.- Officials with Catholic charities and relief agencies have asked people to remember both the needs of the poor at home and those facing humanitarian disasters overseas.
Generosity is âso central to our faith,â said Tom Price, the senior communications manager with Catholic Relief Services. âIt is the reason for the existence of any Christian charity.â
He cited Pope Benedict XVIâs words in his 2005 encyclical âDeus Caritas Est.â There, the Pope said that for the Catholic Church, charity is not âa kind of welfare activityâ that could be left to others. Rather, charity is âa part of her nature, an indispensable expression of her very being.â
Candy Hill, Catholic Charities USA senior vice president of social policy and government relations, also noted the importance of giving.
âOur Catholic values, teachings, and traditions are the foundation for the work we do at CCUSA. The ultimate rationale for our services is our belief in the sanctity of the human person and the dignity of human life.â
Price, whose agency is dedicated to international relief work, told CNA that the ongoing drought and famine in East Africa is an âurgent situationâ and those affected in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia are in need of prayers.
Hill, whose organization focuses on domestic aid, said that more than 46 million Americans live in poverty.
âAt the local level, CCUSAâs 163 local agencies are seeing more and more people in need and addressing these needs innovatively,â she said on Nov. 18.
Each year, the organization serves over 10 million people regardless of their backgrounds. The charities support a âvast networkâ of soup kitchens, food pantries, emergency shelters, temporary and transitional housing, and permanent housing.
These help homeless families and individuals, âparticularly during the holiday season when agencies face a dramatic increase in demand,â Hill said.
Last year, its member agencies served 1.9 million more individuals than they did in 2009. The agencyâs quarterly survey on the needs of poor Americans will be released next week.
Price said the holiday season is âvery specialâ for Catholic Relief Services.
âOur mission to serve those in need is year round but we do try to draw extra attention to the needs of the poor at the close of the year,â he said.
The relief agencyâs Gift Catalogue allows gift givers to buy shares in CRS programs around the world, including programs like education, agriculture, clean water and health care.
âIt is a way to share the joys of the season with those most in need. You are giving twice,â he commented.
The CRS staff members in Baltimore hold a Christmas gift drive through Catholic Charities to collect toys and warm clothing for underprivileged families.
âBy Christmas week, the floor around our Christmas tree is filled yards out with these gifts,â Price said.
Thanksgiving time is also when the agency relays to donors the gratitude from those it serves around the world.
Hill gave thanks to the over 260,000 employees, volunteers and donors who assist Catholic Charities agencies each year.
âThese individuals are the backbone of the Catholic Charities network and we are grateful for their support, whether it is through monetary donations, in-kind, or in-person at any of our agencies across the country.â