Here’s an inside tip: You may soon be hearing more from the pulpit about the Gospel necessity of reaching out to the poor and jobless in your community.
Several weeks ago, the president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, sent a letter to every bishop in the country at the urging of the conference’s administrative committee. It had been meeting when the latest economic data was released, showing that 46 million Americans — or 15 percent — now live in poverty. The persistently high unemployment rate bears a lot of the blame.
“For us as bishops,” Archbishop Dolan wrote, “these numbers are not statistics, but people suffering and wounded in their human dignity. They are parents who cannot feed their children, families that have lost their homes and jobless workers who have lost not only income, but also a sense of their place in society. For us, each of these persons is a child of God with innate human dignity and rights that deserve respect. These numbers bring home to us the human costs and moral consequences of a broken economy that cannot fully utilize the talents, energy and work of all our people. We know the terrible toll the current economic turmoil is taking on families and communities. In our own Catholic dioceses we are struggling to match scarce resources with growing needs and have had to make very difficult financial, personnel and organizational choices.”
The archbishop urged his fellow clergy — as pastors, teachers and leaders — to focus public attention and priority “on the scandal of so much poverty and so many without work in our society.” As an aid, he pointed them to unemployment and poverty resources on the bishops’ own website.
(here’s a friendly hyperlink directly there: http://osv.cm/r8Vim0).
Here’s one startling statistic he cites: 16 million children, or nearly 25 percent, are growing up poor.
There’s blame enough to go around for the dire economic situation our country finds itself in, but Archbishop Dolan directs most of his attention to the future.
“It is a time for everyone to accept their own personal and institutional responsibility to help create jobs and to overcome poverty, each in accord with their own abilities and opportunities. Individuals and families, faith-based and community groups, businesses and labor, government at every level, all must work together and find effective ways to promote the common good in national and economic life,” he said.
“This is not a time to give into discouragement,” Archbishop Dolan concludes. “It is a time for faith, hope and love. Faith offers us moral principles to guide us in the days ahead. Christian hope gives us strength. Christ’s love calls us to care for those left behind in this broken economy.”
Is your parish taking any extra steps to help the poor? Write firstname.lastname@example.org.