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Bishop Lynch’s CRS Farewell

As 2007 comes to a close, Bishop Robert N. Lynch will complete his term as chairman of the board of Catholic Relief Services. Bishop Lynch first served on the CRS board from 1989 to 1995, when he was the General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He rejoined CRS leadership when he assumed the board chairmanship in 2002.

Bishop Lynch delivered the following address to the Fall Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops earlier this week in Baltimore.

Bishop Skylstad,

Bishop

Bishop Lynch gives an interview amid tsunami destruction in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Photo by Karl Grobl for CRS

I wish publicly to express to you, as I did three years ago to Archbishop Gregory, my profound thanks for the great privilege of serving as President and Chairman of the Board of CRS. Counting the six years I served this conference as general secretary, I have had the wonderful opportunity to participate as a member of the CRS board for a total of 12 years. In that space of time, the organization has grown from an effective but relatively modest disaster relief agency with an annual budget of less than $100 million to a current program of some $600 million a year focusing on development, health and disaster relief. At the end of next year, we will have spent the more than $175 million entrusted to us by American Catholics and others for the 2005 tsunami relief and returned over 5,000 families to new homes, better able to withstand the fairly regular onslaught of earthquakes. We have built replacement hospitals, businesses and schools in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and India.

CRS is now a major source in nine nations in Africa and elsewhere for antiretroviral drugs, and the poor who previously felt condemned to death by the HIV and AIDS virus now have a good chance at a normal life.

Women in India, Cambodia and Africa have found new empowerment and hope in microfinance, and pregnant mothers are taught around the world good nutrition and health for their unborn children.

Major philanthropic resources are so impressed with CRS’ effectiveness and outreach throughout the world that they are now choosing us as a recipient of their funds.

I am proud of the staff of CRS, in Baltimore and around the world, for their expertise, generosity of spirit and willingness to sacrifice in sometimes dangerous and difficult situations like Sudan, Afghanistan and the West Bank. We bishops have something to be very proud of and I leave my successor as chairman a board of bishops and lay women and men who enthusiastically and generously give of their time, talent and treasure.

Eleven years ago, when I thought I was saying goodbye to this conference of bishops, I told the membership then that serving the bishops would be the highlight of my priestly life. Gentlemen, you now hold third place in my heart behind the local Church I am privileged to serve and Catholic Relief Services. Thank you once again for entrusting me with the role of chairman and thanks to Ken Hackett, our president, to his entire staff worldwide, and to my brother bishops and the laity of the board.

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