By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published November 12, 2009
Parishioners will be asked to give money to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development next weekend as part of the church’s national and local efforts to tackle the roots causes of poverty.
Leaders of the Catholic campaign are facing increasing demands for help as the number of men and women without work reaches its highest level since the early 1980s.
“Giving is down because of the economy, but requests are up because of the economy,” said Ralph McCloud, national CCHD director, who visited archdiocesan leaders recently.
Some $10 million was raised in Catholic parishes across the country last year for CCHD even though the Sunday before Thanksgiving collection took place during the economic meltdown. The collection this year will be held Nov. 21-22. One-quarter of the collection stays here as it does every year to benefit local organizations.
Local groups benefiting from the contributions include Refugee Family Services. Its Organizing in Action Network assists leaders in the refugee community to advocate together on issues so they can become successful members of the community.
“Basically to succeed with the American dream,” said Susan Pavlin, the policy and development consultant at the nonprofit.
“It helps us reach populations that others overlook,” said Pavlin about the $4,000 grant received in 2008.
Combating Poverty For 40 Years
Since its founding in 1969 by the U.S. Catholic bishops, CCHD’s focus has been to combat the root causes of poverty through the efforts of those most affected, the poor.
McCloud said the CCHD mission is to encourage community groups to overcome obstacles through empowerment education and leadership development.
Other charitable organizations, such as soup kitchens or emergency shelters, give direct emergency assistance to the needy, he said. The emergency aid is tremendous charity, McCloud said, but another critical part of the church’s work is to promote justice.
CCHD works with some 250 groups nationwide to find affordable housing, improve access to education, develop leadership skills, and work on immigrant rights, among other areas, he said.
Critics have targeted CCHD again this year because of past links with ACORN, a grassroots empowerment organization, and the funding of a project in Washington, D.C., and two projects in San Francisco, whose organizers took actions that were not in line with official church teaching or violated CCHD guidelines against partisan political activity. Those three groups were defunded after allegations were verified by the national office. Two other groups were accused of non-compliance, but those allegations were not substantiated.
McCloud said a ban is in place preventing ACORN from receiving any CCHD funding and it has not received CCHD money for over three years. And church leaders, including CCHD chairman Bishop Roger Morin, said CCHD has taken “firm actions” to reject requests from groups that contradict church teachings and recover any money if a funded group opposes church teaching.
A large portion of CCHD-funded work “is deeply integrated into the life of the Catholic community,” Bishop Morin said, involving hundreds of parishes and over 50 religious communities.
Local Support For CCHD
As part of the annual collection in the Atlanta Archdiocese, an archdiocesan committee helps distribute 25 percent of the proceeds to local groups.
The committee is made up of volunteers, like Beatrice Soublet and her husband, Lawrence. They worship at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta.
CCHD directors are “careful stewards” of people’s contributions and if there is a problem, actions are taken to recoup the money, she said.
Soublet, a committee member for two years, said Atlanta’s committee emphasizes the importance of Catholic social teaching and has lively discussions on awarding money.
“We have a commitment to help. That is our faith,” she said.
According to Susan Stevenot Sullivan, the archdiocesan director for CCHD, last year $27,000 was awarded to five parish and six community groups.
The Refugee Family Services, based in Stone Mountain, received a $4,000 local community group grant. It has received grant money two years in a row.
“We wouldn’t have been able to establish the project without it,” said Pavlin.
The new network works with 19 different refugee communities so they can learn from each other, advocate for their communities and develop partnerships.
The Organizing in Action Network had recent success when it joined forces with a workforce development agency to learn about job resources. Now, 10 refugee families are working in new jobs, Pavlin said.
A parish program can earn a $1,000 grant.
The Travelers Together Campaign at St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Smyrna benefited from the funds as the community wrestled with the escalating growth of Hispanic immigrants.
The effort brings together parishioners, both Americans and immigrants, to advocate for immigrants, P.J. Edwards wrote by e-mail. The effort has made different community members better understand one another and share experiences, he wrote.
Hundreds of people have participated in the program. In fact, more than 500 participated in a Holy Thursday pilgrimage, an eight-mile walk from the parish to Marietta Square, where there was a foot-washing ceremony where Americans washed the feet of immigrants, Edwards wrote.
People now have a deeper understanding of the social justice mission of the church, he said.
“These are transformative times that have led to a growing segment of our community working together for the common good of us all. Personally, I am in awe of the enriching relationships that have formed among diverse members of our community,” he wrote.