Collaborating With Our Church Family

Dear Friend,

I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating. If there is one word that describes the essence of Catholic Relief Services, it is partnership.

Working side by side, we collaborate with partners around the world to help people build the resources they need to break out of the cycle of poverty. And as a Catholic agency, we naturally turn first to our brothers and sisters in a Church that is truly universal. The worldwide Catholic Church really does reach out to every corner of the globe, often to places that are the most out of the way, rural, poor and underserved.

Our collaboration with the Missionaries of Charity is fairly well known. We worked with Mother Teresa from almost the beginning of her ministry to the poorest of the poor. Today, we continue this collaboration with her sisters in nearly every country where we both serve. Our work with other religious orders is not as well known, but it is just as vital, and in some cases, just as longstanding. Such is the case with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

The Oblates were founded in France in 1816 in the wake of the French Revolution. They initially were dedicated to serving the working poor in southern France. As they grew, they became a missionary order with a special mission of ministering to the poor and those on the margins of society. Pope Pius XI once said that the Oblates of Mary Immaculate were “specialists in difficult missions.” Today, they have more than 4,000 priests and brothers working on every continent of the world.

I have my own personal connection to the Oblates. When I was assigned to the Philippines in the late 1980s, I was told that the most important contact in the hierarchy was Archbishop Phil Smith, OMI of the Archdiocese of Cotabato. It took me little time to realize this fellow New Englander was a wise and holy man who would prove most important in guiding me during my six years in the Philippines.

These days, our collaboration with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate encompasses just about every sector of our work.

We partner with the Oblates in responding to the HIV pandemic in many places, but particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In the Diocese of Mongu in western Zambia (which is led by Bishop Paul Duffy, OMI, who grew up in the same Boston parish that I did), a CRS home-based care program called Success Return to Life works through a number of parishes that are run by Oblate priests. Together, we provide much-needed assistance in the form of medical training, voluntary counseling and testing, support of patients in adhering to complex drug regimens, and referral to health centers for thousands of people living with HIV.

In addition, Our Lady's Hospice in Kalingalinga, Lusaka, Zambia, is an oasis in the middle of urban poverty. Through Success Return to Life, we provide much-needed equipment and palliative care training to the dedicated nurses and volunteers at the hospice. This institution receives support from the Oblates, who are represented on the hospice's Board of Directors.

In Pakistan, CRS partners with Father Victor Gnanapragasam, OMI, the prefect of Quetta. Father Gnanapragasam provides spiritual services and guidance to the scattered Christian population of approximately 28,000 people in Balochistan (Pakistan's largest, poorest, and most sparsely populated province), as well as educational, medical and emergency relief to Christians, Muslims and members of other faiths living in the prefecture. During the flooding last June, Caritas Pakistan-Quetta, with the guidance and support of Father Gnanapragasam, provided food and other supplies, as well as emergency shelter, to displaced people in the prefecture. Caritas Pakistan-Quetta also lent staff to CRS Pakistan for our own flood response, providing invaluable local knowledge and perspective.

In the Philippines, CRS has engaged the Oblates in the vital work of peacebuilding. We have been partners with the Oblates in this work since CRS started its peace and reconciliation program here in 1996. Specifically, we have worked closely with Father Eliseo “Jun” Mercado, OMI, a prominent peacebuilder, in various initiatives with the Notre Dame University Peace Center in Cotabato City, Mindanao. Mindanao is a region beset by conflicts between Muslims and Christians. In addition, CRS lends assistance to the Archdiocese of Cotabato, led by Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, OMI, including providing support to the archdiocese's interreligious dialogue program. Through these efforts, we hope to contribute to creating an opening to peace.

Our collaboration with the Oblates clearly shows the global reach of the Church and how we can support one another in helping to lift our brothers and sisters out of the cycle of poverty.

Thank you for your continued support and your prayers.

Ken Hackett

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One Response to “Collaborating With Our Church Family”

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