By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY —About 15 people sat at tables around the Cardinal Baum Room in the Catholic Center chatting July 15. Bill Francis, diocesan director of the offices of Respect Life and Human Rights, welcomed them and opened the Catholic Campaign for Human Development Grant Awards presentations with a prayer.
“Thank you, Heavenly Father,” he said, “for the gifts of the hands here this evening — hands that help others, hands that heal, hands that are your hands here on earth.”
Five organizations, Seton Neighborhood Family and Health Center, A Simple House, the Migrant Farmworkers Project, St. Therese Little Flower Parish and Holy Rosary Credit Union were represented as they were awarded grants from the CCHD. Holy Rosary Credit Union had applied for a national grant, while the others had applied for local CCHD grants.
Michela Brooks, the CCHD intern in the Office of Human Rights, gave a brief overview of its history. The grant program was established in 1969, part of the War on Poverty, not as a hand-out, but a hand up, she said. Called the National Crusade Against Poverty, it eventually became the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. It serves to empower and support impoverished groups who seek to help their communities, as well as educating the Church on current social issues.
Clark Massey of A Simple House accepted their grant award, describing the ministry as a way for lay volunteers, mostly young college students or recent graduates, to live in solidarity with the poor.
Seton Center’s grant award was accepted by Director of Development Julie Cogley and Andrew Ochs, Director of Mission Integration. Cogley described the work of Seton Center: including a dental clinic, food pantry, socialization for seniors and emergency assistance, reaching out to residents of the Washington-Wheatley area and nearby.
Cristen Huntz accepted the grant for St. Therese Little Flower Parish. Huntz, parish business manager, said the 88-year-old parish is reaching out to neighborhood youth, offering financial education to kids in partnership with Holy Rosary Credit Union.
Immigration Attorney Suzanne Gladney has directed the 30–year old Migrant Farmworkers Project for many years. The grant she accepted will support immigration assistance programs helping about 500 migrant orchard workers in Lafayette County.
Holy Rosary Credit Union was represented by President Carole Wight, who said that national CCHD grants over the past several years have helped the credit union establish a branch office in St. Joseph to further the mission of bringing financial literacy and greater economic stability to those who have none.
“As we work together and collaborate, we will be able to change the face of Kansas City,” she said.
Bill Francis then surprised the group by announcing a new program that will take the place of CCHD in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
To be called the Life and Justice Campaign, it is a joint effort of the diocesan Respect Life and Human Rights offices. Through donations to the campaign, Catholics in the diocese will have the opportunity to support local organizations dedicated to defending the dignity of the person and the sanctity of human life. There will be an annual parish collection, similar to the CCHD collections; however, 100 percent of the donations will remain in the diocese, to be distributed to local organizations through a grant process defined and managed by the diocesan Respect Life and Human Rights offices.
Francis said, “We know we need to bring the people in our diocese together. There has long been a rift between the offices of Respect Life and Peace and Justice, now known as Human Rights. If we can provide people an opportunity to donate locally and see the rewards here at home, it can make a big difference.”
When a parishioner donates to CCHD, 75 percent of the donation goes directly to the national program while 25 percent stays local and is divided among the organizations approved for a grant. “I think we can do it better,” Francis said. “Donations will remain here in this diocese and 100 percent will go to support and aid local organizations in their work with the poor and underserved.”
He added that donors will have the opportunity to see where their money is going and the money stays local. “Transparency will be provided by donations being managed and distributed by the offices of Human Rights and Respect Life. Our ministries are in the parishes, served by the people in the pews for those in need.”
The first annual collection will be the second collection at Masses the weekend of Aug. 17-18. Parishioners may donate at the Masses, mail in or donate electronically throughout the rest of the year. Donations may be made, people can volunteer time and talent, and organizations and ministries may apply for grants online through Jan. 1, 2014 at www.lifeandjusticekcsj.org. Grants will be awarded in May, 2014.
Francis said, “We are not trying to undercut CCHD. We just want to raise the bar to help more people here in this diocese. There are no politics involved. We are all Catholics, and we want to do the best we can with what we have.”
For more information, or to donate, volunteer or apply for grants, visit www.lifeandjusticekcsj.org.