No Picture
News Briefs

Catholic Charities to open ‘Compassion Corner’ to serve homeless, poor in Pittsburgh

May 6, 2024 Catholic News Agency 1
The Diocese of Pittsburgh’s Gismondi Job Training Program helps those in need. / Credit: Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 6, 2024 / 17:40 pm (CNA).

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is expanding its social services offered to people who are homeless and those in poverty with a newly created “Compassion Corner” opening in August. 

The nonprofit charity group is renovating a former office building located in downtown Pittsburgh to provide health care services, mental health services, job training programs, a place for the homeless population to eat, and a variety of other resources. The nearly 45,000-square-foot building is located at 111 Boulevard of the Allies, next to The Red Door (run by the Catholic Divine Mercy Parish), which provides services such as food for people who are homeless.

“I believe this is all divinely led,” Christopher Scoletti, a board member of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh and previous president of the board, said during an official launch last week. 

“I believe God is working and channeling the love that we all have for our communities, for our neighbors, for one another,” Scoletti added. “I believe God is channeling the pride that we have for the City of Pittsburgh to enforce a powerful change for a better future.”

Susan Rauscher, who serves as the charity’s executive director, told CNA that the new building will allow Catholic Charities to provide more medical and dental care, which it offers to those in poverty for free. She said this expansion will allow for more dental chairs and more medical services, among other things. 

“[We’re] really excited about the increase in the number of people who can get health care services,” Rauscher said. 

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh provides eye exams to its clients. Credit: Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh provides eye exams to its clients. Credit: Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh

According to Rauscher, the added space will allow the nonprofit to provide mental wellness services, which will include anger management and therapy. The group will also provide job training services, which will include a free 12-week telecommunications course, and connect them with employers with whom the charity has existing relationships. The job programs will include training for five certifications. 

“Moving into the new building gives us some additional space to move into new areas that help us bring holistic solutions to our clients,” Rauscher added.

Because of the Compassion Corner’s proximity to The Red Door, Catholic Charities will create a spot for people who are homeless to eat inside. Rauscher noted that those people will also receive access to these services. 

“[Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh is] pushing toward not only providing that emergency assistance and those basic needs but also incorporating case management and that long-term stability,” Rauscher said.

More than 100 elected officials, community leaders, and business leaders attended the official launch of the Compassion Corner, according to the diocesan Catholic Charities. This included Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, who praised the work of the nonprofit and said Christians “can’t just read the Bible and teach the Bible” but need to show their faith in Christ through the “works and deeds that we do.”

“That falls on all of us to do,” Gainey said during a speech at the launch. “It doesn’t just fall on government [and] nonprofit [organizations]. It falls on us.”

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh has raised about $12 million in donations for its Campaign for Compassion Corner to provide these services, which is more than 70% of its goal of $17 million. The group is trying to raise $13 million for Catholic Charities and $4 million for its partner, Gift of Mary, an emergency women’s shelter. 

Rauscher told CNA that 100% of the staff at the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh has personally contributed to the fundraising effort. She praised the work of the staff, saying: “They can squeeze every penny out of every dollar that’s entrusted to us and turn it into solutions for the people they serve.”

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh serves about 20,000 people annually, according to Rauscher. She said the nonprofit served about 23,000 people last year.


No Picture
News Briefs

Pope meets with priests, families to confront poverty, social marginalization

November 17, 2023 Catholic News Agency 3
Pope Francis meets with priests of Rome’s 17th prefecture in the Parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde in Rome on Nov. 16, 2023. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Nov 17, 2023 / 11:24 am (CNA).

Pope Francis met with priests of Rome’s 17th prefecture — which sits on the eastern edge of the metropolitan area — in the Parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde on Thursday evening to discuss pressing pastoral needs and material challenges. 

The pope’s visit reflects his call to reach out to the “peripheries” of society, a theme that has been central to his pontificate. The 17th prefecture includes the neighborhoods of Rome’s fifth municipal district such as Tor Bella Monaca, Torre Angela, and Torre Gaia; it is one of the poorest areas of the city.

During the one-and-a-half-hour conversation, the pope took time to meet the 40 priests gathered there and to discuss the main pastoral needs of the parish and the prefecture, including “work, the sacraments, poverty, hospitality, assistance to socially weaker groups, [and] evangelization,” Vatican News reported

Bishop Riccardo Lamba, auxiliary bishop of Rome’s eastern sector, said the meeting was characterized by “a very open, cordial, and familiar dialogue” and that the pope “encouraged everyone to continue with the good work they already do, to continue being among people, to continually propose the Gospel even if there are difficulties,” RomaSette reported

Pope Francis meets with priests of Rome’s 17th prefecture in the parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde in Rome on Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with priests of Rome’s 17th prefecture in the parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde in Rome on Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

“He said to continue to have this synodal style in the parishes, which implies continuous collaboration between laypeople and priests,” the bishop said. 

At the end of his meeting the pope visited the Villaggio dell’ospitalità (Hospitality Village), a complex adjacent to the parish that consists of 12 apartments and provides emergency housing for both Italian and foreign families.

At that complex he met with several families, including a Ukrainian family that had fled from the ongoing war in the country a month ago. 

“At the moment, seven families live in the village and then people waiting to reunite with their husbands, wives, or children, for a total of 12 apartments, which were built when the parish complex was built,” said Father Rocco Massimiliano Caliandro, pastor of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità, according to RomaSette. 

Pope Francis meets with residents of apartments adjacent to the Parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde in Rome on Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media
Pope Francis meets with residents of apartments adjacent to the Parish of Santa Maria Madre dell’Ospitalità in Villa Verde in Rome on Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

“With the help of a group of volunteers and with the support of the whole community, we try to stay close to these families both humanly and materially, offering them not only accommodation but also the possibility of taking food from a warehouse we have here in the parish,” he continued. 

Caliandro said the visit reflected the pope’s pastoral priorities centered on the care of the most vulnerable. 

“[The pope] made one word resonate in reference to all the themes touched upon in the meeting with us priests and it is ‘taking risks,’ compromising with people, always making sure that people prevail,” he said.

This was not the pope’s first visit to impoverished Roman neighborhoods. On Sep. 29 the Holy Father visited the Parish of Santa Maria della Salute in Rome in the Primavalle neighborhood in Rome’s fifth municipality. Like others on the “periphery,” the neighborhood deals with a high rate of poverty, crime, and homicide. 


No Picture
News Briefs

U.S. bishops appeal to leaders to do more to ensure food security around the globe

August 7, 2023 Catholic News Agency 0
A family sits in a tent at camp for refugees at Kenya’s border town with Ethiopia, Moyale, about 484 miles north of capital Nairobi, on March 17, 2018 after fleeing Ethiopia. / Brian Ongoro/AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 7, 2023 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

In a statement issued Aug 7, the chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on International Justice and Peace called on global leaders to do more to ensure food security for all.

Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, cited numbers from the World Food Programme (WFP), the global humanitarian organization addressing food security, that estimated about 258 million people in 58 countries experienced crisis-level acute hunger in 2022.

“Russia’s recent decision no longer to allow Ukraine to export tons of grain means more people are likely to go hungry,” said Malloy, who along with Pope Francis is calling on world leaders “to look beyond narrow national interests, focus on the common good, and join in ensuring that critical food supplies can flow to those most in need.”

Malloy pointed out that prior to the Russian invasion, Ukraine was considered “Europe’s breadbasket” and was the origin for large amounts of wheat, corn, and barley as well as almost half of the world’s sunflower oil — all flowing through ports on the Black Sea. Those ports were blocked when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Last June the Holy Father appealed for the end of the blockades that were preventing the flow of grain through Ukrainian seaports. Malloy’s statement provided more context for the timing of this latest appeal:

“From July 2022, the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI), the U.N.-brokered agreement between Russia and Ukraine, allowed Ukraine to export about 33 million tons of grain and other agricultural products. Russia’s decision to withdraw from the BSGI and its bombing of grain storage facilities in Ukraine will greatly impact the availability of food supplies at a time when more people are in dire need of food. With the number of forcibly displaced people at a record high, the World Food Programme estimates 345 million people will face acute hunger this year, with 129,000 potentially facing famine in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and Myanmar.

As the statement acknowledged, the war in Ukraine is not the only reason food insecurity has risen globally over the last few years. Natural disasters, the pandemic, regional wars, and other conflicts have also contributed to high rates of hunger.

Haiti, for example, is in dire need. According to a U.N. report, a total of 4.9 million people — which is nearly half the population of the country — are experiencing acute food insecurity, and large numbers affected are children. The Guardian reported that the WFP will be unable to feed 100,000 Haitians this month because it has insufficient funding to meet the needs.

“Surging food inflation in Haiti means the cost of feeding each person has increased while the number of those in need of assistance has also grown, driving up the cost of delivering WFP aid,” the Guardian article reported.

On the other side of the world, northern Ethiopia is another nation suffering from acute food insecurity. Countries in the horn of Africa rely on Ukrainian grain, and the Tigray region is just emerging from one of the worst recent conflicts following two years of fighting between Ethiopia’s federal army and regional forces. The conflict has created millions of refugees; high rates of death, injury, and trauma; and widespread food insecurity. A persistent drought has made food scarcity even worse and earlier this summer the U.S. suspended food aid there due to reports that government officials were diverting food aid. More than 20 million people in Ethiopia rely on food assistance. 

Bishop Malloy ended the appeal by the bishops with a poignant reminder that many of our brothers and sisters around the world are suffering. “The most vulnerable are crying in hunger. With the compassion of Christ, we need to heed their cries and help,” he said.


No Picture
News Briefs

Pope Francis: No Christian is exempt from aiding the poor

June 14, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis greets a participant in the World Day of the Poor in Rome, Nov. 16, 2017. / L’Osservatore Romano.

Vatican City, Jun 14, 2022 / 10:15 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said this week that no Christian is exempt from aiding the poor.

In his message for the 2022 World Day of the Poor, published on June 14, the pope said that the worst thing that can happen to a Christian community is to be “dazzled by the idol of wealth, which ends up chaining us to an ephemeral and bankrupt vision of life.”

“Where the poor are concerned, it is not talk that matters; what matters is rolling up our sleeves and putting our faith into practice through a direct involvement, one that cannot be delegated,” Pope Francis said.

“No one must say that they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas. This is an excuse commonly heard in academic, business or professional, and even ecclesial circles. None of us can think we are exempt from concern for the poor and for social justice,” he added.

The pope underlined that it is not a question of approaching the poor with “a welfare mentality,” but of ensuring that no one lacks what is necessary.

He warned Catholics against laxity and inconsistent behavior with regard to the poor.

He said: “At times … a kind of laxity can creep in and lead to inconsistent behavior, including indifference about the poor. It also happens that some Christians, out of excessive attachment to money, remain mired in a poor use of their goods and wealth. These situations reveal a weak faith and feeble, myopic hope.”

Pope Francis established the World Day of the Poor in 2016 at the end of the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. The day is celebrated each year on the 33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, a week before the feast of Christ the King.

The 6th World Day of the Poor will be celebrated on Nov. 13 with the theme “for your sakes Christ became poor,” inspired by 2 Corinthians 8:9.

In the message, signed on the June 13 feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, the pope made a distinction between poverty that humiliates, in which people live in squalor, and Christian poverty that sets people free and brings peace.

“Jesus’ words are clear: if we want life to triumph over death, and dignity to be redeemed from injustice, we need to follow Christ’s path of poverty, sharing our lives out of love, breaking the bread of our daily existence with our brothers and sisters, beginning with the least of them, those who lack the very essentials of life,” he said.

“This is the way to create equality, to free the poor from their misery and the rich from their vanity, and both from despair.”

At a press conference on June 14, Archbishop Rino Fisichella highlighted some Vatican initiatives to help aid the poor in coordination with the World Day of the Poor.

He said that 500 families received assistance with rent, insurance, gas, electricity, and water bills thanks in part to the Italian financial services company UnipolSai, and that tons of basic food supplies were distributed thanks to the generous collaboration of local supermarkets in the Diocese of Rome.

In his message for the World Day of the Poor, Pope Francis also raised the question of what more can be done to help the millions of people living in war-torn Ukraine and other conflict zones.

“What great poverty is produced by the senselessness of war,” he said.

“Millions of women, children, and elderly people are being forced to brave the danger of bombs just to find safety by seeking refuge as displaced persons in neighboring countries. How many others remain in the war zones, living each day with fear and the lack of food, water, medical care, and above all human affections?”

“How can we respond adequately to this situation, and to bring relief and peace to all these people in the grip of uncertainty and instability?” he asked.