In a few weeks, Pope Francis will be in the United States, focusing the attention of so many Americans on the beliefs and works of our wonderful Church. This Pope has garnered admiration from all segments of our society by steadfastly proclaiming the eternal verities of Catholicism while projecting the caring, warmth and love that Christ asks from all of us.
Francis will meet with the powerful—the President, Congress, the United Nations—and the poor. He will obey a command of Matthew 25 and visit prisoners at a jail in Philadelphia. He will also address the World Meeting of Families—the triennial gathering begun by Saint John Paul in 1994 to celebrate, examine and strengthen this essential of our society.
When we think of the Church as the bride of Christ, we realize that the family is the building block of our faith. We are all brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of these parents. And then we come to understand that all of us are God’s children—part of the family that is mankind.
So much of the work we do at Catholic Relief Services is in support of families around the world. And where does a family live? In a home, of course. So some of the most important work we do is to help provide families with homes. Sometimes—after a disaster like an earthquake or hurricane—that might be nothing more than a tarp, some lumber and nails.
For those fleeing violence in northern Iraq, your generosity is helping turn abandoned buildings into livable spaces with windows and doors that keep out the cold, and walls for privacy.
CRS’ work strengthens families beyond these immediate crises as well. Our agriculture and microfinance work helps parents earn a living so they can feed their children; our health programs provide important support in nutrition and child development to expectant and new mothers; our work in education focuses on including all children and encouraging lasting change.
At our Faithful House projects in Kenya and Ethiopia, we emphasize the importance of abstinence and fidelity to the family.
We also connect Catholics in the United States with our global family, helping us all understand what it means to be part of God’s family.
The family home is a central theme in Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si’.” God in his mercy and generosity has provided his family with a home. The encyclical reminds us that we have not done a good job of taking care of it. In our rush for short-term pleasures, we have put off long-term maintenance, just as if we had bought an expensive, fancy new car instead of repairing the roof. Would that be a good choice for your family? Pope Francis helps us understand that it is not a good choice for God’s family.
What is especially tragic is that those suffering the most from decisions that have harmed our common home are not the ones who have made them. They do not have the power to make them. They are the poorest of the poor. When their fields lie fallow because of changing weather patterns, they cannot go down to the supermarket and buy more food. They go hungry. When rising temperatures stop their crops from growing, they do not have the reserves to cultivate new ones. Instead, they abandon their fields for a life of poverty—and possibly violence—in the city.
So I ask that when you see Pope Francis in our country, and when you hear him speak to the powerful and the poor, understand that his message of love and strength for the family means your family; it means my family; it means all our families.
It means God’s family.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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