During the last several weeks, I have been blessed, inspired and motivated by many projects, events and activities in the archdiocese which powerfully live out the social teaching of the Catholic Church.

I attended a meeting of Franciscan Peacemakers, who have been helping and loving victims of human trafficking on the streets of Milwaukee for almost 20 years. Currently, they are renovating space at St. Martin de Porres Parish to create a home and a program to help these victims who suffer so much abuse, violence and despair. Franciscan Peacemakers’ dream is to help 12 people at a time find healing and a new life off of the streets.

During the meeting, several clients shared their powerful, disturbing and ultimately hopeful stories of finding love and acceptance through Franciscan Peacemakers’ remarkable generosity and goodness. I came away greatly encouraged by this important and fruitful work of putting the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ into action for brothers and sisters who truly live on the margins.

Through ongoing conversations with the passionate volunteers involved, I have learned much more about Catholic Relief Services. A small group of very dedicated folks have been tirelessly implementing a strategy to raise awareness and knowledge about CRS in our community.

Most of us are familiar with CRS through the Rice Bowl program, the annual Lenten project that combines prayer, fasting and almsgiving to help the poor throughout the world.  The official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic Church in the United States, Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the bishops to serve the millions of starving and displaced people in Europe during World War II.

Since then, CRS has grown to serve more than 100 million people in 91 countries. Often the first responder to natural disasters and war by providing water, food, shelter and medicine, CRS also strategically works with local leaders and organizations to address the root causes of hunger and poverty through education, sustenance of small businesses, agricultural development, and construction of schools and hospitals.

One of the top-ranked global charities, Catholic Relief Services offers more than 90 percent of funds raised to the direct aid and development of the poor throughout the world. I am proud Milwaukee is leading the way to raise awareness and support for this great work.

Last week, I was at St. Sebastian Parish in Sturtevant for a follow-up meeting to a fantastic conference we had had last November for all of the parish Human Concerns committee members in Districts 1, 2 and 3.

The goal of both days was to form ourselves more deeply in Catholic Social Teaching, learn about the good work of many community and church organizations in those districts that serve the needs of the poor, and to create plans for the growth and activity of local Human Concerns committees.

Last week, each group reported on what they have been doing since November. What an inspiration! We heard about new energies, ideas and activities surrounding prison ministry, support for pregnant mothers, twinning relationships with parishes in other states and countries, outreach to the homebound, sick and elderly, and partnerships with groups addressing the needs of immigrants, just to mention a few of the local initiatives recently implemented.  

Folks raised good questions last week. How can our Human Concerns committee serve as a catalyst for the whole parish to learn more about social teaching and justice and to live out such a vision as an entire community?

How do we address the root causes of social ills and not just Band-Aid the symptoms? How can we help move people beyond an individualized faith that makes little connection to culture, community, society and political life?

As you can see, these encounters were thought-provoking, energizing and fruitful. We hope to duplicate these Human Concerns regional gatherings throughout the archdiocese in the upcoming year.

Like many Catholic schools, Divine Savior Holy Angels High School is raising $4,500 this Lent to finance a water project in Africa. Through donations, the sale of water bottles and an in-house auction, DSHA will certainly reach its goal by Easter.

Imagine if we could document, photograph and showcase every event, project, organization and action done to build a more just, humane, peaceful and loving world sponsored and lived out by people in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

What a lengthy, colorful, imaginative and generous panorama of service, charity, peace-making and justice-building we would see!

Inspired by our love for Christ and study of the Gospels and the church’s social teaching, we seek to put our faith into action by building a civilization of love that welcomes every person into the mystery of God’s love, life and purpose. I am so proud and inspired by the beautiful example of so many dedicated servants of Christ.