Pope Urges All Countries to Ban LandminesDuring September Pope John Paul II has called for people to pray that all countries will condemn the use of anti-personnel landmines and actively work toward having them banned. "There are approximately 100 million landmines in over 70 countries. It is estimated that there are more landmines than children in Angola. Every 22 minutes some is killed or maimed by an antipersonnel landmine; 500 each week; 26,000 each year, most civilians," notes Sister Janice Ryan, Coordinator of Catholic Campaign to Ban Landmines. "On December 3, 1997, over 120 nations in Ottawa, Canada signed the Convention on the prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines. Russia, China, United States among others declined to sign. In May of this year, President Clinton announced that the United States would sign the Ottawa Treaty by the year 2006, providing that the united States could identify alternative weapons. The President's commitment to signing the Treaty is a welcome step toward banning landmines. However, these indiscriminate weapons should be banned now, not in some distant future. These deadly weapons cannot distinguish between civilians and soldiers or between times of peace and times of war."
Sister Janice Ryan can be reached at 202-541-3149.
Labor Day Not a Picnic for Everyone
When families gather for picnics on Labor Day, September 7, it will be worth pausing to recall what labor unions have accomplished in this country, notes Thom Shellabarger, adviser to the U.S. Bishops on labor issues. Mr. Shellabarger echoed a concern raised in the bishops' annual Labor Day statement issued this year by Bishop William S. Skylstad of Spokane, Washington. Bishop Skylstad pointed out that "the low wage workers who cleaned the chickens and picked the strawberries for people's Labor Day feasts probably cannot afford to purchase the fruits of their labors." Bishop Skylstad's rural background and his concern for farmers and farmworkers played a big role in this year's statement, where he said that "most agricultural workers like other low wage workers -- janitors, window washers, hotel housekeepers and workers in health care and child care -- have no pension other than social security and no health insurance. Many migrant farmworkers lack not only a decent wage, health care and retirement benefits, but some live in wretched housing, contend with dangerous machinery, handle hazardous farm chemicals, and work long hours. These seasonal crop workers -- those who pick the strawberries, melons, apples, and other 'picnic' delights -- are especially vulnerable to exploitation because of their mobility and tough new immigration laws." Those who think unions are unnecessary should talk to a low wage worker.
Thom Shellabarger can be reached at 202-541-3189.
Catholic School Enrollment Increasing, New Schools Open
As Catholic schools prepare to reopen for the 1998 - 1999 school year they do so against a background of continuing service to the church and nation. "According to the latest statistics, 1997-1998, for the sixth straight year enrollments were up; new schools were opened and others are on the drawing board," says Father William Davis, the U.S. Bishops' Representative for Catholic Schools and Federal Assistance. "Forty percent of the schools have waiting lists. This includes many in the suburbs but also many inner city schools where privately funded scholarships are now available to poor parents. The faculty demographics continue to show the important role that lay men and women play in Catholic schools - 92.2 percent are laity and only 7.8 percent are religious/clergy; almost the opposite of what the reality was some 20 years ago. Minority (24.4 percent) and non-Catholic (13.6 percent) enrollment continues to grow - as it has done for more than two decades. Catholic schools continue to make a significant financial contribution to the tax payers as the average tuition for elementary schools is $1,499 and for secondary it is $ 4,100. The per pupil cost on the elementary level is $2,145 and for secondary is $ 4,120; significancy lower than public schools ($6,213). Using that per pupil cost, Catholic schools save the tax payers of the nation more than $ 16.5 billion. Some 97 percent of secondary and 87 percent of elementary schools offer tuition assistance programs and over 40 percent of elementary and 89 percent of secondary schools have established development programs to assist in the long range financing of these schools. Catholic schools continue to add to the overall quality of education in the United States by adhering to high academic standards, as attested to by independent studies; a significantly lower drop-out rate than other private and public schools; the number of special services provided to educationally at risk students and the over 83% of Catholic school graduates go on to post secondary education.
Father William Davis can be reached at 202-541-3132.
CCHD Funds Projects to Empower People All Across United States
In late September, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the church's domestic, anti-poverty agency, will announce national grants. "CCHD will award a record $8.5 million in funding to 300 projects -- the largest number assisted in a single year," notes Barbara Stephenson, spokesperson for CCHD. "The projects are located in 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Grants go to organizing and economic development projects controlled by the poor themselves. The average organizing grant is $30,000. The money awarded to the self-help groups was collected last year in Catholic parishes nationwide."
Barbara Stephenson can be reached at 202-541-3364.