May is the month of hope realized.
It is the hope promised by the Passion of Easter, turned into a full realization of redemption for mankind.
It is the hope promised by the minutes of daylight beginning to outnumber those of darkness, and the leaves and flowers and shoots of grass that emerge into the returning warmth.
It is in this month that we honor our mothers, thanking them for their faith when they began the journey of motherhood.
As we honor mothers, we must also contemplate the faith of the Holy Mother. For it is she who took on that magnificent responsibility, leaving us eternally grateful for the burden she bore, for her triumph, for her Son.
That redemption leaves us with a burden of our own: how do we repay a debt that can never be repaid? The answer is found within our worship. It is found when we seek out God: in our liturgy, in our prayers, in our world and within ourselves.
And what do we find? We find love, rarely more perfectly realized than in the love we celebrate this month. A mother’s love gives children a similar burden. How can we ever repay her love? The only way is to pass on that love—to our spouses, to our children, to our community and to all of God’s family.
As you celebrate your blessings this month, I ask that you take that love and turn it toward the mothers, children, families and communities of a country you may not have heard of: Central African Republic.
Pilgrims in the Central African Republic mark the Feast of the Immaculate Conception with a procession in honor of the Blessed Mother. Photo by Sam Phelps for CRS.
Known as CAR, this landlocked nation—sandwiched between Chad, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo—is by almost any measure one of the poorest in the world. The United Nation’s Human Development Index ranks CAR 180 out of 187 countries. The average life expectancy at birth is only 49.1 years.
We at Catholic Relief Services have been working in CAR for 15 years, trying to build stability by helping subsistence farmers grow better crops, and by working to protect children whose lives have been affected by violence and disease.
In the aftermath of last year’s coup, our work is more important than ever. Unfortunately, much of the violence is along religious lines, among people who have lived in harmony for generations. Close to 25% of CAR’s population, about 1 million people, have been forced from their homes. Several thousand have died.
Many of those seeking safety have gone to Catholic compounds—the Church is one of the only functioning institutions in the country. Brave priests have risked their lives to save and protect people of all faiths. While supporting many of those priests in their work with the displaced, CRS is helping to implement interreligious dialogue aimed at stemming the violence.
CRS, hand in hand with the Church and with the local Caritas, is helping not only those seeking safety but also farmers who must return to their fields to plant the crops they will need to stave off hunger in coming months.
The people of Central African Republic need many things. They need shelter. They need food. They need water and sanitation. They need security and safety. They need the attention of the international community.
But most of all, they need the promise of the month of May. CAR needs hope. Let us join together to deliver it.
May blessings overflow,
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO
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