Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien is asking Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore to help support the poor and vulnerable by donating to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD).
Focused on offering ways for those in need to help themselves, the annual national collection was founded in 1970 by the Catholic bishops of the United States as the church’s domestic anti-poverty program.
Financial support is especially needed at a time when families are hurting in the economic downturn, Archbishop O’Brien said in an Oct. 27 letter that was published in parish bulletins. He noted that the theme for this year’s collection is “Families are struggling. Faith is calling.”
“The campaign offers ‘not a hand out but a way out’ of the poverty still gripping over 39 million Americans by funding programs where poor and marginalized people are empowered to make decisions, seek solutions to local problems and find ways to improve their lives and neighborhoods,” Archbishop O’Brien said.
Last November, Catholics in the Baltimore archdiocese donated more than $244,500 to the CCHD, which provides national and local grants. Among the Baltimore groups that received campaign grants included the United Workers Association (UWA), an organization of low-wage workers who are organizing for better wages and working conditions.
“UWA’s Living Wages at Camden Yards Campaign resulted in raised wages for cleaners at the stadium from a flat rate that averaged less than $4.50 an hour in 2003 to the state’s living wage rate of $11.30 an hour today,” Archbishop O’Brien said.
Monsignor William F. Burke, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Baltimore and CCHD archdiocesan director since 1972, said the collection helps provide seed money to local groups that focus on community organizing, job opportunities, economic development and leadership training.
“The whole idea is as basic as saying, ‘here’s a fish today and tomorrow I’m going to teach you how to fish,’” Monsignor Burke said.
The priest acknowledged that the CCHD has faced “some snags” nationally when a few groups received funding even though they conflicted with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
In 2008, Catholic leaders cut off funding to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), after questions were raised about its finances and governance.
Monsignor Burke defended grants that went to the Baltimore-area ACORN branch prior to the problems encountered with the national organization.
“They did terrific work,” he said. “They were one of the first ones to call attention to these people who were flipping houses.”
The priest added that the local ACORN also used CCHD grants to promote lead paint abatement legislation.
“That good work is not denied at all,” he said.
It wasn’t until the national ACORN “overstepped its bounds” by taking partisan political stances and having other problems, Monsignor Burke said, that necessitated an end to funding.
“There is no way any ACORN-related groups are going to receive any more funding from the CCHD,” Monsignor Burke said, “nor will any other groups that don’t adhere to Catholic moral teaching or decide that they are going to take a partisan political stance.”
Monsignor Burke said there are checks in place to make sure appropriate groups are funded.
Local groups that have benefited from last year’s collection include the Maryland Disability Law Center/City-Wide Education Effort, the Neighborhood Housing Service, the Students Sharing Coalition, Proyecto Esperanza and Arundel House of Hope in Glen Burnie.
The priest urged Catholics to consider donating at least one hour’s wages to support the CCHD during the Nov. 21 and 22 special collection.