BALTIMORE (May 13, 1999) -- South Baltimore is a long way from ancient Israel. But for both areas, the forgiveness of debts allowed a community to flourish.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the U.S. Catholic Church's domestic, anti-poverty program, recently forgave a $71,775 debt that the South Baltimore Learning Center incurred during the process of acquiring a landmark building.
"CCHD sees your work as consistent with our own," the Rev. Robert Vitillo, executive director of CCHD, told center officials last month in a letter releasing them from repayment. "For nearly 30 years, Catholic parishioners have given generously to our national program that supports low-income people as they come together to work for change in their communities. With the forgiveness of our lien, we hope to support the same kind of change in South Baltimore."
Pope John Paul II has encouraged Catholics to prepare for the Third Millennium by observing a Holy Year of Jubilee. In Biblical practice in ancient Israel, debts were absolved during Jubilee years, which happened every 50 years.
Forgiving – and being forgiven – is an important part of spiritual growth. When institutions forgive financial debt, that same opportunity for spiritual growth occurs at a community level rather than an individual one.
"By donating its lien, CCHD has helped South Baltimore Learning Center secure a permanent home for its program and a place in which community members feel comfortable and safe while they learn," said Sonia Socha, executive director of the South Baltimore Learning Center. "We thank the Catholic Campaign for its generous donation and investment in the community and for together helping us make a difference in the lives of thousands of city residents."
The South Baltimore Learning Center offers adult basic education, GED, preparation, computer skills and job readiness preparation in an area with a 76 percent school dropout rate. Each year, 400 area residents, 54 percent of whom are unemployed, take advantage of the center to better prepare themselves for an economy that no longer offers blue-collar factory jobs.
"The communities of the South Baltimore peninsula areas – which to us are the mothers, daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers – have come to our program because they have heard how others changed their lives here," continued Ms. Socha. "Our learners not only become more literate and employable but also more productive members of the community."
The South Baltimore Learning Center was sharing space with other non-profit groups when the non-profit organization that owned the building – the Baltimore Jobs in Energy Project – went out of business. Unable to find a large enough space for its program, the learning center remained in the building, an historic police station located at 28 E. Ostend St.
The center is organizing a $1.5 million capital campaign to buy and renovate the building. Center officials quickly learned there were three liens against the building, including the $71,775 owed to CCHD. That money had been advanced to the Baltimore Jobs in Energy Project as a no-interest loan.
CCHD forgave the lien as its contribution to the capital campaign.
Funded by the Catholic Bishops of the United States in 1970, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is the nation's largest private funder of projects that empower the poor and work to eliminate poverty and injustice in the United States. In the last 28 years, CCHD has distributed nearly $250 million in grants to more than 3500 self-help projects nationwide.
For additional information, contact Barbara Stephenson, CCHD, 202-541-3364, firstname.lastname@example.org