By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published September 12, 2013
ATLANTA—Catholic Relief Services’ diocesan directors from the nine-state Southeast region participated in a regional gathering at Ignatius House in Atlanta Aug. 13-15.
“These diocesan directors are appointed by their respective bishops and their responsibilities include representing and promoting Catholic Relief Services and offering opportunities for engagement with CRS programs in Catholic parishes, schools and other Catholic institutions,” said Cullen Larson, CRS regional director for the Southeast.
According to Larson, these gatherings are held every two years, but the organization has frequent interactions with the diocesan directors throughout the year.
The purpose of the event is both to promote how clergy and parishes can become more involved in supporting CRS and for CRS staff to listen to the needs of their diocesan partners. The ultimate goal is to help the dioceses and parishes to live out “our shared baptismal call to live in solidarity with our brothers and sisters overseas who are poor and vulnerable,” said Larson.
Speakers included Sean Callahan, CRS’ chief operating officer; Dorothy Grillo, CRS’ senior director for regional outreach-U.S. operations; Mary Wright, relationship manager and co-director of JustMatters; and Jim Stipe, the CRS communications officer for digital and visual media.
Callahan provided examples of CRS’ work in India, Syria, Haiti, Sudan and other countries. Later, he outlined and expressed hopes for a new CRS agency strategy that takes into account both the organization’s 70 years of experience, expertise and successes, as well as the many challenges in the operating environment for the Church and for humanitarian and development agencies. He emphasized and affirmed CRS’ appreciation for the key roles that its local partners play in shared work to engage U.S. Catholics in global solidarity.
Grillo shared her own practical experience as a former CRS diocesan director and the lessons learned from CRS regions and diocesan partners across the nation.
Several diocesan representatives shared their own experiences, including Louisville’s CRS Rice Bowl Kickoff event, which included a speaker tour promotion and mock refugee camp for schools and New Orleans’ Global Neighbor Schools program in area high schools.
In small group sessions, attendees shared their experience and successes while considering questions like their vision for a parish that is fully involved in global solidarity, what such a parish would look like, and how this could be accomplished with local church partners.
Wright presented an update on the JustFaith program, how its graduates can be engaged in global solidarity, and how JustFaith has been used around the country as a social ministry capacity-building resource.
CRS staff outlined how CRS approaches private fundraising and stewardship of CRS donors, and how many CRS donors are seeking additional ways to be involved in their local parishes and dioceses in support of CRS.
Stipe, of CRS Baltimore, outlined a range of media and communications resources such as CRS Newswire, briefings in English and Spanish and YouTube videos. He also provided practical tips on using a range of social media tools.
Among the resource materials made available to participants were thumb-drives containing a variety of resource materials such as a CRS overview video and CRS iNeighbor video, the “Make a World of Difference” action calendar for global solidarity through CRS as well as resources for leaders of Hispanic ministry.
Larson said any priest, deacon, parish leader or parishioners seeking additional information about CRS and its work should contact Kat Doyle, Atlanta’s CRS diocesan director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Catholic Relief Services at 404-681-4600.