WASHINGTON (January 10, 2000) -- Bishop John J. Leibrecht said the Bishops who founded the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) more than 30 years ago were "visionaries" whose dream to provide funds to help the poor help themselves has transformed many locales in the past three decades.
"The concept underlying CCHD's efforts to help groups of poor and low income people has lately received additional validation from various political leaders who have cited the unique role and work of faith-based organizations," Bishop Leibrecht said. "With increasing frequency, these leaders sing the praises of such efforts, and affirm the value of governmental partnerships with faith-based organizations to solve social problems. They know that CCHD has been active for thirty years and has something worth sharing," the Bishop said.
Bishop Leibrecht addressed the CCHD Diocesan Directors' meeting, held in Ft. Myers, Florida, January 7-10. More than 100 CCHD diocesan directors from throughout the country participated in the gathering and commemorated the 30th anniversary of the Campaign's founding. Sessions were held at the Amtel Marina Hotel.
Bishop Leibrecht, of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is Chairman of the United States Catholic Conference CCHD Committee.
In his remarks, Bishop Leibrecht cited the 1969 resolution in which the bishops, responding to widespread poverty among the powerless, pledged creation of an organization which would help the poor help themselves while simultaneously raising awareness of the problem among the affluent.
The Bishops' resolution said: "We also believe that this new effort can lead the People of God to a new knowledge of today's problems, a deeper understanding of the intricate forces that lead to group conflict, and a perception of some new and promising approaches that we might take in promoting a greater spirit of solidarity among those who are successful, those who have acquired some share of this nation's goods, and those still trapped in poverty."
A year later, on the eve of the first annual appeal in Catholic parishes, the bishops stated:
"We are convinced that these funds, used creatively as seed money to assist self-help programs of many kinds, can and will make a significant contribution to solving the problem of poverty. We are anxious to listen to and work with the poor themselves in developing such programs."
Said Bishop Leibrecht: "It is tempting to speculate whether the visionaries who fashioned the Campaign then could have dreamed of all that would be accomplished as a result of their efforts."
"In looking back over thirty years, we also focus on the present," Bishop Leibrecht continued. "We see much cause for gratitude, including CCHD's current funding cycle which for the first time nationally reached the level of $10 million in grants. We are thankful, too, for the new focus which CCHD has on youth and young adults."
CCHD recently established the Cardinal Bernardin Leadership Award which recognizes leadership and commitment to social justice among young adults 18-30.
Citing the continuing relevance of CCHD, Bishop Leibrecht noted that a recent New York Times story about the growing shortage of home health aides for the elderly cited three worker cooperatives that are beginning to meet the pressing need. All three were developed with CCHD funding.
At the four-day meeting, the diocesan directors attended sessions on topics such as Catholic Social Teaching, Jubilee Justice, justice for farm workers (led by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers) and promotion and fundraising. Dr. Robert Wuthnow, Professor of Sociology, Princeton University, addressed a plenary session on "The Poor, Religious Faith, and Economic Behavior."
During the meeting, Father Robert J. Vitillo, Executive Director for the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, initiated a strategic pastoral assessment of the Campaign which was requested by the United States Catholic Conference committee charged with oversight of CCHD. This assessment will be facilitated by Brother Loughlan Sofield, S.T., a well-known expert on pastoral planning.
"The Jubilee Year and CCHD's thirtieth anniversary present a significant opportunity for the Campaign to review past accomplishments, assess present needs, and face future challenges, all in the light of the Gospel call to a preferential option for the poor," Father Vitillo said.
Last year, CCHD announced $10 million in grants to over 300 community-based projects, the highest dollar amount ever awarded in the program's history. The projects were located in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.