Can you hear “the cry of the poor?” It’s there if you listen closely. It is especially acute in January because this is Poverty Awareness Month.
In a way it is sad that any month of the year is dedicated to poverty awareness but it is certainly necessary given the facts of the pervasiveness poverty in our own nation.
Did you know that 45 million people live in poverty in the United States? The number of people in poverty is larger than the populations of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, Nevada and Nebraska combined.
How can you respond to “the cry of the poor”? By taking action in your community, giving of your time and resources, and praying to end poverty.
A fine example is Bethany Welch. Since graduating from college in 2000, Welch has dedicated herself to helping others, starting a food bank in upstate New York and coordinating federal advocacy efforts there, serving as a volunteer, and working to secure local funding in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to organize Catholics to advocate for immigration reform. Her work brought her into contact with many dedicated women religious and laypersons, whose example led her to convert to Catholicism.
Working with parishioners in South Philadelphia, she led efforts to found the Aquinas Center, re-purposing a former convent to create a space for community organizing, advocacy, service for the immigrant community, urban immersion experiences and revitalization projects, like community gardens.
For responding to “the cry of the poor,” she was the recipient of the 2014 Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award, which honors a Catholic between the age of 18 and 40 who demonstrates leadership in fighting poverty and injustice in the United States through community-based solutions.
Here in our own diocese we have the opportunity to make a difference by working with our Catholic Charities agencies and the Neighborhood Center for Women in Passaic.
Poverty needs to be eradicated, but it will take all of us, each doing our own part, to end it so that in future years January is no longer Poverty Awareness Month.
By Richard A. Sokerka