2.50 per day and about twenty percent live on less than $1.25 per day. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 39.7 million of our sisters and brothers in the United States living in poverty in 2017.
So what can we do to address such a large issue?
The Catholic Church has always been a Church for the poor. Not only providing charity and outreach by agencies like Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services, but also structural change through programs such as the Catholic Campaign for Human Development and through Catholic Advocacy Networks.
Rev. Fred Kammer, SJ, who served as President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA from 1992 – 2001, captures the comprehensive approach of the Church’s teachings on poverty when he stated:
“Just as Catholic Social Teaching has understood poverty to be connected to powerlessness and non-participation in society, so our teaching on poverty has grown from simple assistance with a meal or shelter to encompass an array of necessary responses: advocacy for social and economic change; empowerment of individuals and groups; political participation and economic development so people can be “artisans of their own destiny”; micro-enterprise loans; and the importance of “property” for the poor in multiple senses of land, capital, education, and technological know-how. “Beginning in January and continuing every month, let us work together to become aware of poverty throughout the world, the United States and in our local communities, and then, not only help the poor but also advocate for changes to address the root causes of poverty.
Andrew Zampini is a member of the Catholic Social Justice Network.