January 31, 2014

Looking ahead: A pastoral to address Hoosiers suffering from poverty

In April of 2013, 100 Catholic leaders, including bishops representing all five of Indiana’s dioceses, gathered at the Center for Social Concerns on the campus of the University of Notre Dame for the Indiana Catholic Poverty Summit. Together, the group discussed ways that they might lead an effort to significantly reduce poverty in Indiana over the next several years.

One of the results of the summit that is coming to fruition this spring will be a pastoral letter on poverty from the Indiana bishops to the Catholic Church in Indiana and all people of good will.

The pastoral letter will issue an invitation to the Church and every segment of our state to come together around key initiatives that have the best chance of reducing poverty in our state. The letter will call for public policy changes, but a challenge will be issued for all of us who proclaim faith in the God of mercy and compassion to engage ourselves in the lives of those suffering from poverty.

As Pope Francis said, “To encounter the living God, it is necessary to tenderly kiss Jesus’ wounds in our hungry, poor, sick and incarcerated brothers and sisters.”

This kind of involvement cannot be done from the sidelines of our lives. It requires our personal commitment.

Accompanying the pastoral letter will be a website that will serve as a resource, an inspiration, an online community in our collective effort, and a place to share stories about lives changed. The web address is www.ReducePovertyIN.org. Please visit the site often to stay engaged in this important endeavor.

What can we do to help right now? We must all be informed citizens. If you are in a setting where social service programs are being discussed, try to make sure that only true statements are being made.

Encourage others to educate themselves on the topic, so that informed discussions concerning the future of programs meant to help those living in poverty are being directed in the way they were designed to help.

Communicate with your legislators on both the state and national level. Share with them your concerns and your hope for a better future for those living in poverty.

Involve yourself in a social service program. Catholic Charities has agencies throughout the archdiocese that can always use volunteers. See for yourself the face of poverty, and invite the spirit of God to direct you about how to respond. Christ is counting on us!

(David Siler is executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org. For more information about poverty in Indiana and across the U.S., visit www.povertyusa.org.)


Related story: Gospel mandate calls Catholics to serve our brothers and sisters in need

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