By: Deacon Charles Rohrbacher

Sunday, November 18th is the second World Day of the Poor and is also when the annual national collection for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is taken up around the country. On the World Day of the Poor, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has invited us to focus on the material poverty experienced by individuals, families and communities in our localities, our nation and throughout the world.

People living in poverty lack access to the basic things they need to thrive and live: nutritious food, adequate housing, safe neighborhoods, good education, healthcare and decent jobs with fair pay. In our own country, an estimated 43 million people live in poverty. In Alaska out of a population of 720,450, an estimated 80,000 live in poverty.
Worldwide, many of those living in poverty are also threatened with natural disasters such as drought, famine, and the destructive consequences of earthquakes and powerful storms, or by man-made disasters caused by violence, social breakdown, corruption and wars.

Worldwide, one of the major Catholic responses to alleviate poverty has been through Caritas Internationalis, http://www.caritas.org. Caritas is found throughout the world engaged in providing immediate relief to those recovering from natural and man-made disasters or in the work of development to help the poor rise out of poverty.

In the United States Caritas is made up of three separate organizations, all under the leadership of the Catholic bishops: Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. Each has a distinctive mission.
Catholic Charities USA engages in direct services to those in need, http://www.catholiccharitiesusa.org. Catholic Community Service is the Catholic Charities affiliate in our diocese, http://www.ccsjuneau.org.

Catholic Relief Services is the overseas relief and development arm of the United States Catholic Church and works in over a 100 countries at the invitation of the national bishops conference of each country and in partnership with their local Caritas organization, http://www.crs.org.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) http://www.usccb.org/about/catholic-campaign-for-human-development is a national initiative of the US Catholic Conference intended to empower those living in poverty to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and break out of the cycle of poverty. CCHD is funded through an annual national collection and in turn funds non-profit organizations of empowered low-income people working to identify and overcome the root causes of poverty.

Many of the groups supported by CCHD around the country are engaged in projects designed to protect the rights of workers, expand access to health care, reform the criminal justice system, increase public safety and increase the availability of affordable housing.

In our diocese, CCHD is providing grant funding to the Sitka Land Trust’s efforts to build affordable housing on land donated by the city so that low and moderate-income first-time home buyers can purchase a small home and build equity and continue to raise their families in that community.

The CCHD national collection on November 18th is the primary source of funding for CCHD’s anti-poverty grants and education programs to develop a deeper awareness among Catholics of the cycle of poverty in our nation and the Church’s commitment to addressing the causes, as well as the effects of poverty. Twenty-five percent of funds donated in this collection remain in each diocese to support local projects.

Pope Francis, in his World Day of the Poor message writes: “For the poor to overcome their oppressive situation, they need to sense the presence of brothers and sisters who are concerned for them and, by opening the doors of their hearts and lives, make them feel like friends and family. Only in this way can the poor discover ‘the saving power at work in their lives’ and ‘put them at the center of the Church’s pilgrim way’ (Evangelium Gaudium no.198) I would like this year’s and all future World Days of the Poor, to be celebrated in a spirit of joy at the rediscovery of our capacity for togetherness.”

Thank you for your past support of CCHD! Please prayerfully consider donating to their annual appeal this November.