Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Relief Services’

Update from Rome: Preaching the Truth with Love

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

This comes from Rome, where the sun is shining brightly, the sky is deep blue, the breeze is warm, the wine flows, and the pasta is al dente… and you are jealous!

It has been a full week.  Last Thursday and Friday, the entire College of Cardinals met with Pope Francis to discuss marriage and family.  The cardinals spoke as pastors, very aware of the threats to marriage and family, attacks from culture, the state and entertainment, for instance; but also of the beauty, nobility, and poetry of God’s grand gifts of husband, wife, father, mother, and children.  How can we propose to the world anew the grandeur of family, and defend marriage, without wringing hands and manning the barricades?  How better can we preach the truth with love?

The cardinals also pushed the image of the Church as family: God, our Father; Mary, our mother; Jesus, our older brother; the saints, our elders; our fellow Catholics, our siblings.  Like any family, we have our dysfunction, but we come to our supernatural family for rebirth in baptism, nourishment at the Eucharist, reconciliation in penance, maturity in confirmation, solidarity in prayer and charity.  We are born into this family of the Church, and we long to die in her embrace.

The consistory itself, welcoming the nineteen new cardinals and their people from all over the world, took place on Saturday and Sunday. Pope-emeritus Benedict ”stole the show,” with his humble, unexpected presence, quietly joining the rest of us in prayer.  It had been a year since we had seen him, and he brought joy to our hearts.

Yesterday and today I’ve been at meetings to plan the Synod of Bishops slated for October, 2014, and October, 2015, both on the topic of — you guessed it — marriage and family. It’s very clear that Pope Francis wants to use these synods — meetings in Rome among the Pope and elected delegates from bishops around the world, along with clergy, sisters, and laity present as experts and observers — as a regular and respected form of his governance and teaching.  He is big into listening, as was clear to us as he sat with ears open in the two days of consistory, and our meetings for synod preparation.

With all this going on, I have not had much time to savor the sun, sky, breeze, wine, or pasta!

So, tomorrow, I’ll be home again after this week in the Eternal City, happy to be with you, yet relishing a return here the Sunday after Easter for the canonizations of Blessed John XXIII and Blessed John Paul II.

Standing Up for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Recently I read this moving piece on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. It is our duty to stand up for them as is eloquently outlined by Johnnie Moore, author and Professor of Religion and Vice President at Liberty University, on

I wept as I heard their stories, and I wondered why Christians around the world weren’t incensed by it all.

Ironically, that meeting in Jordan was not convened by Christians, but by Muslims who cared about the plight of their Christian neighbors.

At one point, Jordan’s strong and kind king said that “it is a duty rather than a favor” to protect the Christians in the region, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a senior adviser to the king, acknowledged that “Christians were in this region before Muslims.” He said, “They are not strangers, nor colonialists, nor foreigners. They are natives of these lands and Arabs, just as Muslims are.”

While I was deeply encouraged by the tone of these Islamic leaders, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “I wonder how many Christians in the West even care about those in the East?”

In that moment, I decided I would be their advocate.

Read the rest here.

Jesus, His Church and “the uns”

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

Tomorrow, January 23, is the first feast day for the newly canonized Saint Marianne Cope. I wrote this reflection while I was in Molokai last week.

“The uns . . .”

George Higgins — the legendary “labor priest” from Chicago was, if I recall correctly, the first person I ever heard use that expression, yet he attributed it to the future — God willing — saint, Dorothy Day.

I borrowed it in my brief concluding remarks and prayer at last October’s Al Smith Dinner, as I praised God for the Church’s lookout for the uns — the un-documented, un-employed, un-housed, un-fed, un-healthy, un-born, un-wanted, misunderstood, un-justly treated — and prayed that our beloved country might work for a culture where that dreaded prefix — un — might be no longer.

It was, of course, Jesus who embraced the uns, namely, us, the unsaved!

And He had a particularly tender spot in His most Sacred Heart for those suffering folks that society called “the un-clean,” the dreaded lepers!

This posting was written in Molokai, in the Hawaiian Islands.  The thoughtful shepherd there, Bishop Larry Silva, kindly invited me to the local celebration of Saint Marianne Cope, newly canonized, who came here 125 years ago, from New York State, as Mother Marianne, to care for these “un-clean” on Molokai.  (Her feast day is tomorrow, January 23.)

Here she joined the legendary Saint Damien of Molokai at his “colony” on a secluded, segregated corner of the island, in embracing those with Hansen’s Disease.  She did it, Saint Marianne wrote, because Jesus did it, and because Saint Francis, the patron of her religious congregation, did it.

She and her sisters not only ministered to these dreaded misunderstood uns; they identified with them. Saint Damien did so to such an extent that he became a leper, literally.  It was Mother Marianne who nursed him as he died, who made him the sling for his ulcerated, decaying arm that we see in his final photographs.

Jesus and His Church are always on the side of the uns.

About five years ago, I travelled to India to visit our Catholic Relief Services workers.  There we had lunch with a radiant group of sisters, all Indian, and their 200 or so students, all girls from about six to twelve.  The girls lived there and went to school.  But our CRS guide told us the sisters were in deep trouble.  Some of them had already been arrested, even put in jail.  Why?

“Because these little girls are Delats, what the culture here used to call “un-touchables.”  The powerful people here are threatened that, once these girls are educated, they will no longer stay around for positions of servitude.  One of the women from the established families even asked, ‘If these girls are educated, who will bring us our tea?’  Thus, the sisters are considered disruptive and threatening.”

Jesus and His Church are always on the side of the uns.

Three years ago, the bishop of the United States went-to-bat for the uns, the unborn baby and the undocumented immigrant, who were left uncovered in legislation bishops had promoted for nine decades, the Affordable Health Care Act.

Next week every parish in the archdiocese will have its second annual food drive for the unfed of our communities, and over four thousand of our people, mostly young, will March for Life for the unborn this Friday in D.C.

One of the nicest compliments we bishops of New York ever got, in my four years here, anyway, came from Governor Andrew Cuomo when we met with him in Albany in March, 2011.

We had spoken to him of the concerns of the Catholic community of the state.  When we had said our piece, the governor commented.

 “Bishops, most of the time, people come to see me about an agenda to advance their own interests.  For the last twenty minutes, I’ve heard you speak on behalf of people who can really not help you much — the prisoners, the sick, the homeless, the unborn, the elderly, the immigrant.  I might disagree with you on a number of issues, but I’m proud of my Church for speaking-up on behalf of those most people don’t . . .

 “For as long as you did it for the uns, you did it for me . . . “

God’s Work of Art

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

A year-or-so-ago, on Pentecost Sunday, appropriately, I had one of those rare-but-dramatic moments of divine illumination.

I had just finished celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation for about two-dozen of our special needs children.

None other than the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, had attended that 10:15 Mass at St. Patrick’s that morning, and was very moved by the ceremony.  She graciously asked to meet each of the children and their beaming families.

As I began the introductions, I bought her to our first child.  “Madam President” I began, “this is a wonderful Down Syndrome young man.”

The proud parents, with all the courtesy and respect possible, wisely and properly corrected me.  “Oh, no, Archbishop Dolan and Madam President!  This is Mark, who happens to have Down Syndrome.”

That was a moment of inspiration for me!  I am eternally grateful to those parents.

I trust you understand the essential distinction those loving parents made:  Mark’s identity is a child of God, made in God’s own image and likeness, redeemed by the Precious Blood of God’s only Son, Jesus.  Mark, God’s work of art, happens to have a condition called Down Syndrome.  But, he is hardly identified by the condition that he has.

Get it?  I tell you who expressed it well:  Blessed John Paul II, who said, “Being is much more significant and essential than having or doing.  And the greatest temptation we face is to prefer having and doing more than being.”

Once, as a parish priest, I had the heart-wrenching duty of sitting with a family sobbing over their husband and dad’s suicide.  This young father had sunk into a deep depression six-months previously when he had lost his job.

He had left a note, somberly writing his wife and kids, “I’m of no use to you anymore because I can’t work.”

Never will I forget his ten-year old son tearfully whispering, “But he was still my dad.”

That boy got the distinction: his dad might not be able to do what most dads do — work, so the family could have what they need.  But, he was still his dad.

Being is more important than having or doing.

St. Thomas Aquinas taught — pardon the Latin! — agere sequitur esse – “actions flow from being!”  What we do springs from who we are.

A recovering addict once shared with me that, before the Blessed Sacrament in Our Lady’s Chapel at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, after a three week binge that had left him literally in the gutter, he prayed “I am nothing but a helpless, desperate, worthless drunk.”  He kept repeating it, he told me, working himself into a more dungeon-like gloom.  Until he came to his senses, clearly through God’s grace and mercy, and exclaimed, “No, I’m not!  I am child of God, unconditionally loved by Him, made in His very image, destined for an eternity with Him — who happens to be addicted to alcohol!”

His identity was much more than his addiction.  The reaffirmation of his identity led to his recovery.

We are not defined by our addictions, wealth, nationality, color, sexual attraction, urges, popularity, grades, health, age, property, background, résumé, political party, or stock portfolio.

We have an inherent identity, a dignity, from God.

Everything we do, or don’t do — morality — flows from the belief about who we are — provided by our faith.

Today we often hear, “I sure appreciate all the things the Church does — its charities, schools, healthcare, even its worship, feast days, sacraments, and traditions.  But I could care less about what the Church teaches, and can’t understand why our religion is so ‘hung up’ on all that doctrinal stuff.”

I’m afraid those who claim that you got it backwards: all the good things the Church does flows from who we are, the faith we have which provides us our very identity.  We do good stuff precisely because of our faith.

Who we are is infinitely more important than what we have or do.

Religious Freedom and Protecting Healthcare for Women and Children

Friday, March 16th, 2012

“These are the ones most grateful to you for the new well . . .”

With that, the chieftain of this Islamic village in Ethiopia, not far from Meki, took me over to meet about twenty beaming young girls, all who looked to be about the age of my niece, Grace, seven or eight years old.

I was in the village with a delegation from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the acclaimed international assistance agency supported by the Catholic community of the United States.  We had just been enthusiastically welcomed to this small village to bless and start-up their new well, dug and outfitted by CRS.

The hundred-or-so inhabitants were all ecstatic over the new well . . . but the happiest, the leader told me, through the translator, were the little girls.  Why? I inquired.

“Because up to now everyday was the same for them, as it has been for centuries of our women.  The girls are the ones designated to walk the daily two-hour trek to the river, to fill up the buckets with water- – enough for their hut and family – – and walk two hours back.  Each day,  the men go out to the fields; the boys go off to school; the women stay in the village to care for their families . . . and the young girls ‘take the walk.’  They’ll do it until they marry and have a baby.  The survival of the village depends on them.  But this means,” the chief wrapped-it-up, “that they can never go to school.  If they did, who would get the water? But now” he pointed radiantly to the jubilant girls, “they can go to school because we have good water right here because of our new well.”

Episodes like that occur all over Ethiopia, as well as other impoverished, thirsty countries throughout the third world, because of CRS “fresh water projects.”  Villagers benefit; crops flourish; livestock fatten; all the people drink; but the girls are the happiest because they’re free and can now improve their lives.

When it comes to the health of women, their babies, and their children, the Catholic Church is there, the most effective private provider of such care anywhere around.

Another example:

We bishops of New York sponsor an agency called Fidelis, which provides health insurance to low-income folks.  I’m told we’re the largest such private provider in our state.

A recent physician survey of Fidelis showed that we got the highest ratings of anybody else in the area of – – guess what? – – supporting healthcare for women and children.

Here’s another illustration:

A couple years ago, I visited India, and travelled to particularly poor areas.  At one stop my host-brother-bishop asked me to visit a convent nearby.  “The sisters will appreciate your stopping-by,” he told me.  “They’re scared, and they might be harmed, run-out-of-town, or even put in jail!”

“Whatever for?”  I asked.

 “A couple years ago, they opened a residence for young girls.  Nearly a hundred of the girls, all Delats (“untouchables”) from the surrounding villages, live there, and go to school, learn handicrafts and skills, and are loved and cared for by the sisters.

“And that’s earning them threats?” I wondered aloud.

“Yes it is,” the bishop explained.  “Seems as if the wealthy people depend upon these young girls to clean their houses, cook, and baby-sit their own infants.  Now they’re losing this cheap labor source.  They’re mad.  They don’t like this social upheaval.  As one of them yelled at the sisters, ‘You take these girls, who will prepare my tea!'”

You getting a pattern here?  I could go on and on:  if you want to see creative, daring, lifegiving healthcare for women and their children, look at what the Church is doing.

And now understand why Catholics rightly bristle when politicians and commentators characterize the Church as backwards and insensitive when it comes to women’s health.  Yes, the PR experts advise them that this tactic is a proven ploy to take the attention off the current urgent issue of religious freedom.  The marketers advise them that, if they can reduce the issue to one of contraception, stereotyping the Church as opposed to women’s rights, they have a chance of clouding the towering issue of the First Freedom.

But the Church should not be the ones on the defensive here.  We’re on the offensive when it comes to women’s health, education, and welfare, here at home, and throughout the world.  We hardly need lectures on this issue from senators.

We just want to be left alone to live out the imperatives of our faith to serve, teach, heal, feed, and care for others.  We cherish this, our earthly home, America, for its enshrined freedom to do so.  Those really concerned about women’s health would be better off defending the Church’s freedom to continue its work.

A couple of years ago I visited a woman’s prison. The warden asked me if I wanted to visit the expectant and new mothers’ healthcare center. It then dawned on me that, of course, some women would enter prison pregnant. I was so happy to see the expectant moms, getting good health care for themselves and their unborn babies, and to see the moms with babies under two getting classes in childrearing and parenting skills, with the babies receiving tender care right next to their moms. When I told the warden how grateful I was to see such excellent care for these women and children, he replied, “Thank yourself. Catholic Charities runs it.”

Case closed . . .

Catholics On the Ground in Japan

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

No surprise at all:  as international relief began to arrive in fractured Japan after the awful earthquake and tsunami, among the first were Catholic agencies.

As I said, no surprise:  religious communities provide the most massive private (non-governmental) relief and care in the world, and first among the world’s communities of faith is the Catholic Church.

I know, Jesus, our founder, told us not to “blow a trumpet” when we give alms, an imperative we heed particularly during this Lenten season.  So, I hope He forgives me for this violation!

But, I’m really not doing it as an act of pride, but as an act of gratitude for our wonderfully generous Catholic people who rise to the occasion whenever there’s an international need, like the one now in Japan, and as a word of encouragement to those splendid Catholic relief agencies that so effectively bring our aid to those most in need.

Those grand folks involved in worldwide humanitarian efforts, and even government officials, tell me that the Catholic Church gets an A+ in effectively reaching out to the stricken.

Why?  For one, in most cases, the Church is already there! We don’t have to parachute workers and caregivers into a racked country, because the faithful are in place.  Parishes, schools, religious orders, shelters, clinics, orphanages, hospitals, soup kitchens — already up and running.  These faithful Catholics know where the need is and hardly need directions to bring it to those hurting, because they live there.

That was true, for instance, in Haiti.  Catholic Relief Services (CRS), already had 300 people working fulltime in Haiti when the vicious earthquake struck, and they had been there for six-decades!  No wonder they’re pros at getting food, medicine, shelter, service workers, and clean water to the distressed areas.

Even in a “non-Catholic” country like Japan, the Church is still already “on the ground,” as our Catholic education, charity, and healthcare is worldwide, not just in countries where there is a large Catholic population.  After all, as the old saying goes, we don’t help people because they’re Catholic, but because we are.

A second reason why the Church has such a golden track record on international relief is because people of faith have a good reputation for honesty, integrity, zeal, thrift, and hard work.  Yes, I admit, there are ugly counter-examples to this, but, the exceptions prove the rule.

But, who choreographs all of this massive, worldwide relief effort by the Church?  Well, in most cases, it is locally run and operated — which, by the way, is a third reason why the Church shines in this area, since we are hardly handcuffed by some big, distant bureaucracy — because a fundamental principle of Catholic social justice is that of subsidiarity, that the closer you are to the people on the ground, the more effective you usually are.

So, once again to use CRS as an example, they hardly rely on a big overstructure, but get the aid to bishops, priests, sisters, brothers, deacons, and lay pastoral leaders already in the rubble.

However, some coordination, however unobtrusive, is helpful.  And that comes, as you might expect, from Rome, where the earthly pastor of the Church Universal, our Holy Father, the Pope, shows a deep, daily solicitude for the suffering of the world, and is in a strategic position to assist, given his constant meetings with bishops, religious superiors, world leaders, his own ambassadors in 190 countries of the world (called the Nuncio), and the faithful from the earth’s troubled spots.

The agency of the Holy See — the Holy Father’s government of the Church Universal — which offers some direction, guidance, and encouragement to worldwide almsgiving of the Successor of St. Peter is called Cor Unum (“One Heart”) beautifully referring to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, whose heart beats within His Church, especially with love and mercy for those suffering.

The President of this Pontifical Council Cor Unum is Cardinal Robert Sarah.  One of the agencies with which he closely works in Rome is called Caritas Internationalis (“International Charity”), which is a federation of Catholic agencies throughout the world dedicated to relief.

Both Cor Unum and Caritas Internationalis are highly respected.  Recently, the Holy See expressed a very laudable and understandable desire to intensify cooperation, and to strengthen the Catholic identity of Caritas as a visible, unambiguously Catholic worldwide relief work.

This seems natural, given Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (“God is love”), which dramatically placed charity, along with teaching and the sacraments, as one of the Church’s three principal ministries.

Lent is a providential time to thank God for the heroic charity and generosity of the Church, and to affirm our conviction that our international relief is so effective precisely because it is inspired by Jesus, flows through and from His Church, and is as close to the Heart of Christ and His vicar on earth, the Pope, as possible.

Keep up the good work, Cor Unum, and Caritas Internationalis!

Haiti Update

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

As you may know, in addition to serving as Archbishop of New York, I am also the Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services.  In that role, I joined last week with the Chairman of the USCCB Subcommittee on Latin America, Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, in updating our brother bishops on the on-going situation in Haiti.  I thought you might also be interested in knowing where things stand, and  the plans for the future.  Our letter is attached.

A blessed Holy Week.

Click here to view the letter.

My Visit to Haiti

Monday, January 25th, 2010

This past weekend, I had the privilege of representing the bishops of the United States at the funeral of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  The Papal Nuncio to Haiti and the Haitian bishops invited me because of my role as Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services.  Joining me on this profoundly moving trip were Ken Hackett, President of CRS, and Monsignor David Malloy, General Secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Sean Callahan, CRS executive vice-president for overseas operations, and I look over the rubble of the Notre Dame Cathedral before the funeral.

photo by Sara A. Fajardo

At the funeral of Archbishop Joseph Serge Miot and Vicar Charles Benoit, on Saturday, January 23, 2010

photo by Sara A. Fajardo

While we were there, we also had the opportunity to visit just some of the hundreds of CRS workers who are hard at work providing relief to those whose lives were devastated by this tragedy, and who are even know beginning to plan for the next phase – the reconstruction of Haiti. CRS provides not only emergency relief in times of disaster, but has been working in Haiti since the 1950’s, and will be there for decades to come.

photo by Msgr. David Malloy

photo by Msgr. David Malloy

This morning, some members of the New York media interviewed me about my trip.  Here’s a copy of the audio of that press conference, as well as some photos of our visit provided by CRS.

A Generous Response

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

The stories and images of the tragic events in Haiti continue to move us, as we learn of the devastation of the earthquake, the loss of life, the huge number of people who are hurt, hungry, and homeless.  Thank God, there has been a tremendous response from all over the world, particularly here in the United States, as people step forward to help in whatever way that they can.  Catholic Relief Services, the Red Cross, and so many other aid agencies are already hard at work in Haiti, and they will need our ongoing support as they begin the long and difficult process of helping the people of Haiti to rebuild their lives.

Catholic parishes all across the country are taking up a special collection, and the money raised will go directly to Catholic Relief Services.  As Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services, I am so grateful for the generous response of our people.  I would like to offer a special word of deep gratitude to the New York Yankees, who have donated $225,000 to CRS for their Haitian relief efforts, part of an overall donation of $500,000 that the Yankees are making for this cause.   If you would like more information on the work being done by CRS, please visit

Please keep in your prayers the people of Haiti and those who are working so hard to bring them aid and comfort.

Catholic Relief Services

Monday, October 19th, 2009

Catholic Relief Services is the official overseas humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic Community. It is an agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and I am proud to serve as the Chair of the Board of Directors.

Recently, Ken Hackett, who is the President of C.R.S., sent all of the bishops in the United States an update on some of the activities of C.R.S. in responding to various catastrophes that have taken place around the world. I thought you might like to read a copy of his letter. You can also visit the C.R.S. website to learn more about their vitally important humanitarian work.
Click here to read Ken Hackett’s letter or click here to visit the C.R.S. website.