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Year of Faith Reflections

On the occasion of the Year of Faith, Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo, president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, wrote to prominent Catholic leaders requesting a short reflection to help CRS highlight how faith and works (serving the poor globally) bring about the kingdom of God on earth. The hope is that by hearing from our Church's leaders, Catholics will be inspired and motivated to learn more about the Church's important mission and the work of CRS.

Carmen F. Aquinaco

Carmen F. Aguinaco is the Director of the Hispanic Ministry Resource Center of Claretian Publications.

Hospitality is the style of God's justice.

A delegation from Catholic Relief Services arrives at a village in Ghana and is received with joy, song and gifts. There is some degree of formality, but not artifice. The villagers offer gifts to those who come as representatives of CRS donors in the United States. There is a sense of mutual hospitality that makes me think of God's very being: God who comes to us as a guest, requesting our hospitality, and God who expects us to come to him bearing gifts of self and heart. In the end, it is all the same, because all has been given.

The simple act of the Ghana reception—repeated all over the world wherever there are hosts-guests and guests-hosts—speaks to the nature of God's just relationship. God is love, and love is hospitality. Anything outside of such hospitality would go against the nature of God.

And so, when we speak of the social doctrine of the Church, we come back to the nature of God as that all-expansive love and hospitality that we see reflected whenever God's children gather as hosts and guests.

In the United States, the Catholic face of such hospitality—as I experienced during my trip to Ghana—is reflected in a very special way by CRS. Catholic Relief Services—at once the recipient of the gifts of the people in the countries where it works, and the host of the people it seeks to assist—puts into practice that hospitality which is at the root and the fruit of faith. Wherever there is a gap in such generous gifts of God, because there are forces of death at work, there is the hospitality of people of faith in the United States who have understood that justice and hospitality are the face of God. All the people of God, wherever they may be, need to see that face…and become that face.

John C. Cavadini

John C. Cavadini

John C. Cavadini
Photo courtesy of the University of Notre Dame


John C. Cavadini is the director of the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.

Can we build the kingdom of God on earth? No. The kingdom of God comes to fruition as God's work, in God's own time. To try to replace it prematurely with a work of our own undercuts the very values of the kingdom, which are transcendent. Instead, by our actions we bear witness that these transcendent values are objective and real: the love of God for each human being as precious, and the consequent dignity of each human person. By the works of love, we bear witness to the dignity of the human person as something that transcends, and at the same time grounds, all political action. In this way, we do not replace the kingdom of God with a kingdom on earth but bear witness to the kingdom by collaborating in building what Pope John Paul II called the "civilization of love," and we teach people what this means. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.

Greg Erlandson

Greg Erlandson

Greg Erlandson
Photo courtesy of Andrew Collings


Greg Erlandson is the president of Our Sunday Visitor publishing.

Faith without works is dead, we read in the Epistle of James (2:17). The powerful and humble witness of Pope Francis underscores this core truth of our faith. In his embrace of the ill, the imprisoned, the innocent and the powerless, our Holy Father is giving us the example of profound faith actively engaged with a hurting world.

So many of the saints have testified with their lives to a faith lived fully caring for others: St. Frances of Rome, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Damien of Molokai. All of these great men and women sought only to follow the example of their Savior who healed the sick, raised the dead and laid down his life for us all.

The need for Catholic faith in action is no less urgent today than in times past, and it is not just the task of saints but the duty of us all. Because today the challenges are often global and remote, Catholic Relief Services is a concrete manifestation of our duty to care for the sick, suffering and marginalized, even to the corners of the earth. It is an extension of our hands and our heart, a far-flung witness of a faith-filled people. This is what we are all called to be, and to do.

Bishop Daniel E. Flores

Bishop Daniel E. Flores

Bishop Daniel E. Flores
Photo courtesy of Edward Hernandez


Bishop Daniel E. Flores is the bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, TX.

One of the principal tenets of the Gospel taught by the Lord Jesus, and announced by the Church, is the call to universal, effective assistance to those who suffer. "Who is my neighbor?" is the question that elicited from the Lord the parable of the good Samaritan. And the direction which that parable gives to the Church could not be clearer: My neighbor is anyone in need, no matter his or her nationality or religion. My response to my neighbor must involve a personal willingness to address the suffering in a concrete and practical way. Catholic Relief Services is a living response to the word of the Lord in this parable. When Catholics in the United States support CRS, we become good Samaritans who render practical assistance to other local good Samaritans all over the world; our support thus renders their assistance more effective and extends its universal reach. The Lord blesses us all in making us able to multiply the "good Samaritan effect." CRS is a living witness to how the truth of the Gospel can transform our world today.

Bishop Martin D. Holley

Bishop Martin D. Holley

Bishop Martin D. Holley
Photo by Jim Stipe/CRS


Bishop Martin D. Holley is an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.

In preparation for the Synod on the New Evangelization and the Transmission of Christian Faith, the Catholic Bishops asked that we "assess the caliber of the faith." One indication of the caliber of our Catholic faith is how we imitate the love of Jesus Christ, particularly for those who are most vulnerable, those who are considered outcasts and those who are poor.

Catholic Relief Services is the face of Jesus to some of the most vulnerable and poor, and so it is both a teacher of his love and the outstretched arm of the Church, which embraces the poor.

The Year of Faith calls us not only to study our faith and come to know it better, but also to live it more fully. CRS and all works of charity call us to "share the truth in love."

CRS reminds us that the church is both universal and a family: As a family, we are bound in a particular way to our brothers and sisters who live in every part of the world.

Catholic social teaching is the application of the gospel, which promotes and protects the dignity of the human person and the common good of all people.

In our personal giving and in our parishes, our stewardship is to be shared in the way we offer our intercessions: For both local needs and global needs, CRS is our bridge to the global community.

On my Global Solidarity trip to Ghana and Nigeria, I was deeply moved by the dedication, commitment and spirituality of our partners who work for CRS—both those who grew up in the United States and were assigned to Africa by CRS, and those who grew up in Africa.

One of the most profound encounters and experiences with the living Christ was through the story of a CRS employee who, as a young boy, was a recipient of the services of CRS.

In order to get him to attend a CRS program for children—he and his sister lost their parents at an early age—a staff worker would offer him a sandwich each day to get him to participate.

That little boy grew up to be a grown man and, after receiving a college education, was hired by CRS. He now holds a significant leadership role in his country, where he is giving back more than he received.

I experienced the living presence of Jesus Christ through him, and I hope and pray that he experienced the presence of Jesus Christ through me.

Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.

Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
Photo courtesy of the University of Notre Dame


Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., is the president of the University of Notre Dame.

On the way to Emmaus, Jesus' crestfallen disciples were so caught up in their debating and arguing that they were prevented from recognizing Christ in their midst. Christ's presence—then and now—eludes us when we allow our focus to turn inward, away from those fellow travelers on the road who are in need. It is a simple act of generosity—"Stay with us, for it is nearly evening"—which leads them to recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread.

Our faith demands that we seek justice and show charity to all our fellow travelers—both those who are near us and those around the world—if we are to recognize Christ fully in the Eucharist, the breaking of the bread, and be witnesses to his presence in the world.

Monsignor Ronny E. Jenkins

Monsignor Ronny E. Jenkins

Monsignor Ronny E. Jenkins. Photo by Nancy Phelan Wiechec/Catholic News Service


Monsignor Ronny E. Jenkins is the general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In announcing the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI declared: "To profess faith in the Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—is to believe in one God who is Love…. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received…." He also spoke of "Faith working through love." This phrase captures the mission and work of Catholic Relief Services. CRS is faith working through love—uplifting those who are poor, healing those who are sick, building peace in the wake of conflict. Filled with God's love, CRS conducts these works of faith and love in the name of every Catholic in the United States. CRS embodies the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi, the namesake of our new Holy Father, who calls us to intensify ever more our commitment to poor and vulnerable people in whom we encounter Christ and so witness the love of God.

Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J.
Photo courtesy of Loyola University, Maryland


Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J., is the president of Loyola University, Maryland.

The famed Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins was once asked by a friend who was a nonbeliever how one might find faith. Hopkins told him simply, "Give alms." He believed that if you opened your heart to the poor, embraced those on the edge of disaster and encountered hopefulness, you could see God at work in our world. I have witnessed this many times myself. Some of the happiest days of my life occurred during my tertianship in Australia, which came at the end of a particularly difficult and stressful period in my professional academic life. While there, I spent time working with Aboriginal youth at risk for drug addiction—which is all of them. I learned to be open to the experience, not to judge. I learned from the nuns who had been working with these young men and women, watching them struggle, watching many fall and recover—for years—never losing hopefulness, never giving up. I left feeling much closer to God, and I am a different person as a result.

Archbishop George J. Lucas

Archbishop George J. Lucas

Archbishop George J. Lucas
Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Omaha


Archbishop George J. Lucas is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Omaha.

In his encyclical God is Love, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that there are three responsibilities at the Church's core: spreading the good news, celebrating the sacraments and works of charity. He said, "These duties presuppose each other and are inseparable. For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity which could equally well be left to others, but is a part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being."

The charitable work of Catholic Relief Services is not an addendum to the work of the Church. It is not something we may do; it is something we must do. It is part of what it means to be Catholic. And what makes it singular is that it is steeped in relationship with Christ Jesus.

This is why the work of charity is part of living out the Year of Faith. Belief in the word, in Jesus, must lead to action for the sake of the suffering here and abroad. CRS helps us answer that call of faith in Jesus through its international work.

Bishop Gregory John Mansour

Bishop Gregory John Mansour


Bishop Gregory John Mansour. Photo courtesy of the Chancery of St. Maron


Bishop Gregory John Mansour is the bishop of the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn and a member of the CRS Board of Directors.

"This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
                                                                                                —John 13:35

These parting words of our Lord Jesus Christ recorded in the Gospel of John have been the keynote of the Christian symphony from the very beginning. But what good is a symphony if it is just words on paper? A true symphony needs a conductor, an orchestra, supportive members, benefactors and workers; in other words, it needs people to bring it to life.

Catholic Relief Services, which is owned and operated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, on behalf of all Catholics in the United States, is engaged to do real, loving service outside our borders and is one of the most organized, transparent, accountable, engaged and effective symphonies of our "love for one another."

Those who share in the work of CRS are, at one and the same time, the person who donates from the church pew and the CRS staff person who works in the most remote village across the globe. CRS serves Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Why? Because we are Catholic! Our emergency relief, our educational and health care efforts and our outreach to the poor are reminders to us of what the Apostle James said in James 2:17: "So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Pope Francis asked that we Christians become poorer, simpler and closer to those who need. He asked us to go outside ourselves to reach out to others. Although we should all do that individually, CRS is how we as Catholics, here in the United States, do that for the rest of the world. Please support CRS: in doing so, you help all of us become more and more Christ's disciples, known by our love.

Reverend James Martin, S.J.

Reverend James Martin, S.J.

Reverend James Martin, S.J.
Photo courtesy of Tatyana Borodina


Reverend James Martin, S.J., is a Jesuit priest and the author of several books, including This Our Exile: A Spiritual Journey with the Refugees of East Africa.

When I was a young Jesuit, I spent 2 years working with East African refugees who lived in the sprawling slums of Nairobi, Kenya. My work was to help them start small businesses to support themselves. It was the greatest job I ever had because it brought me into contact with the poor, who showed me what it meant to live resilient, faithful and joyful lives with so little. During those 2 years, the poor in Nairobi taught me about joy. But the reason we work with the poor is not because it brings us joy, but because Jesus told us to and because the Church's tradition asks us to place the poor and the marginalized first. So whenever I meet Catholics who don't feel the need to care for the poor, I want to ask: Have you heard what Jesus said? Have you read what our Church teaches? And sometimes I want to ask: Don't you want to be joyful?

Timothy Matovina

Timothy Matovina

Timothy Matovina
Photo courtesy of the University of Notre Dame


Timothy Matovina is a professor of theology and the executive director of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Martín was a devoted Catholic already in his 50s when I met him in Texas years ago. He wanted to learn to read so he could study the Bible with his children and grandchildren. I helped him with his literacy and Bible study. He taught me a lifelong lesson. Martín was as hardworking and frugal as anyone I knew, but he had none of the opportunities open to me since childhood. Getting to know him shattered my naive illusion that everyone who works hard can get ahead.

I support Catholic Relief Services out of respect and gratitude for the numerous people—people like Martín—I have met in my work throughout the United States and Mexico. Participating with CRS is one of the best ways I know to express our Gospel values and our Catholic faith. I am deeply grateful that CRS provides such a blessed opportunity to partake in the mission of Jesus Christ and his Church.

Sister Carmen Sánchez, MCDP

Sister Carmen Sánchez, MCDP, is the Superior General of the Missionary Catechists of Divine Providence.

The social mission of the Church clearly calls us to discern the needs of people who are suffering in our communities and our world and to respond accordingly. Catholic Relief Services is a living example of how this call is carried out by responding to the needs of the poor, the suffering and the forgotten. At baptism, each of us received this same call, accepting it whether consciously or through our parents and godparents. This gift of faith is not a private matter, but rather, as Pope Francis writes: "…faith is a reality lived within the community of the Church, part of a common 'We'…." (Lumen Fidei: Encyclical, June 29, 2013)

I believe the work of CRS focuses on this "common 'We'," especially globally. It challenges us to live our fatih by reaching out to the poor and suffering not only here in the United States, but especially to those living in nations where resources are so limited. The "common 'We'" is the foundation of Catholicism. One way of living out this faith of a "common 'We'," I believe, is by joining, supporting, valuing and promoting the efforts of CRS.

Pope Francis in his encyclical, Lumen Fidei, further emphasized this. Faith, he writes, "leads us, as Christians, to live our lives in this world with ever greater commitment and intensity." This commitment leads us to be transformed in faith.

When I was growing up, I was constantly reminded to look out for my siblings, family and neighbors. Like many of you, my family was larger than my immediate or extended family—it included my neighbors. As a child, I would save my pennies and dimes for the "rice bowl," to help the poor across the world. What a wonderful joy to be able to help my neighbor! Today I am aware that I cannot live my baptismal commitment without truly placing myself into the entire creation that our Provident God has given us and doing my best to help those in need. For whether they are overseas of next door, I know I am my brothers' keeper.

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan

Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan
Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe


Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan is the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Catholic Relief Services is the crown jewel of the Catholic Church in the United States! Thanks to the generosity of American Catholics, CRS is able to serve the needy in the Third World. I'm proud to have been a member of the Board of CRS for many years. I have seen firsthand the tremendous good that CRS is doing in Nigeria and, on past visits, in Rwanda, Kenya, Central America and Manila in the Philippines. We have programs to help the hungry, refugees and individuals, and families suffering from HIV. And we provide water wells and agricultural assistance. Those who give to CRS are helping to put into action the words of Jesus about love for the poor. May God bless the tremendous work of CRS!



Bishop John C. Wester

Bishop John C. Wester

Bishop John C. Wester
Photo by Jim Stipe/CRS


Bishop John C. Wester is the bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City.

This Year of Faith is an opportunity to LIVE our faith by putting it into practice. The study and celebration of our faith compels us to live it in our day-to-day lives.

Living the faith involves reaching out to the poor, the needy and those on the periphery. Jesus, in Matthew 25:40, tells us quite forcefully that as often as we do reach out to these, our brothers and sisters, we reach out to him.

One of the frustrations I experience is my inability to reach so many people who suffer throughout the world: those who are persecuted in their own homes, those who do not have enough to eat, those who are internally displaced persons, those who are trying to manage a small farm to feed their children and make ends meet, those in a refugee camp who cannot return to their homeland and are waiting to be relocated in a third country as a durable solution and those caught in the crossfire of revolution or terrorism. The list goes on and on.

Here is where Catholic Relief Services comes in. Through CRS, I can reach out to these brothers and sisters. I can make a difference in their lives because CRS is with all these people and more. CRS has been there for decades, and will be there for decades to come.

I have had the privilege of seeing CRS at work in Thailand, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. On each visit, I witnessed dedicated staff who live right in the midst of those who need help the most. And, of course, those same staff members are at the ready to respond in the event of tragedies, such as the earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia.

I asked a CRS staff member once if he was afraid for his life since there were so many terrorists, kidnappings and violent attacks on people in the country where he was working. He told me that this is his life, this is where God wants him right now and this is where he needs to be. He would have it no other way. I hope I'm standing next to him at the general judgment because I know the Lord will be well pleased with him!

CRS is a godsend for people in need throughout our world. And it is a true blessing in my life, as well, since it allows me to help those who would otherwise be beyond my reach. It occurs to me that I am one of the fortunate ones, since my association with this stellar Catholic organization puts me in touch with my brothers and sisters in distant lands. This association helps me to see the face of Christ here at home.

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