Social Justice: Why support Catholic Relief Services?

By Barbara Budde
Columnist

Catholic means help. That is what a young Syrian Muslim refugee girl said when asked if she knew what Catholic Relief Services was. She had never heard the word Catholic before she and her family were forced by the war in Syria to leave their home and flee to a refugee camp in Turkey. There they found their basic needs met, but this young girl also found people willing to help her over the trauma of the war, people who provided her with school supplies and a place to study and play. She had never heard the word Catholic and she had never met someone who was a Catholic, but all she could think was that Catholics meant help because of all the help she received. 
The help she received originated with Catholic Relief Services, the relief and development agency of the Catholic bishops of the U.S. CRS was formed 70 years ago when the bishops of Europe appealed to the U.S. bishops to help them with war refugees and rebuilding. Since then CRS has grown to be active in 93 countries working in partnership with the local bishop and his diocese to bring relief and development where it is needed most.
In 2013 CRS was on the ground immediately after Hurricane Haiyan passing out 45,000 emergency kits and working with residents to rebuild shelters that would withstand the next storm. Typhoon Hagupit came sooner than anyone expected, in December 2014. The shelters built by CRS stood strong during the storm and continue to provide shelter and hope to the people. In addition, CRS is working with survivors of both storms to rebuild their livelihoods by providing fishing boats and interim crops while the replanted coconut trees grow to full maturity.
In Haiti five years after a major earthquake, CRS continues to help the residents of this poorest state in the Western Hemisphere to rebuild. Through a partnership with the Catholic Health Association and the Diocese of Port-au-Prince, the major hospital of the city, St. Francois de Sales has been rebuilt and is filled with state of the art equipment to serve the people. Fields that were once filled with tents for displaced persons are once again available for children to play. Homes and schools are being rebuilt all in partnership with the people and the local church. 
In Guatemala CRS is working with youth to provide a livelihood for themselves and their families which keeps them out of the gangs involved with drug trafficking and provides an alternative to the dangerous and uncertain trip of trying to cross into the U.S. CRS has trained 6,000 youth who are in turn becoming mentors for others so they can stay in their own country and turn around the terrible situation of the gangs, the violence and the forced migration both cause. 
On the weekend of March 14 and 15, our parishes will take up the CRS collection to support this work and the work of the bishops through the USCCB offices of Migration and Refugee Services, International Justice and Peace, Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, the relief work of the Holy Father and for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network. This collection is an important way we can help our bishops in their efforts to live the social teaching of global solidarity.
When we read about the tragedies happening around the world, natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes or epidemics or the un-natural disasters caused by war, greed and other human sin, it is easy to think that the problem is too big and nothing can be done. But that is simply not true. Together we are making a deep and profound difference in the lives of millions of our brothers and sisters around the world. Together we are changing the landscape from devastation and destruction to gardens of hope. Catholic means help to a young Muslim refugee girl in Turkey, to the people of the Philippines and Haiti and to the youth in Guatemala. Be a part of that help and give generously to the CRS collection this March.