WASHINGTON (March 6, 2002) -- The 2002 American Bishops' Overseas Appeal asks Catholics to see Jesus in Disguise in the faces of the poor, the hungry, and disadvantaged and to support ongoing efforts to meet the increasing needs of the Church's international social ministry.
The annual appeal, held in most U.S. dioceses the weekend of March 9-10, supports agencies that build the international social ministry of the Catholic Church through advocacy on behalf of powerless and impoverished people and relief and resettlement services to victims of earthquakes, floods, war, and religious and ethnic persecution.
The 2002 theme is taken from remarks made by the late Mother Teresa of Calcutta after being awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize. When asked what sustained her in her service to the ill, the dying, and the unwanted, she replied that in each of the people served by her Missionaries of Charity she saw "Jesus in disguise."
"For more than 60 years, the American Bishops' Overseas Appeal and its predecessor— the Bishops' Welfare Emergency Relief Fund—have enabled the Catholic Church in the United States to respond to the victims of war and famine and natural disaster, and to provide the acts of charity mandated by the Gospel," said Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, past Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services. "The generosity of Catholics here have contributed to building up the human dignity of the dispossessed and downtrodden around the world. The Bishops are grateful for that generosity."
In 2000, the last year for which complete figures are available, ABOA raised more than $16 million for economic and agricultural development programs, relief and resettlement services, advocacy on behalf of the powerless and needy, and other efforts which build the international social ministry of the Church.
The American Bishops' Overseas Appeal benefits four agencies of the Catholic Church:
- Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the overseas relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. CRS works in solidarity with poor people in more than 80 countries, giving hope to a world in need through both emergency relief and long-term sustainable development projects. It also offers Catholics in the United States the opportunity to practice global solidarity through numerous education and outreach programs, such as Operation Rice Bowl, Harvest for Hope, Work of Human Hands, and Food Fast. In 2001 CRS launched a major campaign to raise awareness about the challenges and opportunities facing the people of Africa.
- Office of Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops resettles approximately one-quarter of all refugees admitted to the United States annually and provides advocacy and pastoral care for all newcomers. Its Office of Refugee Programs—through a network of more than 100 diocesan refugee resettlement offices and in collaboration with other resettlement and government agencies—reunites families and ensures educational opportunities, health and employment services, and housing for people fleeing war and oppression. The MRS Policy Office develops and promotes fair and just public policy for newcomers and migrants. MRS's Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees and its network of national pastoral centers respond to the spiritual needs of migrant workers and other people on the move.
- Holy Father's Relief Fund assists victims of natural disasters and other emergencies around the globe.
- Department of Social Development and World Peace (SDWP) of the United States Conference of Bishops shares and applies Catholic social teaching on major domestic and international issues. SDWP advocates for poor and vulnerable people and for peace and justice around the world. It works to build the capacity of the Church on the national, diocesan, and parish levels to respond to global concerns. SDWP's work in the areas of debt relief for Third World countries, an international ban on landmines, religious freedom abroad, and negotiated peace in warring countries transforms the gospel messages of justice and reconciliation into action.