Thanksgiving for Harvests of Progress

Dear Friend,

Odin Eliane with the dried stalks of his family's maize crop, Mozambique. Photo by Heidi Yanulis for CRS

Odin Eliane with the dried stalks of his family’s maize crop, Mozambique. Photo by Heidi Yanulis for CRS

Recently, before a Catholic Relief Services event in Wisconsin, I met a woman who told me that in the 1950s her mother was resettled from Romania to the United States through the Caritas network, which includes CRS.

Her mom made a good life for her family. The daughter I was talking to was the first to graduate from college—in nursing. Her brother became an engineer.

In November, we give thanks for the harvest. In this woman, I saw the fruit of our work from 60 years ago. The encounter made me reflect on how grateful I am to be a part of the organization that helped an individual step into a better tomorrow, and an entire family flourish—those here now and those yet to be born. I am grateful that in return for our work of planting, God sends unimaginable harvests!

There are harvests like this in families all over the world.

According to projections by the World Bank, about 700 million people are living in extreme poverty—on less than $2 a day—this year. That’s just under 10% of the world’s population. But 3 years ago, more than 900 million people—almost 13% of the world’s population—lived in extreme poverty. For many, these statistics say that the goal of eradicating extreme poverty is not an idealistic dream; it is achievable—perhaps within our lifetime.

The progress made is because of many factors—an important one being the involvement and generosity of people like you. You have heard the Gospel call to help those in God’s family who need assistance. We know that our economic privileges do not make us better than the poor. We do not reach down to help them; we reach across—across the miles, the oceans, the continents—connecting with our brothers and sisters, with our family, just as they connect with us.

What a privilege! You cannot help but be thankful.

So as we see the possibility of this poverty reduction milestone in the years ahead, let us re-dedicate ourselves to this mission. By working with CRS, you can help ensure that those living in poverty will have the building blocks they need to construct a better life—nutrition, education, health care, peace. These are fundamental to a successful economy and a more prosperous life for all.

You can also help ensure that those who suffer a severe shock—whether from a flood or drought, a hurricane or an earthquake—will soon be back on their feet and ready to stride into the future.

Although progress lies before us, there are many obstacles. One of the biggest is violent conflict in too many places, which has millions of people on the road, seeking safety, a better life for their families—and peace.

You have certainly heard about the thousands now reaching Europe. For every one who makes it, there are many, many more still in the Middle East and Africa. They’ve been forced from their homes and are living hand-to-mouth wherever they can find shelter. Helping them return to their homes and livelihoods must be a priority for all of us. Contemplating their plight as we gather with our families this month must make us all thankful for the places we call home.

There are other challenges, including the need, as the Holy Father reminds us, to care for God’s creation so that its bounty can support us all.

And do not forget that even if extreme poverty is eliminated, that does not mean poverty will not exist. Living on $2 a day is hardly the life of dignity and grace that God intends.

So as we gather with our families, let us be thankful that we have received that grace, that we know that love, and that God allows us to share it with others.

May blessings overflow.

Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
President & CEO

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