To Help People In Need

CRSThe images of a town devastated by a killer storm are almost too painful to watch. In the aftermath of a hurricane or tsunami, or a massive earthquake, we’re shocked and moved to take action and help out. We want destroyed homes to be rebuilt and schools to be repaired. We’re anxious to see families taken care of and healed as their lives are put back together. Most of us can’t personally help on-site, but we give our money so that others can stand in for us. There are lots of good charities out there that can use our money effectively and with good planning and compassion. One of the highest-rated of these charities is Catholic Relief Services or CRS.

During the height of World War II, the Catholic bishops of the United States wanted to help the people of Europe who had been devastated by the war and CRS was founded. It is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the U.S. and this year is celebrating 70 years of service.  With over 5000 workers worldwide, CRS is poised to be among the first caregivers on site wherever and whenever a disaster happens. Over 130 million people in around 100 countries are helped each year by Catholic Relief Services. They are all assisted without regard to their faith, their politics, or their national boundaries. Because Christ has called us to love one another.

Sometimes we wonder about the financial practices of the charities we might want to support. CRS is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and is “top-rated” by Charity Watch, an organization that monitors charities.  Charity Navigator gives CRS “four stars.”  As a 501(c)3 organization, donations to CRS are tax-deductible. In 2010, Americans donated $918 million to CRS in support of their worldwide mission. Whenever a disaster happens, CRS’ goal is to be on the ground providing care as soon as possible. Housing and food as well as clean water and medical care are first priorities. But CRS doesn’t stop there. Civil conflicts can also disrupt people’s lives. Countries divided by war or rebellion are another kind of disaster. CRS offers long-term planning in agriculture which can help people become more self-sufficient. Community health programs, like providing mosquito netting, can prevent malaria. They help in education and in micro-finance initiatives. As important as disaster-relief is the long-term goal is lasting peace, which allows families to live in stability and dignity. CRS commits to stay in countries that need their help. They’ve been working in Haiti since 1954.

Catholics may be most-familiar with CRS because of their Operation Rice bowl program. Every year during Lent, CRS distributes cardboard rice bowls in parishes across our country. Since 1975 Operation Rice Bowl is an annual outreach to fund CRS’ food programs. During Lent we’re called to fast, to pray, and to give alms in preparation for Easter. Money we save from missed meals is collected in our rice bowls and used to feed the poorest of the poor. Seventy-five percent of the money raised (over $200 million since 1975) helps people in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Twenty-five percent of the money feeds hungry people in our own neighborhoods. Parish education teams use the rice bowls in teaching kids about charitable giving. Families keep the bowls on their dinner tables as a reminder of the many blessings we enjoy.

Catholic Relief Services puts the words of Christ into action: “For I was hungry and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me to drink: I was a stranger and you took me in; naked and you covered me; sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me” (Matthew 35-36). So if you’re feeling called to Christ’s mission to love and to serve, consider giving to Catholic Relief Services, a respected and established charity. Visit their website to learn more: www.crs.org.

                                  “We alleviate suffering; we help people in need.”
                                                    —Catholic Relief Services

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