Esther Abu is one of 1 million South Sudan refugees. She brought only her children to Uganda — and nothing else.
“There’s no one to help me,” she said. “I’m all alone and I can’t manage everything.”
That’s where Catholic Relief Services (CRS) stepped in. The non-profit organization, formed to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas while promoting the sacredness of human life and dignity of the human person, helped Abu find shelter and other necessities.
Supporters of CRS’ mission gathered at the Wisconsin Club in mid-October to celebrate 10 years of caring from the Milwaukee community. Funds raised across the country have helped CRS help those in need in more than 100 countries on five continents. That wouldn’t be possible without the city of Milwaukee’s support of the organization.
“People in Milwaukee are naturally caring and concerned about the poor and less fortunate,” Chandreyee Banerjee, the regional development director of Catholic Relief Services, said. “But when I first came to Milwaukee, I was blown away by the passion community members felt for CRS’ work and through CRS serving the poor in some of the most difficult places around the world.
“Community members visit CRS’ work overseas and return as CRS’ advocates. On their own, they speak about the transformation they have witnessed in the lives of the underprivileged at family gatherings, schools, colleges, businesses and places of worship with friends. Milwaukee is starting a positive movement on philanthropy and we hope they are the tipping point for the rest of the country to follow.”
Sean Callahan, the CEO and president of CRS, said the organization is blessed by the engagement of the Milwaukee community under the leadership of Archbishop Jerome Listecki. The archbishop spoke at the event about his connection to the organization and the support given by members of the Milwaukee community, many of whom should recognize that they are blessed, he said.
Others are not in the same situation. There’s been an increase in emergencies overseas and an increase in violence in the past couple of months with hurricanes Irma and Maria, as well as the earthquake in Mexico, all efforts with which CRS is directly involved, said Banerjee.
Those in need in those situations experience what Callahan describes as the two types of poverty: poverty of the spirit and economic poverty. CRS works to alleviate both, not only by helping economically, but also treating those in need with human dignity, empowering them to be self-sufficient and giving them hope in the dire situations they experience.
“We humbly open up the box and allow them to shine,” Callahan said.
Archbishop Listecki spoke about the “Share the Journey” campaign launched by Pope Francis earlier this fall, which is sponsored by CRS. The campaign asks people to identify the crises faced by immigrants in their own country and seek to build community with them.
To launch the start of the efforts in the archdiocese, the archbishop met with three immigrant families and shared a meal with them. He spoke about that experience and how Milwaukee has always been a city of immigrants.
“We need to assist those who come here to seek a better life,” he said.
Doing so can be difficult, and it’s definitely bold, but Callahan noted that shouldn’t stop the community from doing what it can.
“We should be bold enough to think we can help people across the globe,” he said.
To learn more about CRS and their efforts, visit www.crs.org.