They Call Themselves ‘Catholics’

Lane Bunkers, CRS’ country representative for Ethiopia, shares a story about an older woman who now has access to clean, healthy water.

Egypt lake

Here a bore hole is being created, with the rig boring down to a depth of approximately 160 meters to the water table. Photo by Andrew McConnell/CRS

CRS donated several drilling rigs to the Ethiopian Catholic Church to tap deep groundwater. Our partner, the Hararghe Catholic Secretariat, used one of the rigs to drill a borehole in Dire Dawa, an arid eastern district in Ethiopia. The borehole now provides 2,400 households with access to clean water. Recently, the Secretary General of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat Abba Hagos Hayish toured some of the communities benefitting from this work.

“What do you think of this water project?” asked Abba Hagos of a Muslim woman filling a 5-gallon jug with water from one of the system’s taps.

“It’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. “Look how clean this water is. Our life has changed.”

“Do you know who is responsible for this project?” Abba Hagos inquired. The woman put down her water jug and looked at him with a slightly puzzled expression.

“They call themselves Catholics,” she said, emphasizing the strange word at the end of her sentence. “I’m not sure exactly what that means, but we give thanks to God for their work.”

About 80 percent of Ethiopia’s nearly 80 million people live in rural areas. Of these, fewer than 15 percent have access to safe water.

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34 Responses to “They Call Themselves ‘Catholics’”

  1. John Brewer Says:

    It doesn’t matter what we call ourselves or that others understand what “Catholic” means as long as WE understand we are God’s children doing God’s work for God’s people.

  2. Sandy Says:

    What a touching story. The humble witness to what living out the catholic faith can do for people around the world.

  3. Bob Henchal Says:

    I do hope you’re TELLING them what a Catholic is, or the spread of the Gospel, which IS our Great Commission, is not getting done. If you want goodwill, you must let your light shine, and not keep it under the proverbial bushel basket! That is why I give, to promote the Gospel through our acts.

  4. Victor Delgado Says:

    It is indeed a privelge, an honor, to be a part of those of us who are called “catholics”
    and hear, and see, the results of our small contributions. Praise be God for all who help out and provide some assistence to CRS.

  5. Barbara Wolfe Says:

    Catholic does mean “universal” and thanks to CRS who is truly universal in their assistance! Thanks for all you do!

  6. Edward Rooney Says:

    Maybe I will use this story in my Easter homily for all the easter catholics who will be there and other

  7. Anthony Camino Says:

    Through the action of drilling a well, I believe we’ve spread the Gospel, let our light shine and lived out our commission. One who is starving, thirsty and impoverished cannot hear the words of Christ. Peace to all at CRS – thank you for your witness.

  8. mark swiconek Says:

    This is what God has been telling us to do for others for all these billions of years-( in various sayings i.e. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, cast your bread upon the water and it will come back to you on every wave and whatsoever you do unto these,the least of my people,that you do unto me. By our contributions to CRS,we are doing unto God by helping these people in need. May Almighty God bless us all.

  9. Elizabeth Sheppard Says:

    I like the idea that CRS is not blowing their own horn so to speak. You give with no strings attached. That IS the Gospel message. God is not trying to make us Catholic, or even “Christian.” He wants us to know and love him and one another, and you are blessing them and yourselves by doing what you do. Bless you.

  10. Rita Says:

    We do not need to be preachy to let people know we are following Christ’s mandate in reaching out to our brothers and sisters around the world. I once volunteered at CHUM (churches united in ministry) and a client said to me “Where are all those Christians who are supposed to help us?” This Christian organization is doing the work, but hiding the fire that inspires us. The client had no clue he was surrounded by Christians.

  11. christine Says:

    that is what the gospel means when it says to go out and spread the good news, use words if necessary. They will be known by their actions. Way to go CRS. I am so proud to have promoted and contributed to your water drilling operation.

  12. Heidi M. Says:

    Actions speak louder than words. I hear people all the time saying they are Christian or Catholic. But the folks who donated the drills and helped in the drilling demonstrated what that means.

  13. Kathleen M Says:

    Thank you for this story. It represents why I give to CRS.

  14. Richard Bailly Says:

    Surely , we give because these are our brothers and sisters, no matter their faith. Are we no our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers?

  15. Cynthia Says:

    I think St. Bonaventure said: “Teach the Gospel and when necessary use words” We are all God’s children. Whether you know what a Catholic is or not these actions change lives and hearts for the better and serve the common good. Faith without works is dead.

  16. Cynthia Says:

    I think St. Bonaventure said: “Teach the Gospel and when necessary use words” We are all God’s children. Whether you know what a Catholic is or not these actions change lives and hearts for the better and serve the common good. Faith without works is dead.

  17. Rick Nidel Says:

    You shall know them by their deeds.

    I am very proud of this story, as I helped to prepare the project plan when I was working for CRS. I had the chance to go to Ethiopia and work with the amazing team there to get things together for the drilling rigs.

    What a pleasure to read this now, years later.

    Though I don’t work for CRS now, I am there in spirit. It’s an amazing organization, and I will always continue to contribute and encourage my friends to look for opportunities with CRS.

  18. Mike Schaefer DVM Says:

    I am pretty sure it was St. Francis of Assissi who made the comment about preaching the gospel with our lives and, if necessary, use words…and I mention this only to make a point. This was a man who gave his life to preaching the gospel of Jesus throughout the countryside. He sent his friars to do the same.
    I despise triumphalistic Christianity and aid attached to creed…but we must not be too “undercover” about our love for Christ. (I understand that sometimes it is needed to have a presence at all) He is the one to be exalted, not ourselves, that is the message of Francis….that is the evangelistic cry of St Paul. We do everything out of love for Jesus and give this reason for our actions.

    Praise God for CRS!

  19. Yasmine D'Alessandro Says:

    This is indeed a touching story and a proof that regardless of faith, we are all part of one human race under one Creator. As long as people like CRS do good for others and work for the benefit of humanity, they will recieve the blessings of God and the praise of men and women. I’m not Catholic, but I share applauding CRS’s success I wish you the best of luck.

  20. Connie McClanahan Says:

    Thank you for drilling the well! Clean water is one of the most needed resources in any community. I do think, however, that letting people know that the well was donated by people, who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, is VERY important. How will they know the source of eternal life-giving water otherwise?

  21. Dick Holdener Says:

    Thank you for drilling the well and for sharing the story. Reading about projects like this give me reason to continue contributing to CRS.

    I do hope that CRS established the sustainability of the underground water supply, that it won’t dry up in a few years, especially if more wells are drilled.

    May God’s blessing be with you all at CRS; thank you for your work and your witness.

  22. Mary Kochan Says:

    Please, let us have no false dichotomy between preaching the Gospel and doing works of mercy! No one did greater works of mercy that Jesus. He raised four people from the dead and He cured everyone who came to Him of every sort of disease and infirmity. He also preached. He is our example. I would certainly have liked to hear that someone replied to that woman, “Catholics are followers of Jesus Christ and they want you to know that He loves you,” to know not only that her body was nourished, but her soul as well. However, it is also possible that CRS workers in various places have to be very careful about the name of Jesus in order not to be thrown out of the country.

  23. Maribeth Says:

    We learn from the Master! Jesus seemed to know that, before teaching, He first needed to give food, drink, and health in order for people to be receptive to His Word. His model was the perfect example for us to follow in our own evangelization. If someone is too hungry to hear…too sick to listen…too worried about taking care of simple, daily needs….then how can they ever understand and believe that the Father Loves them???

  24. maren Ortmeier Says:

    Wow- what a beautiful story. This truly is a story that shines with the love of St. Francis- preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words!! This is showing our love for all of God’s children- without any strings attached. Makes me very proud to support the efforts of CRS and stories like this show how meaningful my donations are ! God bless with all that CRS does in the humble and loving name of Jesus Christ!

  25. Mbulwe Mwimba Says:

    Great story. And indeed our work as catholics is a manifestation of our faith in Christ, and our love for all humanity just as Jesus Christ every person

    Mbulwe Mwimba – Zambia

  26. Robert Mazzella Says:

    I find it hard to believe that anybody doesn’t know what a “Catholic” is–particularly in Coptic Ethiopia!

  27. Sefakor Fummey Says:

    This is life changing! its good to know that little contributions can really transform lives in a whole community. Thanks be to God who strengthens his children.

    Sefakor Fummey – Accra,Ghana

  28. Markus Says:

    It means deeply how you practice your faith. without saying you are catholic they know you are. Faith to be practiced not to say.

  29. James Nichnadowicz Says:

    I have donated to CRS because of a story told to me by a Peace Corp volunteer. The volunteer was stationed in Africa. She said that much of the aid sent by foriegn governments never made it to the poor. Rather it was stolen by the local government. The peace corp volunteer told me that CRS funds actually made it to the poor. I was much impressed by this and have been giving ever since.

  30. Ted Duplessis Says:

    I wonder if Tom Hanks and Hollywood will make a movie about this story?

  31. Chrispine M Kiridia Says:

    Thats wonderful as this is evident that the bigger is realizing that the cathilics are more of actions rather than just mare words, Keep it up and continue with the good job.

  32. How Many Drilling Rigs Does Your Archdiocese Own? | Voices of CRS Says:

    […] For an Ethiopian’s perspective on what wells mean to her, see this short story. […]

  33. Emmanuel Chibesa Says:

    Great story. And indeed our work as Catholics is a manifestation of our faith in Christ, and our love for all humanity just as Jesus Christ loves every person.

  34. Yohannes M. Says:

    Much blessing for those who are Responsible for this jobs/who give them pure & potable drinking water/…….good insight for….. even they know that it is Catholic work ……

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