More than 250 million children globally are at risk of failing to thrive. Factors such as poverty, poor nutrition, limited access to education, disease and regional unrest prevent the development of critical brain architecture in children, especially from birth through age 3 when development is most vital.
This global issue has been addressed in part recently because of dedicated, compassionate volunteers in parishes and dioceses across the United States who spent two years championing for The Global Child Thrive Act, passed early this year. The Global Child Thrive Act mandates that early child development activities such as signing, reading or playing with colorful toys, be integrated into U.S. foreign aid programs, giving children across the globe the resources needed to stimulate young minds to grow and develop.
Advocacy for this bill was spearheaded by members of Catholic Relief Services chapters across the United States. CRS chapters are comprised of lay leaders committed to learning about global issues and taking meaningful action. CRS chapters mobilize volunteers in the mission to end global poverty and foster a more just, peaceful world. Chapters are local, uniting volunteers in each community who are a catalyst for global change.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades has invited parishioners across the diocese to consider founding or joining a CRS chapter at their parish, living out the call as missionary disciples and making a real difference in the world.
CRS chapter members receive training, support and education from CRS staff. This includes education on global issues, leadership skills, how to engage town halls and members of Congress, how to foster community giving, and a monthly national conference call with leaders from across the country during guest speakers offer ongoing training and best practices. Each chapter has one or two leaders who serve as the primary point of contact between the chapter and CRS, receiving additional training and mobilizing chapter members.
Beth Knobbe, community engagement manager at CRS, shared that each chapter is comprised of local lay leaders.
“Chapter members build relationships with their members of Congress to advocate for public policies that reflect our Catholic values,” she shared, as was the case championing the Global Child Thrive Act. This advocacy begins with education and prayer and ends in action, such as visiting Congress members’ offices, advocating to local news sources and more, all to raise awareness of fundamental global challenges.
Chapter members also foster giving activities, such as the CRS Rice Bowl and other community giving programs.
“Our faith calls us to care for the least among us, and CRS chapters give people tangible ways to respond with hope to the issues of global hunger, migration, poverty, and disease,” shared Knobbe. “There is a sense of community among CRS chapter members who work to bring this vision to life. Becoming a member of a CRS chapter is an outward expression of missionary discipleship – calling forth leaders who have encountered Christ in the face of the poor, compelling them to share the good news with others, becoming prophetic advocates for justice and the common good.”
Pastors and parishioners are also invited to an information session to learn more about CRS chapters and consider getting involved.
The South Bend-area information session will take place Thursday, Sept. 23, from 7 – 8 p.m. in the Community Education Center Library at St. Pius X Parish, Granger. Participants may park in the east parking lot and enter through door 8. The library is up the stairs.
The Fort Wayne-area information session will take place Thursday, Sept. 30, from 7 – 8 p.m. at St. Mary, Mother of God Parish, Fort Wayne in Msgr. Oechtering Hall.
Registration is encouraged, but not required. For more information, visit diocesefwsb.org/crs.
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