Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

What I Have Seen and Heard (September 17, 2009)

By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY, Archbishop of Atlanta | Published September 17, 2009

No one that I know needs to be told or reminded that we have been enduring one of the more severe economic downturns in a very long time. The impact of our current financial situation is truly a global concern. And as in all such fiscal recessions, the poor are those who felt its impact first and deepest.

About a year and a half ago, I visited the Atlanta Food Bank with John Berry, the executive director of our St. Vincent de Paul Society. We were told that the signs of the recession had already been observed at least a year before then because of the numbers of people seeking the services of the Food Bank and the abnormally swift turnaround of the foods and materials that were received and the quicker than usual distribution of those goods.

The poor are a sound barometer of the economy since they seem always to feel the impact of a looming disaster first, and they recover from the decline last. There are simply many more people who need assistance today, and there are many of them who have never had to depend upon outside assistance before. The working poor are those who under the best circumstances can make ends meet, but when things fall apart economically, they drift into the ranks of those who need help to meet the ordinary expenses of living.

Fortunately, we have the services of the St. Vincent de Paul Society to step up the hard work to assist people in need. This effort, which is lay ministry, has been present in our community for more than 100 years and continues to enjoy the support of thousands of our people who contribute their time and their resources to this worthy organization.

Last Saturday evening, the St. Vincent de Paul Society hosted its third fundraising gala and this event surpassed the amounts generated in the previous two fundraisers. People in this local Church realize that the needs of the poor have increased and there are more people than ever seeking assistance.

The event was called An Evening for Hope, and the people who attended were certainly themselves a reason for hope. As I looked out over the folks assembled for the opening Mass, I saw the faces of hundreds of our people who are so generous in every area of our diocesan community. These are the folks who support their parishes and schools, contribute to the works of Catholic Charities, the Annual Archbishop’s Appeal and contribute to many other works of charity and social outreach. They are among the countless thousands of people in the Archdiocese of Atlanta who listen to their hearts and respond in love to the needs of their neighbors. They know that even in the face of their own financial challenges the poor are even more needy. They believe that while it might be necessary for them during these times to tighten their own fiscal plans, the poor have no belts to be tightened. I could not thank them enough for their generosity and selflessness.

Father Ron Rolheiser, OMI, who was the guest presenter at the event, reminded all of us that we are among the most blessed people of all of the people of the earth. We have tremendous gifts that come to us from the generous hand of a Father who loves all of His children. Our acts of generosity are a way of reflecting the Father’s love for each one of us. We are called to love with a great heart. I thank each one of you for your concern for those in need and for your assistance to our St. Vincent de Paul groups.