Help People Help Themselves

My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) was founded in 1969 through the leadership of Brooklyn’s beloved Bishop Francis J. Mugavero. The U.S. Catholic bishops established CCHD as their domestic anti-poverty, social justice program. They recognized that direct service programs alone did not create the changes necessary to keep people out of poverty; they saw the need to also address policies and systems that perpetuate poverty. This ministry for justice is rooted in our Baptism and faith commitment.

CCHD provides self-help grants to groups of low-income people who are working to overcome poverty by addressing its root causes in their own lives and communities. The CCHD philosophy emphasizes empowerment and participation by the poor by helping the poor and marginalized people come together to seek solutions to local problems and find ways to improve their lives and neighborhoods.

In the Diocese of Brooklyn this year, CCHD has awarded $220,000 to six member-led self-help organizations that are transforming our local communities. All are actively engaged with various diocesan parishes and organizations.

The CCHD grantees in Brooklyn and Queens this year are:

Brooklyn Congregations United (BCU), an interfaith organization that includes Catholic churches in Flatbush and Bay Ridge. Among its members are Our Lady of Refuge, Holy Cross, Holy Innocents, St. Francis, and St. Andrew’s parishes. Their participation in BCU helps them successfully engage in social action that benefits their parish communities. They have coordinated several legislative actions on issues that impact the poor, such as foreclosure and immigration reform, and are now focusing their efforts on bringing about greater economic opportunities in their Brooklyn communities.

Bushwick Housing Independence Project (BHIP) supports tenants in the low-income neighborhoods of Bushwick and Bedford-Stuyvesant in their fight to preserve their homes and protect themselves from landlord abuse. It operates out of two parishes: St. Barbara and St. Joseph Patron, where many marginalized immigrants live. In collaboration with other tenant-advocate organizations, BHIP has been an active participant in city-wide campaigns to repeal vacancy decontrol and to strengthen rent protection laws.

Centro Hispano Cuzcatlan was first organized at Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Jamaica. Its members are mainly low-income Latino immigrants living in rental housing. It has successfully developed leaders and organized its members to advocate for tenants’ rights and the local enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act. One of its goals is to make the Department of Housing Services more accessible to immigrants.
Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) organizes mostly low-income South Asian immigrants for racial, economic, and social justice. DRUM succeeded in leading the passage of the “Student Safety Act,” protecting student minorities from discrimination, and in saving MetroCards for students, both significant victories for low-income constituents. It has now started to organize low-wage workers in the Jackson Heights area around fair wages, benefits, and just treatment.

East River Development Alliance is located in Long Island City and dedicated to improving the economic lives of low-income people, particularly the residents of three public housing developments in the area. The CCHD economic development grant will support its new credit union which has shown impressive achievements in its first year of operation as a result of combining financial education with its services. It has twice as many members as other credit unions of the same age; over 50% of the members are first-time savers, with $300 average savings, thereby proving that even those with limited income can save. The credit union membership includes parishioners from St. Rita, St. Patrick, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and other parishes in the L.I.C./Astoria cluster.
Queens Congregations United for Action actively works with a growing number of Catholic churches in northwest Queens: St. Paul the Apostle, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Leo’s, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. John Vianney, Immaculate Conception, St. Gabriel’s, St. Michael’s, and Our Lady of the Angelus. This group has been a key player in advocating for affordable housing, having won a commitment to 35% affordable housing in new developments at Willets Point. It is presently working toward a living wage for very low-income retail workers in the Queens Center Mall.

Affirm Social and Moral Teaching
All of these local groups were thoroughly evaluated and were found to indeed affirm Catholic social and moral teaching as they work to uphold human dignity as well as the following principles: option for the poor, rights of workers, community and participation, and solidarity.

Last year, the bishops who oversee CCHD completed an extensive review in order to strengthen CCHD policies and practices. They built on Catholic principles and CCHD’s experience and strengths to ensure that CCHD is a faithful, effective and accountable work of the Church, carrying out its essential mission in full conformity with Catholic social and moral teaching. For a full report of the Review and Renewal of CCHD, go to the following website: www.usccb.org/cchd/reviewandrenewal.shtml .

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released data indicating unprecedented poverty rates in this country, and this is especially true in Brooklyn and Queens. More than ever, it is important that our Church, through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, carry out the mission of Jesus Christ “to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, new sight to the blind and to set the downtrodden free” (Luke 4:18).

CCHD owes its success to Catholic parishioners whose contributions to the annual parish appeal have made meeting CCHD’s objectives possible over the years. In the Diocese of Brooklyn, this annual collection is held in parishes on Nov. 19-20. Eighty-nine cents out of every dollar received by CCHD goes directly to community empowerment, economic development, and education programs that work to break the cycle of poverty.

Your generous donations will give those in poverty the support they need to make lasting changes and put out into the deep. Together, we can make a difference in families and communities. As more Americans feel the weight of the economic crisis, CCHD needs your support in this collection more than ever.