Pope Francis: Meeting Christ in the poor renews our missionary vigor

Pope Francis speaks from the Apostolic Palace during his general audience livestream April 14, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA

Rome, Italy, Apr 15, 2021 / 15:18 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis said Thursday that the poverty and exclusion from the job market caused by the coronavirus pandemic has made the work of Catholic groups that assist poor communities even more urgent.

“Going out to meet the wounded and risen Christ in the poorest communities allows us to regain our missionary vigor, because that is how the Church was born, on the periphery of the Cross,” Pope Francis said in a video message released on April 15.

“If the Church ignores the poor it ceases to be the Church of Jesus and revives old temptations to become an intellectual or moral elite, a new form of Pelagianism, or like the life of the Essenes.”

The pope sent the video message to the participants in the international conference, “A Politics Rooted in the People,” organized by the London-based Centre for Theology and Community.

The event is part of the celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the anti-poverty program of the U.S. bishops’ conference.

In his message, Pope Francis recognized the work of the U.S. bishops’ anti-poverty initiative in “helping the poorest communities in the United States to live more with dignity, promoting their participation in the decisions that affect them.”

“When the people are discarded, they are deprived not only of material well-being but also of the dignity of acting, of being the protagonist of their history, of their destiny, of expressing themselves with their values ​​and culture, of their creativity, of their fertility,” the pope said.

“For this reason, it is impossible for the Church to separate the promotion of social justice from the recognition of the values ​​and culture of the people, including the spiritual values ​​that are the source of their sense of dignity.”

The pope said that politics is regenerated when the importance of spirituality in people’s lives is recognized. 

“One way to ignore the poor is to despise their culture, their spiritual values, their religious values, either by discarding them or exploiting them for the purpose of power,” he said. “Contempt for popular culture is the beginning of the abuse of power.”

The pope also greeted the other conference partners, which include the Caritas Social Action Network, Boston College Law School, the Centre for Catholic Social Thought and Practice, the Loyola University’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, the Katholische Hochschule für Sozialwesen in Berlin, and the Anglo-Irish province of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

“The poverty and exclusion from the job market that resulted from this pandemic which we are experiencing have made your work and testimony much more urgent and necessary,” Pope Francis said.

“Many of you gathered here have been working for years doing this in the peripheries, and accompanying popular movements. Sometimes it can be uncomfortable. Some accuse you of being too political, others of wanting to impose religion. But you perceive that respecting the people is respecting their institutions, including religious ones; and that the role of these institutions is not to impose anything, but to walk with the people, reminding them of the face of God that always comes before us,” he said.

House Republicans seek to defund UN agency over abortion concerns

Alexandros Michailidis/Shutterstock

Washington D.C., Apr 14, 2021 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

House Republicans on Tuesday introduced a bill to defund the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), alleging its complicity in forced abortions and sterilizations in China.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) introduced the “No Taxpayer Funding for the United Nations Population Fund Act” on Tuesday to permanently strip the UNFPA of federal funding. The UNFPA partners with China, and Roy alleged that the organization is complicit in China’s population control program where women have reportedly endured forced abortions and sterilizations. 

More than three dozen members are co-sponsoring Roy’s legislation. 

The Trump administration stopped funding the UNFPA in 2017, citing the fund’s partnership with the Chinese government where “family planning policies still involve the use of coercive abortion and involuntary sterilization practices.”

Last week, President Biden included funding for the UNFPA in his discretionary budget request for the 2022 fiscal year, “including for the repayment of arrears, where applicable.” In January, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said the agency would work to make $32.5 million available for the fund in 2021.

Roy on Wednesday said that federal funds should not be subsidizing abortion, directly or indirectly.

“American tax dollars should never directly or indirectly support taking of innocent human life through abortion or the dehumanizing act of involuntary sterilization, and they certainly shouldn’t be used to support the oppressive, America-hating Chinese Communist Party in any way whatsoever,” Roy said. 

“Former President Trump was right to stop funding the UN Population Fund due to their open partnership with the oppressive Chinese regime and their support for China’s atrocious human rights violations. This legislation will continue that policy,” he added.

The UN Population Fund describes itself as the “sexual and reproductive health agency” of the United Nations. 

“Our mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” the UNFPA website states.

When the Trump administration defunded the UNFPA, it redirected the funding to the US Agency for International Development for family planning programs in line with the Mexico City Policy. That policy required U.S. family planning and global health assistance to not fund groups promoting or performing abortions. 

Biden revoked the pro-life Mexico City Policy as one of his first acts in office. Previous Democratic presidents have repealed the policy at the outset of their presidencies. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and many other pro-life organizations support Roy’s bill. 

“The current Administration plans to restart funding UNFPA despite the organization’s consistent support for China’s brutal child policy and the lack of evidence that UNFPA has changed course,” said Thomas McClusky, president of March for Life Action. 

“The United States should support human rights, not fund international groups complicit in their violation.”

Young woman dies after getting legal abortion in Argentina | CNA

Young girl. / Pixabay

ACI Prensa Staff, Apr 13, 2021 / 19:00 pm (CNA).

A young woman in Argentina died April 11 following a legal chemical abortion, the first such recorded death after the passage of a law legalizing abortion in December last year.

María del Valle González López was a 23-year-old student in the town of La Paz in Mendoza Province, Argentina. According to the Argentine newspaper Clarín, the young woman went on April 7, to the Arturo Illia hospital in La Paz for an abortion.

“There she was prescribed a medication – presumably misoprostol – and on Friday she began to feel ill. She was referred to the main healthcare facility in the eastern area of Mendoza, Perrupato Hospital, where they diagnosed a general infection that may have caused her death,”  Clarín reported.

The investigation into the death of María del Valle was started by the Santa Rosa Prosecutor’s Office, but due to its complexity it will be sent to the San Martín Prosecutor’s Office next week, Clarín said.

The results of the autopsy should be known soon, although it is not clear exactly when they will be released.

Misoprostol is a drug used to induce abortion in early pregnancy or to expedite a miscarriage. Potential side effects of the medication include bleeding and deadly hypovolemic shock.

Generally, a woman who takes misoprostol then has a D&C (dilation and curettage) to remove any of the baby’s remains from the uterus.

If the D&C is done using equipment that is not properly sterilized or is contaminated, it can cause an infection that could lead to septicemia or a generalized infection, which can lead to death.

Dr. Luis Durand, an Argentine surgeon, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, that abortion “is not a medical act, regardless of whether it’s legal or not.”

He noted that “until a few months ago, [abortion] was a criminal act in Argentine law.”

“A medical act must always seek to improve the situation of whoever undergoes the intervention, although circumstantially it may fail and be unsuccessful, but ‘interrupting the life’ of any human being in an intentional or premeditated way can never be considered a medical act,” Durand said.

“The baby always dies a violent death. Either substances are injected into the uterus that burn the baby, or it is removed by dismemberment, or it is torn off by extreme uterine contractions and dies from asphyxiation,” he added.

The deceased young woman was studying Social Work at the National University of Cuyo. As soon as her death became known, various activists and pro-life groups in Argentina flooded social media with the hashtags #MurióPorAbortoLegal (she died from legal abortion) and #AbortoLegalMataIgual (legal abortion kills the same way as illegal).

Pro-life leader Guadalupe Batallán tweeted Monday that “María del Valle was 23 years old and had her whole life in front of her. She was a student and had become president of Radical Youth in Mendoza. She had a legal abortion on Wednesday and by the weekend she was already dead. I’m telling you because the feminists remain silent. #MurioPorAbortoLegal.”

“If María had died from a clandestine (illegal at the time) abortion, feminists would be tearing the whole city apart, but since María died from a legal abortion and that doesn’t suit (their cause), it’s scrubbed,” wrote Belén Lombardi, a young mother and pro-life activist.

Priest who served at Franciscan University of Steubenville indicted on rape allegations | CNA

The Portiuncula Chapel on the campus of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. / Robert Pernett via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Tacna, Peru, Apr 12, 2021 / 19:08 pm (CNA).

A Franciscan priest who once worked in campus ministry at Franciscan University of Steubenville has been indicted in Ohio for the alleged rape of a female patient who was mentally or physically impaired.

 

On April 7, Father David Morrier, T.O.R., was indicted in Ohio by the Jefferson County Grand Jury on two charges of sexual battery and a single charge of rape. He was removed from active ministry in 2015 on unspecified sexual misconduct charges, his Franciscan province has said.

 

The 59-year-old priest is a mental health professional. He allegedly maintained a three-year sexual relationship with a patient the indictment described as “substantially impaired because of a mental or physical condition,” the Steubenville newspaper The Herald Star reports. He allegedly falsely represented to her that sexual conduct was “necessary for mental health treatment purposes.”

 

An April 9 statement from the Office of the Minister Provincial of the Third Order Regular Franciscans’ Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus said that the alleged charges took place between November 2010 and spring 2013.

 

“Fr. Morrier was removed from public ministry in 2015 due to allegations of sexual misconduct,” the provincial’s office said. “He has not exercised public ministry since that time. Being removed from public ministry means that he has not publicly celebrated Mass or any sacraments. The province has cooperated fully with the investigation into this matter.”

 

“The province takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously and urges anyone who has been a victim of sexual misconduct to call law enforcement officials immediately,” the statement continued.

 

In an April 8 statement the Diocese of Steubenville said it first became aware of the case “when the alleged victim presented the allegations to the diocese in November 2018.”

 

“Although Father Morrier is not a priest of the Steubenville Diocese, the diocese began an immediate preliminary investigation with the alleged victim and officers with the Steubenville police department,” the statement said.

 

“The Diocese of Steubenville submitted a report to the Minister General of the T.O.R.’s in Rome as well as to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Holy See on December 11, 2018. Since that time, the diocese has continued to work with the Steubenville police department and has provided updates on the investigation to the Holy See,” the statement added. The Steubenville diocese said it takes abuse allegations “most seriously” and “encourages victims of abuse to contact the local police department in whose jurisdiction the abuse occurred.”

 

Morrier was ordained a priest for the Franciscan province in 1997. The charges against him overlap his time as a campus minister at Franciscan University of Steubenville, a position he held through 2014.

 

An April 8 statement from the Franciscan University of Steubenville said “the university has cooperated and will continue to cooperate fully with authorities concerning the conduct of Father David Morrier, T.O.R., prior to 2014.”

 

“Franciscan University removed him permanently from campus ministry, and he was also prohibited from returning to campus,” said the university. It did not clarify the timing of the removal.

 

“Sexual assault is not only a crime but a serious sin,” it added, saying all sexual misconduct complaints face action under the university’s Policy on Discrimination, Harassment and Sexual Misconduct.

 

“Anyone who may have been harmed while at Franciscan University is offered counseling and other appropriate services,” said the university. “Anyone who experienced or is aware of sexual misconduct at Franciscan University is encouraged to make a report to the University and/or the Steubenville Police Department.”

 

After Morrier’s time at Steubenville, he appears to have served at a Franciscan church in Arlington, Texas in the Diocese of Fort Worth. According to a cached version of the St. Maria Goretti Catholic Church and School website, Morrier was announced as the new parochial vicar of the parish on May 1, 2014, with his duties beginning June 3 of that year. The parish is run by the Franciscan Friars, Third Order Regular.

Taizé leader: Young people are longing to meet together again

Rome Newsroom, Apr 7, 2021 / 02:30 am (CNA).- The prior of Taizé has said that his community sees how young people are longing to meet together again in Christian fellowship as France and other European countries remain under strict lockdowns this spring.

Br. Alois Leser has led the Taizé Community for more than 15 years. The ecumenical monastic community based in a rural area in Burgundy, France, is known for drawing tens of thousands of young people together each year to live and worship together.

He said that the coronavirus pandemic had caused the community some difficulty, but also provided the brothers with more time to reflect and a renewed perspective on the source of their hope.

“I think as Christians we are forced in this time to come back really to our faith and to see that our hope is not just a hope that things will be better or things will be easy,” Br. Alois told EWTN.

“It’s the hope in the resurrection that comes from the resurrection of Jesus that opens a new horizon, a new horizon beyond all situations, so also in this time of pandemic … we believe that there is another horizon which is given by the resurrection of Jesus,” he said.

With tight coronavirus restrictions still in place in much of Europe, the prior said that the community had turned to the internet to host meetings with young people and sent groups of brothers to the suburbs of Paris to live in solidarity with young people during “this difficult time.”

“We feel how much they are longing to meet together,” Br. Alois said. “They are very much connected through [the] internet, but this does not replace the personal meetings.”

Br. Alois Leser, prior of the Taizé Community, meets with Pope Francis at the Vatican, March 12, 2018. / Vatican Media.The prior met privately with Pope Francis before Easter. During the audience, he told the pope how Taizé was carrying out its ministry to young people during the pandemic and how the “small community of Taizé is living in the Church, in the whole universal Church.”

Br. Alois is a Catholic, whereas his predecessor Br. Roger Schütz, who founded the community in 1940, was born to a Swiss Protestant family. The community gathers to pray together three times a day following a structure of prayer similar to the Divine Office.

The Taizé Community is well known in particular for its distinctive music characterized by repetitive chants of lines from Sacred Scripture.

Br. Alois has written a number of songs for Taizé in recent years. He said that the repetition in Taizé’s songs “can stimulate an inner life and inner prayer” that brings about “communion among many.”

One of the songs written by Br. Alois is “In Manus Tuas, Pater,” which contains a chant inspired by Jesus’ words on the cross, which were themselves taken from the Psalms and are repeated by the Church in the Compline (Night Prayer): “Into your hands I commend my spirit.”

“We sing it in Latin: ‘in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum,’ and we repeat it,’” he said.

“I feel this prayer is so important that we abandon ourselves really to God, that we really trust, even in very difficult situations when life is not easy but that we express also in these situations our trust in God, even if we have the impression that God does not just help … but we continue to believe that He is present,” Br. Alois said.

“This is one example and we are glad that we can have these repetitive songs in Taizé because people don’t have to read complicated texts in different languages. One sentence you have to learn in a language even that you do not speak. And you can repeat it and it creates communion among all those who are present.”

Br. Alois explained that in the beginning many of the songs and prayers in the community were in French. But as more international pilgrims began coming, they found that Latin was a language that brought unity in prayer.

He said that there is a long tradition of repetitive prayer and meditation in the Catholic Church, with the prayer of the rosary and the Litany of the Saints as examples.

The Taizé leader said that he prayed every day for victims of clerical abuse, aware that his own community had received allegations of abuse.

In 2019, Br. Alois issued a statement that the community had received five allegations of abuse committed between the 1950s and the 1980s by three of its members — two of whom have been dead for more than 15 years.

The prior told EWTN that he felt a great sense of responsibility for all of the young people welcomed each year by his community and that changes had been made to the Taizé brothers’ formation, along with the provision of training for volunteers.

“We have to deepen the beauty of our commitment of celibacy also, which is not that we love less than other people but that we love in a different way,” he said.

While he acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic has made it hard to plan for the future, Br. Alois has said that he hopes that Taizé’s annual European meeting will be able to take place in person in Turin, northern Italy, at the end of this year after last year’s meeting was canceled.

Catholic teaching on Communion applies to politicians who support abortion, too, bishop says

Phoenix, Ariz., Apr 6, 2021 / 08:01 pm (CNA).- Catholic teaching sees the Eucharist as Christ’s transformative sacrifice on the cross and this Holy Communion must only be received worthily. This teaching is not partisan, but it certainly applies to political leaders who back abortion and euthanasia, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix has said in an apostolic exhortation on the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist.
 
“Holy Communion is reserved for those, who with God’s grace make a sincere effort to live this union with Christ and His Church by adhering to all that the Catholic Church believes and proclaims to be revealed by God,” Bishop Olmsted said, explaining that Church teaching on this has “always been clear and based on Scripture.”
 
This is why the Church “requires Catholic leaders who have publicly supported gravely immoral laws such as abortion and euthanasia to refrain from receiving Holy Communion until they publicly repent and receive the Sacrament of Penance,” continued his exhortation, Veneremur Cernui.
 
“Not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion and euthanasia. The Church teaches that abortion or euthanasia is an intrinsically grave sin and that there is a grave and clear obligation for all Catholics to oppose them by conscientious objection,” the bishop said.
 
Olmsted said that the current political climate means the Church can be “easily accused of favoring one party and singling out politicians of a certain party with such a teaching.”
 
“However, the Church is only faithfully reaffirming its perennial teaching on the Eucharist and the worthy reception of Holy Communion which applies to every single person,” said the bishop. Elsewhere in the letter, he explained that in an unworthy reception of Holy Communion, the sacrament “becomes a sacrilege.”
 
He added: “the spiritual medicine becomes for that person – it is frightful to say – a form of spiritual poison.”
 
“When we do not really believe in Jesus, when we do not really seek to conform our entire life to Him and receive Jesus even though we know that we have sinned against Him, then this just leads to a greater sin and betrayal,” said Olmsted.
 
His exhortation included exhortations to an increase in devotional acts as well as to repentance and confession.
 
“The Church invites everyone to the Wedding Banquet while at the same time commits herself to helping everyone arrive properly dressed in a purified baptismal garment, lest the greatest Gift – the Eucharist – becomes his or her spiritual destruction,” he said.
 
Olmsted published the exhortation April 1, Holy Thursday, which marks the institution of the Eucharist.
 
“The more the Lord in the Eucharist is our central focus, the more surely He will bring us through these dark and turbulent waters,” said the bishop. “On this day when we commemorate the Institution of the Eucharist, I as your shepherd implore each of you to seek out Jesus in the Eucharist to be strengthened and renewed in your faith.”
 
He voiced hope that everyone, whether strong in faith or weak, Catholic or not, will have a sincere “Eucharistic amazement” incited in them.
 
Olmsted  emphasized that Christ “meant what he said” in the Bread of Life discourse: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.”
 
“Despite the uproar caused by His teaching, Jesus did not soften His claim. On the contrary, He strengthened it,” said the bishop. “The Eucharist is the supernatural food that keeps us going along the difficult journey towards the Promised Land of eternal salvation.”
 
Invoking the imagery of the Old Testament, Olmsted portrayed the Mass as “the new Exodus from the Slavery of Sin.” The Eucharist fulfills both the Jewish Passover and the Covenant of Israel.
 
“The first Passover saved the Israelites from death and led to their liberation from slavery,” he said. “Every home that followed the rites commanded by God for this sacred meal were spared from the death of their firstborn sons.”
 
“Just as the Hebrews had no alternative means of liberation other than the Passover lamb, there is no other means to salvation than through the grace of Jesus’ own self-sacrifice,” he continued, adding that the Mass is the “eternal memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.”
 
“The sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary is perpetuated and made present to us in such a way that we can participate in it, linking our imperfect and sinful lives to the perfect and pure sacrifice of God and receiving all the divine benefits that flow from His eternal sacrifice,” said Olmsted.
 
“When we attend Mass, do we seek to join Jesus in His total surrender to the Father’s will? Do we bring our imperfections, our toil and sin, and lay them before Jesus to be consumed by His Death? We either say with Jesus, ‘Into Your hands, Father, I commend my spirit, too!’ or we choose to remain enslaved to our sin.”
 
Olmsted compared present-day anxieties, uncertainties, and doubts to those which faced the Israelites as they sought the Promised Land.
 
“(T)he Church at large is experiencing a grave crisis of faith in the Eucharist,” he said. “This crisis has inflicted additional significant implications for authentic Christian discipleship; namely, abysmal Mass attendance, declining vocations to marriage, priesthood, and religious life, waning Catholic influence in society. As a nation we are experiencing a torrent of assaults upon the truth.”
 
“The Gospel message has been watered down or replaced with ambiguous worldly values,” Olmsted continued. “Many Christians have abandoned Christ and His Gospel and turned to a secular culture for meaning that it cannot provide and to satiate a hunger that it can never satisfy.”
 
“In such troubled waters, our greatest anchor in these storms is Christ Himself, found in the Holy Eucharist,” said the bishop.
 
He chose the letter’s title, translated as “down in adoration falling”, from St. Thomas Aquinas’ hymn Pange lingua gloriosi. He exhorted the faithful to adore Christ “with ever increasing reverence.”
 
Every Mass, where Christ is present, is “immeasurable” in value and makes accessible “unfathomable” grace.
 
In response to a gift like the Eucharist, Olmsted asked various questions: “Do we really desire Him? Are we anxious to meet Him? Do we desire to encounter Him, become one with Him and receive the gifts He offers us through the Eucharist?”
 
Reception of Holy Communion is to change us and transform us into another Christ, he explained: “Being assimilated by Jesus in Holy Communion makes us like Him in our sentiments, desires, and our way of thinking. In Holy Communion, His heart nourishes our hearts; His pure, wise and loving desires purify our selfish ones, so that we not only know what He wants, but also start wanting the same more and more.”
 
The Eucharist also transforms those who receive it well into “one body, one spirit in Christ.”
 
Receiving Holy Communion “out of routine only, without openness to the Lord,” means we do not receive all the graces God wants to give us. Olmsted said it can be easy for us to “lose our sense of wonder” at the miracle of the Eucharist. Faith, however, is the “first essential requirement” to receive all the benefits and effects of Holy Communion.
 
“If we receive the Lord with the right dispositions, God’s grace will strengthen our resolve to follow, love and imitate Him. Our Lord Jesus deeply desires our union with Him in Holy Communion and through it He wishes to bring about our transformation into Him and the transformation of our society in which we live. But we, on our part, must ardently desire this union with Jesus Christ as well,” he said.
 
He emphasized the importance of church decoration, art, music, vestments, incense, candles and other details as a way of expressing Christian devotion and faith. Eucharistic prayer and adoration are also important, as is respectful dress.
 
There is an “intrinsic connection” between the Sacrament of Penance and the Eucharist. Benedict XVI’s 2007 apostolic exhortation Sacramentum caritatis warned against “a superficial approach that overlooks the need to be in a state of grace in order to approach sacramental communion worthily.”  St. John Paul II’s 2003 encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia said the Eucharist “presupposes that communion already exists, a communion that it seeks to consolidate and bring to perfection.” Anyone conscious of grave sin must refrain from Holy Communion, said Olmsted’s letter, citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“There are situations when we can honor God more by abstaining from Holy Communion than by satisfying a personal desire to sacramentally receive Him in communion,” he said, recounting a Catholic mother who abstained from Holy Communion for several years because she lived in an irregular marriage. Nonetheless, she faithfully attended Mass with her children and regularly took part in Eucharistic Adoration.
 
Olmsted emphasized the need to preserve Sunday as the “Day of the Lord” and the ultimate purpose of the week. Embracing some other thing, even a good thing, as more important than the worship of God will result in “bondage to some good but creaturely fixation” and “spiritual exhaustion and discouragement.” Sunday is not simply about freedom from work, since freedom from servile work makes it so that “we are free to participate in the work of our Redemption.”
 
He encouraged practical measures to make Sunday special, like turning off one’s phone for extended periods, moving any commitments to work, family, or friends to other times, and finding ways “to make the experience of Sunday Mass truly joyful and festive.” He suggested wearing one’s best clothes, having a good meal with loved ones afterward, playing great music at home, phoning loved ones, spending time in Bible reading, performing acts of charity, or savoring “something truly beautiful in nature or art.”
 
Daily Mass, a full hour of Eucharistic Adoration, or even a short visit to the tabernacle are also excellent ways to increase one’s devotion. He encouraged priests to make the Eucharist the source of their priesthood’s good work. Pastors should hold a Eucharistic procession each year in their parish. Eucharistic adoration is an evangelical opportunity.
 
“Many Catholics have wandered away from the practice of Sunday Mass, focusing more on work, sports, sleep, or entertainment rather than the Lord. There are also those who are physically there but not with their faith,” said Olmsted. “They may come to Mass but do not receive Jesus with faith, love, and reverence because they think that they are only receiving a symbol rather than God Himself who died for them. There are those who physically come to Mass, but their hearts cannot wait to leave Jesus’ presence. Indeed, the Eucharist is hard to believe! Thus, it is important for us to have patience and compassion for those whose faith is weak. Nevertheless, the call to faith is urgent.”

One year later: How D.C. Catholic Charities is serving the most vulnerable during COVID-19

Washington D.C., Apr 5, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).- A year after the coronavirus pandemic forced closures of businesses and sent the national unemployment rate soaring, Catholic Charities D.C. is still serving the most vulnerable in the nation’s capital.

“Some people have really been hurt badly,” Fr. John Enzler, president and CEO at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., told CNA in an interview on March 24. “We try to encourage people who have not been hurt, not been affected, to make extra donations this year, and to do more this year to help people.”

Food insecurity has been an ongoing issue in the region and around the country; the number of families receiving weekly meals at Catholic Charities increased tenfold during the pandemic. Fr. Enzler said that a looming eviction crisis will soon become a massive problem.

“Our biggest concern right now is evictions,” he said. “It’s going to be a tsunami if we’re not careful. Because lots of people are not going to be able to pay their rent. And their jobs have been out for almost a year.”

“And the landlords deserve their money,” he added. “They weren’t ready for this, either. So we’ve got to find a way to solve that problem.”

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently extended the nationwide Eviction Moratoria until June 30. A March 2021 survey cited by the CDC estimated that more than four million adults believed they were at imminent risk of eviction, as they were behind on rent payments.

Catholic Charities sprang into action in March 2020, as the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. prompted stay-at-home orders in D.C. and neighboring states. With restaurants closed or open for takeout-only, many day workers – such dish washers, waiters, and food preppers – were out of work.

“We found that there was a whole group of people – mostly Latinos, frankly – in the District who were without jobs,” Fr. Enzler said. “Food became a big issue for us.”

While Catholic Charities had normally served weekly meals to around 50 families before the pandemic, the number of needy families soared to 500 or even 600 per week. Donors and local government grants supported the increase in food services, he said.

Mental health services are also critical, Fr. Enzler said, and Catholic Charities has still been able to provide services via Telehealth. The organization also provided emergency rent assistance and continued services for refugees and education for children with disabilities.

He also noted the success of the organization’s $100 million campaign begun two years ago. Through the generosity of donors and the commitment of young professionals to begin giving more than $83 monthly, the campaign has raised $99 million of its goal. “Young people are beginning to step up,” Fr. Enzler said.

While the campaign will certainly reach its goal in time, “it’s more important that we get more people involved,” Fr. Enzler said. The number of donors overall increased 10% in the past year, boosting the organization’s income.

The campaign will help improve services for immigrants and households in the poorest sections of D.C.

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