Message From Sister Maureen Joyce
 

Seventy-one years ago Catholic Charities was part of a significant change in how faith-based, especially Catholic agencies, provided services.  Forty-five years ago the Second Vatican Council called for a renewal of a structure that empowered those at the local level to be involved in decision making.  In the mid-70’s the National Office of Catholic Charities, through their “Cadre Study” endorsed and affirmed service but called upon us to be involved in advocacy and community organizing to address systemic change. 

Today the mission of Catholic Charities is to serve, empower and advocate for persons in need.  You do not have to travel far within our 14 county Diocese to see needs that cry out to be addressed. In some of our communities more than a quarter of residents are living in poverty. 

• Some of our villages and cities have more than a fifth (20 percent) of their residents living below the federal poverty line;

• Nearly 12 percent of residents of the 14 counties within the Diocese of Albany are uninsured for health care;

• More than 2,000 of the housing units within the Diocese are without plumbing and/or without kitchen facilities;

• Some of our school districts are graduating only about half of their students in four years;

• 32.4 percent of households within the Diocese are paying at least 35 percent of their income on housing.

Poverty is a moral and social wound in the soul of our community.  It is an on-going disaster that threatens the health and well-being of our nation.

Throughout this community some of our sisters & brothers are finding it difficult to get and keep jobs that pay enough to meet their basic needs.  They are having trouble filling their cupboards with nutritious food, locating affordable and stable housing and securing health care for themselves and their families.  The staff here routinely see at the agency door, people seeking emergency shelter, seeking money for gas or utilities in rural areas of the county where distances to health providers and other critical services can be great and seeking emotional support for weathering the stress that accompanies financial struggles.

As a Diocese we have initiated a challenge to reduce the incidence of poverty in our mist over the next decade.  I would invite you to read, study and respond to the challenges and opportunities presented in our report “Poverty in the Diocese of Albany: A Threat to the Common Good”.  It presents a troubled portrait of our neighbors in need and inspires us to double our efforts to reduce poverty in our midst. 

After you have read our report on poverty I would make the following suggestions:

  • Contact your state and federal legislators to express your support for some of the legislative priorities identified by the diocese’s Public Policy Network.

  • Check out www.CatholicCharitiesUSA.org for information on national poverty-related issues and to sign up for occasional email messages that link you to easy-to-send letters to your representatives and senators on critical legislative proposals on a timely basis. Visit the Advocacy page to endorse the Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America.

  • Join the New York State Catholic Conference advocacy network to receive timely alerts about state legislation, at www.nyscatholic.org.

  • Join the New York State Catholic Conference at its annual Public Policy Day at the state Capitol in early March.

  • Call 453-6650 to request a “Poverty Toolbox” that includes bulletin inserts, lessons for faith formation classes, speakers bureau information, prayer resources and a list of available DVDs.

  • Join your parish’s pastoral council, social justice committee or respect life committee to get involved in advocacy efforts.

As Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany moves through this challenging time, I ask for your prayers, your support & your wisdom in the days ahead.  In these difficult economic times, coupled with the realignment of parishes, services and programs we need to constantly focus on our mission and purpose of Catholic Charities and its vital role in this community.

Compassionate God, You challenge us to see Your face in the poor, the sick and the suffering. Help us to respond compassionately while offering comfort and support; give us wisdom to advocate for change so that economic security, a quality education, adequate nutrition, access to health care, and safe and secure housing are available to all; and grant us hope to work toward a world where all are welcomed and respected…..

Amen.