September 24, 2010

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Heroes around the world

David SilerWe often hear one definition of a hero as someone who runs into a burning building to save victims. If that is so, then we know there are tens of thousands of heroes working in at least 100 countries around the world every day in the name of the Catholic Church.

The countless staff and volunteers working for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) not only run into burning buildings, they run into hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis and every other natural or human-made disaster—all in the name of the Catholic Church of the United States, and in the name of Jesus Christ, to live out value that we place on the sacredness of life.

No doubt you have read about or seen pictures of the immense devastation in Pakistan, the seventh most populated country in the world, brought about by recent floods. At least 15 million men, women and children—10 percent of their population—have been impacted by the floods, with 1,500 people already confirmed dead and hundreds of thousands left homeless. CRS workers braved the treacherous flood waters to reach the survivors with food, water purification kits and other basic supplies. And they will be there in the weeks, months and years to come.

Of course, we are well aware of the earthquake in Haiti in January. It was CRS that already had 500 staff members in the country before the quake hit, and were among the first to react with aid to survivors. These staff members, and many more since the earthquake, are still there building homes as well as providing food, clothing and medical care.

Although CRS operates in some fashion in more than one half of the countries in the world, they do so on behalf of the Catholic Church in the United States.

Back in 1943, our U.S. bishops had the wisdom and vision to establish this amazing international relief agency to work on our behalf wherever help is needed. Whether we donate money, pray for victims or volunteer, we participate in these acts of love and charity which give hope in some of the most desperately hopeless areas and situations in the world.

The vision that the U.S. bishops had 67 years ago—and still have today—is not so different than the vision that astronauts often have when they view the world from outer space. They don’t see borders or fences or colors or different languages. They see one world inhabited by one family, populated by one Father.

On Sept. 9, I will have the privilege of traveling with CRS and 12 other Catholics from around the country to Ethiopia and Tanzania on the continent of Africa. We will be visiting the sites of a variety of CRS projects—including agriculture assistance, micro-financing, water and sanitation, AIDS relief and hunger assistance—to witness firsthand the love and compassion shared by the family of God.

I invite your prayers for our journey, and if you have prayers or well-wishes that you would like to send with me to take to your representatives in Africa, please send me an e-mail or drop me a note at the Archbishop O’Meara Catholic Center.

I plan to be available to give a presentation about our trip upon my return, and would welcome an invitation from your church, school or other group.

To learn about Catholic Relief Services, log on to

(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at

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