By MOST REVEREND WILTON D. GREGORY | Published March 4, 2010 | En Español
Archbishop Timothy Dolan wrote to me at the beginning of Advent last year asking me to provide some high profile support and publicity for the tremendous work of Catholic Relief Services, which functions as the preeminent international outreach ministry of the Catholic Church in the United States to the needy and suffering in more than 100 countries throughout the world. Archbishop Dolan serves as the chairman of the board of CRS.
Coincidentally, I had already scheduled a meeting in Advent with Jim Lund, a Chicago friend who now serves on the national staff of CRS and some local representatives here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta who also asked me to consider doing that very same thing. Then the earthquake struck Haiti and the work of CRS was clearly visible to all who saw their presence and effectiveness in responding to this particular disaster.
Our own local generous response to this tragedy was extraordinary. When all of the collected funds are finally tallied, the Archdiocese of Atlanta will have contributed more than $1 million to this relief effort. I could not be more grateful for the kindness of our people, and I know that I speak for the hundreds of thousands of victims, their families, and the Haitian community here in the United States. The vast majority of the funds that we collected were forwarded to CRS where they have been used and will continue to be used to advance the relief work and reconstruction of those devastated communities.
CRS is not the only agency that received the generous support of our people and certainly not the only disaster relief organization that responded to the needs of the people of Haiti. Yet the work of CRS enjoys a well-known respect that allowed the organization to take a lead role in this vitally important charitable endeavor. CRS has maintained an on-site presence in Haiti for more than 55 years in view of the fact that this particular nation has known so many other tragedies that an ongoing presence there was envisioned decades ago as the appropriate way to confront the poverty and too frequent natural disasters that continue to plague the Haitian community.
CRS is on every continent and enjoys the confidence of people, governments and multinational organizations throughout the world. CRS serves all people irrespective of their religious traditions or cultural or ethnic backgrounds. CRS works with government agencies that may not have the capacity to deliver some of the aid that they set aside to offer to people in need.
CRS is the face and hands of Christ for countless thousands of people across the globe.
The work of CRS is done out of the highest principles of our faith. We do not seek converts as a condition or expectation of our care for them. CRS is simply the response of the Church in the United States to the needs of the poor around the world. At the recent African Bishops’ Synod, CRS was often cited as the visible love of the Catholic Church in the United States for our African brothers and sisters who benefit so directly from the work of CRS.
In a few weeks, our national collection for CRS will be taken up in our parishes. Although our response to the Haiti earthquake was an extraordinary expression of the goodness of our people, we will turn to you again for the ongoing work of CRS. Just remember those images of the disaster relief workers and the grateful faces of the people of Haiti—then envision those same images as Asian, European, Latin American or African peoples and you will see why CRS is such an important source of help to so many needy people the world over.