With prayer and story and song and information, representatives from diocesan parishes gathered at St. Barbara in Okawville to meet with the Catholic Relief Services Midwest Relationship Manager.
Beth Knobbe brought stories of CRS’ work and standing in solidarity with the people of the world who live every day with struggles, hardships and dangers no one can imagine.
Catholic Relief Services — CRS — “carries out the commitment of the Bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas.”
CRS assists people globally but begins by giving local people the chance to put “faith into action to help the world’s poorest create lasting change.”
To promote global solidarity, local CRS Animator, Cheryl Sommer gathered representatives from diocesan parishes to find out more about CRS and learn ways to make a difference in the world beginning at the parish level.
Not only making a difference in other parts of the world, CRS works in the United States as well. “CRS partners with dioceses to bring a message of hope and solidarity around the world,” Knobbe said. To “grow in solidarity with the poor,” Knobbe advocated praying, learning, acting and giving.
Giving through the purchase of fair trade goods assists a business in another part of the world. To be able to give through fair trade is not as difficult as it would seem. Some grocery stores carry fair trade commodities, and some parishes offer ways to buy fair trade items.
One recipient of CRS’ giving is Father Martin Edward Ohajunwa, administrator of St. Stephen in Flora and St. Edward in Fairfield. As a child, he was a direct recipient of the assistance CRS gives. Without that assistance, Father Ohajunwa doubts he would be alive today, serving in the Diocese of Belleville. His compelling story puts a face on the work that CRS accomplishes.
In this diocese, parish representatives find creative ways to work for CRS. “I adapted it to my circumstances,” St. Paul Parish rep from Vienna said. “A person wears many hats in a parish.”
The parish participates in Operation Rice Bowl during Lent as many diocesan parishes do, collecting money that will be sent to CRS. The rep speaks quarterly after Masses and makes an effort to connect people to major issues, like a hurricane or the crisis with refugees.
“I emphasize the connection to the church in the United States and pick an area in CRS outreach and talk about it,” he said.
At St. Mary Parish in Carlyle and St. Teresa in Marydale, the CRS representatives wanted to engage youth in raising awareness and money for a water project.
Only when people need water or find themselves caught in a water shortage do they seem to appreciate their own access to it.
A well was constructed and placed in the church. A presentation explained what the project was about. Then young people handed out bottles of fresh water with a brochure about their project.
After 120 days they made a second presentation. They finished their project at the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy in November 2016.
The representatives, and many other people were surprised, they said when they found they had raised more than $12,000 for water projects.
They said they also raised awareness about the amount of water that is wasted.
To promote fair trade products, Amy and Steve Hughes of St. Clare Parish in O’Fallon host fair trade sales once a month.
“We wanted small farmers to receive a fair wage” for their goods. Any profit that is made on the fair trade sales goes to Holy Angels Shelter, they said.
Through the sales and learning about the people and countries where the goods are grown or made helps “parishioners become more aware of issues of solidarity,” they said. Knobbe said people produce clothing for fair trade sales as well.
To become more aware of global poverty and discover ways to help, these representatives are gathering information to share with their parishes.
They discussed ways to raise awareness and money for CRS.
The CRS website has information about how to participate in a variety of different programs. Their mission statement reads, in part: “We are motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice, and embody Catholic social and moral teaching … .”
For more information about how to get involved in the work of CRS, contact Sommer at [email protected]