Catholic Relief Services works to be present in the midst of suffering, a beacon of hope

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Father Benedict Groeschel hosted Ken Hacket, the president of the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on his weekly EWTN program, Sunday Night Live a few weeks ago. Since 1972 he's worked in the missions. The program was a source of hope for me because it expanded my horizons of what we as Christians are meant to be: beacons of hope and compassion for others, not only in a time of need, but at all times. This organization clearly and proudly represents us doing good around the world. CRS is a great example of Christian charity!

CRS works squarely where the need is, where the Church has asked to be present as requested by the local bishop (CRS does nothing without consultation with the local bishop). 60% of CRS resources are designated for subsaharan Africa: Sudan, Dafur, Congo, Burundi, etc.

An example of assistance to the poor, Mr. Hacket said that 60% money raised for Haiti was turned into Hatian recovery in the post-earthquake and now the flood relief for the long term. They're building homes, schools, clinics and the like. CRS works closely with Caritas at the diocesan, parish and national level, in addition to collaborating with religious orders, other aid agencies like AVSI and the Order of Malta.

There are approximately 5000 people who represent CRS around the world; the majority of the people are nationals of the particular country in which CRS is working. And some are non-Christian.

Thoroughly Catholic and because of Catholicism, CRS helps everyone, even with non-Christians. It's about how people relate to one another. The orientation of CRS is to give dignity and to empower people to change themselves and their situation. The response of CRS provides the intellectual, social, economic, faith means. They help raise awareness of human need around the world.

CRS is attentive to the spiritual and affective needs of all people, including their workers. As Mr. Hacket said, we don't rice Christians --convert to Christianity to get food and assistance.

Hunger and prevalent poverty and ill health is an evil we need to confront. No one answer why does evil exist. It is as Saint Augustine of Hippo said: There is a mystery to the existence of evil.

Fall of humanity (see Genesis) is known as the historic and theological narrative of humanity's confrontation with evil. The problem of evil has to be addressed, the CRS director admitted. Evil is often the reason why those who don't believe God, why they live in unbelief, and conversely, but also ironically it is because of evil people believe in God. What type of evil am I pointing to? Evil is known through:

  • natural
  • failure of humanity
  • evil intentions of man

For the Christian, the response to evil is the knowledge and faith that the human being is led by Christ who lived through suffering and death; Christ's died (an evil) and overcame death (evil) by death itself, by Love, as the Liturgy says. The Son of God accepted and endured injustice because of His love for the Father and for humanity. Christ didn't pass off the suffering and sin of haumanity but took it on Himself. This theological datum leads me to think of Dostoevsky's appeal: evil is changed by belief (cf. sermon of Fr Zosima).

Questions always persist: Does God care? Did God create the evil experienced? Why doesn't God fix the problem if He's all-powerful, all-knowing, loving, merciful and just?

The struggle is to know what the facts are, what is place of evil in the life of society (and Church) today? How do we respond? Pope Benedict's encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, he spoke of love as a structure for the work to be done: engage in charity as part of faith, integral of who we are as men and women of faith.

Human beings are prone to despair which is only combated in the relationships we have with the another which provides hope; it is the witnesses of those who are working for the good of the other which lifts up affectively and spiritually. Despair should not hold man and woman captive to destructive forces. CRS opens the doors to more meaningful friendships.

Every diocese has a local representative; CRS provides information to the dioceses in the USA. Get involved in CRS. It's worth it!!!

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About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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This page contains a single entry by Paul Zalonski published on March 31, 2011 7:13 PM.

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