Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic Church, marked 75 years of service in December, and we want to join the chorus of supporters and admirers in offering congratulations on the milestone.
With the teachings of the Church as its mandate and the dedication of its far-flung staffers in administration and in the field, CRS is an organization that makes us proud to be Catholics.
Founded during World War II to help war-torn Europe and its refugees recover, CRS has since expanded its operations to Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America.
From the day it was established in 1943 until the present day, CRS continues to help those most in need, providing assistance without regard to race, creed or nationality.
Drawing on the generous spirit of Catholics in this country and the universal Church—and enjoying the respect and trust of partners that include private donors, governments, corporations and foundations—CRS has built an efficient and effective operation able to quickly respond to natural disasters and other catastrophes around the world.
The agency has branched out into development projects aimed at relieving poverty and social injustice in the regions of the world where it operates. CRS does this by investing in people and strengthening local institutions, helping them lead their own development. Last year, for instance, a CRS caseworker guided a 17-year-old HIV-positive orphaned girl in Malawi into a program where she trained as a tailor—instilling hope that she’ll soon be able to support herself and help a younger sister.
In a small village in Lesotho called Ha Mosekeseke, a group of 15 girls, ages 10-14, are receiving financial literacy and social support from CRS programs to help empower them in adulthood, and a project in Iraq helps small businesses rebuild after years of conflict and war.
Meanwhile, natural disasters and wars—the foundation of CRS work for 75 years—keep coming. As you read this, staffers in Indonesia are busy working with local partners to help determine the greatest needs of survivors of that country’s Dec. 22 tsunami that hit the islands of Java and Sumatra.
The agency is well prepared, having carefully built a disaster response network in the wake of the tsunami that devastated Aceh at Sumatra’s northern end 14 years ago and killed 230,000 people in 14 countries.
“One theme is constant,” said CRS President and Chief Executive Officer Sean Callahan. “Our work doesn’t just help people through a tough time—it transforms lives, not temporarily, but permanently; and not just one person, but their families and their communities. That is the kind of transformational change we always strive for.”
If its first 75 years are an indication, CRS will be making those changes for a long time to come.