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EPISODE#192
OC CATHOLIC RADIO: CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES AND THE “CRS RICE BOWL”

Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. This week, Rick welcomes a couple of very special guests to the studio: Tung Truong and Maria Arroyo from Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

Tung has come to us by way of his home country of Vietnam, where he serves as a representative for CRS.

Be inspired by the incredible work being done because of our generosity – by this amazing relief organization!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 2/22/20

PAY FOR EMISSIONS

In June 2018 and 2019, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and the University of Notre Dame convened leaders from around the world at the Vatican to address the transition of our energy system toward a low carbon economy.

Participants included CEOs from the oil and gas sector, investment firms, renewables and insurance companies, and leaders from civil society. Jointly, they formulated two statements. This column takes up the first of these statements that endorse carbon pricing.

Carbon pricing consists of two broad types of mechanisms to internalize the costs of emissions to society: cap and trade and the imposition of a carbon tax. The latter largely underlies the proposed legislation from both Republicans and Democrats in the United States.

The World Bank lists 57 carbon pricing initiatives either implemented or scheduled around the world in national or subnational jurisdictions. These include three in the United States (California, Massachusetts and Washington), eight in China and 11 in Canada. These jurisdictions cover 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. While this represents almost a threefold increase of initiatives since 2010, it is too early to determine success and impact.

Carbon pricing creates economic incentives for producers and consumers to reduce their carbon emissions. It places the costs on those who are most responsible for the problem.

By incorporating costs of emissions, companies have a more complete picture of their production costs, returns and relative financial performance of renewables and low carbon technologies. Voter resistance notwithstanding, most governments see carbon pricing as a necessary element of climate policies.

On a moral level, the planet is not a trash bin for the gaseous waste of our consumption. Besides, the principle of scarcity holds, as the absorptive capacity of our air and oceans is operating beyond their limits to support our health and the health of the earth.

The statement delivers an endorsement from all large oil and gas participants for the adoption of carbon pricing that increases the costs of their products and reduces demand.

Amid other points, the statement calls for the level of carbon price to be set high enough “that incentivizes business practices, consumer behavior, research and investment to significantly advance the energy transition while minimizing the costs to vulnerable communities and supporting economic growth.”

This principle targets two issues. First, governments generally have not been sufficiently bold to set meaningful rates. The World Bank reports that rates range from $1 per ton of carbon dioxide equivalent to $127, with half of the rates set below $10.

Second, the burden of the energy transition must not fall on the shoulders of at-risk communities such as mining regions and low-income segments. To that end, revenues from the carbon tax can be distributed as a dividend for assistance to these communities, and as subsidies for regional renewal and job creation.

At the dialogue, Pope Francis taught, “Carbon pricing is essential if humanity is to use the resources of creation wisely. The failure to deal with carbon emissions has incurred a vast debt that will now have to be repaid with interest by those coming after us.

“Our use of the world’s natural resources can only be considered ethical when the economic and social costs of using them are transparently recognized and are fully borne by those who incur them, rather than by other people or future generations (see “Laudato Si’,” No. 195).”

FAITHFUL OVER FEARFUL

Common to most commencement speeches is the exhortation to approach life with boldness, to pursue one’s dreams, to live meaningfully, to honor one’s uniqueness and gifts, and to fight for the common good. The advice is definitely sound and seems to resonate with graduates.

Yet, if life is the guide, most will hold back: at least some of the time and to some extent. The reasons may be prudence, as fears can serve us well and check impulses. At the same time, prudence is frequently the cover for fear posing as a more user-friendly version of leg chains.

We should not be ashamed of our fears: We all have these. Jesus gave full expression to his when he wept in agony at Gethsemane. His fears are also told in the propositions presented by the devil in a desert empty not only of sand but also of assurances.

The temptations play on our most basic human needs: for sustenance as in baked and spiritual bread; for recognition and influence in whatever kingdoms, real or virtual, personal or professional by which we define ourselves; and for love and devotion. If these were not basic, they would not have power over us.

We may not voice our doubts, but they take up residence in our heads: Will I come up short? Empty? Wanting? Alone? Ordinary? Over four decades of experience with students, alumni and colleagues, I contend that responses to these doubts are far more powerful than talent, skills and diligence in determining our choices and eventual journeys.

A friend shared with me that in an interview for a very important research fellowship that would change her area of focus and expertise to find solutions for a thorny medical problem, the evaluator asked, “Dr. X, how do you handle your fears?”

The issue is not a matter of what, but a matter of how: How do we engage our fears? How do we break their power over us? When do we accede? What makes us move forward without assurances?

When I left Hong Kong at 18 for college in the U.S., I wanted adventure. However, much more important than that was my desire to support my parents. To counter my doubts, hard work would be my currency. In the process, I discovered its supply would come from love for the family.

As I moved on and in everything that I did, I came to recognize that people wanted me to succeed. They mentored and tutored, opened doors, advised and cautioned, provided the training wheels when I needed these and removed them when I matured. I now know deeply that God sends people with their goodness and generosity to us, and vice versa, to answer prayers made to him.

But fears of inadequacy and not measuring up will not totally lose their power when dreams and meaning are directly or indirectly denominated in riches, power, influence or admiration minted by people and their institutions. We can only lose our fears when the above lose their primacy.

Missing explicitly in the commencement messages is to let love motivate our choices: love for families and friends, for people whose suffering is untenable and for a planet that is severely damaged by the way we live, make our living and achieve prosperity.

To love more deeply and broadly, why don’t we suggest changing ourselves instead of changing the world: giving more to charity, consuming less, reusing plastic, volunteering, listening more attentively, building bridges? Why don’t we call for casting a smaller shadow or becoming less as in John 3:30: “He must increase; I must decrease”?

Jesus faced his fears down by staying faithful to his mission and his love for the Father. This is the model he offers us.

Woo is distinguished president’s fellow for global development at Purdue University and served as the CEO and president of Catholic Relief Services from 2012 to 2016.

CATHOLIC AGENCIES PREPARED TO HELP IN PUERTO RICO, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Thousands sought shelter in Puerto Rico, as Hurricane Maria, called a “monster storm” by many, hit the Caribbean island just short of a Category 5 storm Sept. 20, with winds of 155 miles per hour.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the hurricane had the potential of being the “most catastrophic hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in a century.”

Via Twitter, Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community, said it had staff in Tortola, in the nearby British Virgin Islands, preparing to help. The Weather Channel said up to 1 million on the island of 3.4 million were without power early Sept. 20.

Even after the storm has passed, some worry about the island’s ability to recover since it already is facing billions in debt from years of financial mismanagement. A disaster modeler for Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia, told Bloomberg news that Maria could cause up to $30 billion in damage to Puerto Rico, a territory of the U. S., as well to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The local Catholic Charities agency in the U.S. Virgin Islands was assisting people who lost their homes during Hurricane Irma, which struck Sept. 6, and others who sought protection from Hurricane Maria.

Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands traditionally operates soup kitchens and shelters for homeless people on St. Croix and St. Thomas, and shelters on the islands were full as Hurricane Maria struck Sept. 19-20.

Writing in a post on the Catholic Charities USA website Sept. 19, Bernetia Akin said that her husband, Mic, former director of Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, had delivered a $50,000 check and $20,000 in gift cards from the Alexandria, Virginia-based church agency.

No immediate reports on the impact of Hurricane Maria on the three main islands of the small territory were available Sept. 20 other than that Akin reported the shelters were full before the storm hit.

In the days following Hurricane Irma’s strike on St. Thomas, Catholic Charities of the Virgin Islands, increased its outreach and soup kitchen service, Akin wrote.

Limited electricity was being supplied by small generators.

“We are serving between 200 and 300 people a day,” the post quoted Andrea Shillingford, the agency’s executive director. The extra demand has placed a strain on the agency, she said, adding that “the only assistance we have received is from the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities USA.”

CRS was preparing to go into the same areas affected by Hurricane Irma in early September once Hurricane Maria’s moved away from the Antilles.

Caroline Brennan, the agency’s emergency communications director, told CNS Sept. 20 that communications with staff and partner agencies in the Caribbean islands had been severed by the latest storm.

The U.S. bishop’s overseas relief and development agency has been working in Antigua, Barbuda, Dominican Republic and Cuba since Irma left homes, churches, schools and businesses in shambles. Brennan said some of the same communities in the Antilles, particularly Dominica, would be in need again.

“The severity of the storms and winds were devastation, especially in areas hit by Hurricane Irma,” Brennan said.

As Maria approached, people still recovering from Irma were again seeking shelter.

“We anticipate most likely to provide shelter support and basic supplies for people out of homes,” Brennan said. “Depending on the devastation, you can anticipate similar devastation for storms like this in a similar backdrop.”

CRS also was working with Netherlands-based Caritas International partners in St. Martin, which continued to recover from Irma’s punch, she added.

On Tortola, British Virgin Islands, Amanda Schweitzer, emergency coordinator for CRS, said that after what the locals saw from Irma, “they are scared” because Hurricane Maria also was expected to hit the island.

“We are just getting prepared, trying to secure buildings that were damaged by Irma and getting supplies. Families are opening homes to neighbors and others whose homes were destroyed,” Schweitzer said in a news release from CRS.

“Right now, everyone is preparing again for Maria, but things here are already bad,” Schweitzer said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in terms of the destruction. It’s complete devastation.”

‘A RELIEF MISSION SENT FROM GOD’

Outgoing CEO of Catholic Relief Services discusses the risks involved in being an aid worker in dangerous parts of the world as she prepares to end her five-year tenure.

https://youtu.be/dW69Xt3O_cE

LEARNING TO ADVOCATE FOR THE VOICELESS

Catholic Relief Services takes college students to Capitol Hill to teach them how to be advocates for those in need and to bring faith into the political and legislative process.

 

NEPAL ONE MONTH LATER

Seldom has an entire nation suffered so much from the effects of a single earthquake as much as Nepal.

The 7.8 magnitude temblor that struck the country on April 25, and the aftershocks that followed—including a second 7.3 magnitude quake on May 12—killed more than 8,600 people and injured more than 19,000. Entire villages were devastated and hundreds of thousands of people were instantly homeless. The most severely affected were those living in poor communities.

More than a month after the quake, many areas in Nepal continue to be scenes of devastation. In some areas, 90 percent of the structures have been destroyed, including hospitals and health centers, leaving many with no access to even the most basic health care. Many structures that were damaged in the first earthquake were flattened by the second. And in a few weeks the monsoon season will begin, making it impossible for people to live outdoors.

In a report titled “Devastated but not Defeated,” Father Prakash Louis, S.J., writing from the capital of Kathmandu, offers a statistical snapshot of the current situation in slowly recovering Nepal:

General Facts

Size of population: 26.7 million (as of 2011)
Major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism
Life expectancy: 67 years (men), 69 years (women)
Main exports: Carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods, grain
Occupations: Agriculture (81 percent), Industry (3 percent), Service (11 percent), Other (5 percent)
U.N. estimate of people living below poverty: 40 percent

Effects of April 25 Earthquake

Dead: More than 8,600
Injured: More than 19,000
Home destroyed: More than 1.6 million
Homes partially damaged: More than 1.4 million
Offices and schools destroyed: More than 10,400
Offices and schools partially damaged: More than 14,200
Value of crops and livestock destroyed: $3.58 billion

Major Challenges

Health care services. Complications during and after childbirth are among the main causes of mortality and disability for women.

Debris management. Required to enable continued search and rescue and humanitarian relief operations. Restoring community infrastructure to deliver public services also is essential.

Transportation and communication. Main roads are open, but landslides have affected relief efforts in some areas. Many villages are without road access at all.

Government. Many local government personnel have not reported for duty.

Key Priority

Shelter. The number of displaced people continues to increase. Most are living next to their damaged houses.

Catholic Relief Efforts

Catholic Relief Services has committed a minimum of $10 million to Nepal and plans to reach 15,000 families (75,000 people) with emergency relief in the next few weeks and continue for years in assisting rebuilding efforts.

To Donate
Go to crs.org.

WHEN SECOND QUAKE HIT, FEAR FILLED THOSE WAITING FOR AID

NAMJUNG, Nepal (CNS) — As the magnitude-7.3 quake hit, screaming and shouting filled the mountain village of Namjung, where approximately 600 people had gathered to collect relief material being distributed by Catholic Relief Services.

When the quake ended May 12, the people were anxiously looking at dust rising from the nearby villages, with the collapse of houses and other buildings.

“We don’t know what is happening. It has become too frequent,” said Bishnu Kapri, a schoolteacher whose cracked house was being used by CRS as a storehouse.

Jennifer Hardy, CRS communications officer who was in Namjung when the quake struck, said she was at a relief distribution site in a mango grove.

“Looked like it was snowing mango tree leaves. Surreal,” she said in a tweet.

She also tweeted: “Heartbreaking to see ppl frantically call loved ones after today’s #earthquake, but have no connection for hours. Emergency comms critical.”

Relief officials said more than 57 people died in the May 12 quake, one of the many temblors that followed a magnitude 7.8-quake that hit April 25 and left more than 8,000 people dead.

Namjung is more than 70 miles from Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, and on the six-hour drive back to the city, people could be seen putting up tents on the roadsides to sleep during the night in the open.

“We are worried,” said Yamen Kayastha, a Catholic with his wife and three children who has taken shelter in the Assumption Catholic Church compound in Kathmandu.

Kayastha, a musician and member of Focolare movement from Nepal, told CNS that he fractured his finger and had to rush to the hospital after he fell down the steps while running out of his flat during the May 12 quake.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in Nepal announced that the May 14-16 visit of apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, had been postponed.

CONNELLY RECOGNIZED WITH CRS’ HIGHEST-LEVEL DESIGNATION

ANAHEIM — Cornelia Connelly School has been selected as a Platinum Level School by Catholic Relief Services in recognition of the school’s high level of commitment to and participation in CRS programs, from fundraising to sending teachers and administrators abroad to observe CRS initiatives at work. Connelly was one of only 14 Platinum Level Schools—CRS’ highest designation—selected for the 2015-16 academic year and the only high school on the West Coast.

To qualify for the Platinum designation, schools must exhibit a strong commitment to the CRS mission through participation in programs such as Operation Rice Bowl and other CRS projects, support and moderate an online forum, organize events with featured speakers and send a teacher or administrator abroad to participate in CRS activities.

Connelly was selected to participate in a CRS pilot program in 2011 and has been increasing its involvement since then.

“This program is meant to help bring the work of Catholic Relief Services to the greater Catholic community and specifically young people,” says Matthew Marshall, a social science teacher at Connelly who traveled to Malawi with Martha Serrano, Connelly’s Assistant Head of School, “to observe firsthand the work of CRS. The complexity and diversity of their programs, from food security and nutrition to village banking and HIV/AIDS support, was inspiring and surprising to me.”

When the pair returned to Connelly, “we began to work with students to help focus their attention on the needs of people not only in Malawi, but around the developing world. The program that we developed revolved around the use of our student-organized clubs on campus, which focused on raising awareness and funds for a cause. The program culminated with a Global Solidarity Week when we held a community walk and celebration with booths led by each club.”

Recently, says Marshall, the school held “our annual All-School Service Day in which every member of our school community joins a service project in our local community. The end result is a program that strengthens our commitment to inspiring young women to be the global leaders of our future.”

The pilot program, says Marshall, ended with the past school year, but “the new Global High School program that it inspired will begin in the 2015/2016 school year. For our role in the formation of this program, Connelly is set to receive a plaque of gratitude by Catholic Relief Services” as well as the Platinum Level School designation for the inaugural year of the new program.

 

CRS’ TEARS AND TRIUMPHS

On a recent visit to a Kurdish area of Iraq where many Yazidi people had settled temporarily after having been driven from their homes by ISIS raiders, Carolyn Woo tried in vain to comfort a Yazidi woman who cried almost constantly. ISIS militants had taken her four children in order to sell them. “There’s no way to really absorb that,” says Woo. “Sometimes all you can do is cry with the people.”

Elsewhere, another Yazidi woman displaced by Islamic State gunmen regarded Woo and the other Catholic Relief Services workers with her and exclaimed, “I don’t even know what Catholic is, but it must mean ‘helper.’”

“That’s who we are,” says Woo, the President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services. “We are helpers.”

Helpers certainly, but hardly mere hand-holders. Catholic Relief Services is one of the largest and most wide-ranging international charitable agencies in the world. Founded in 1943, CRS is the official international relief and development agency of the Catholic community in the United States—5,000 people working in 93 countries and helping nearly 100 million of the world’s poorest people every year.

From African regions suffering ebola virus outbreaks to areas torn by insurrection, war and genocide to scenes of typhoons, earthquakes, droughts, famine, official oppression and grinding poverty, CRS is on the ground with aid both physical and spiritual, striving to carry out its three-word mandate: faith, action and results.

Woo, who has traveled to some of the world’s most unstable and desperate locations representing CRS, paid a recent visit to Orange County and the Christ Cathedral campus to talk about the agency’s unique work—a combination of direct aid, diplomacy, advocacy and evangelization by example.

Currently, for example, CRS is active in Liberia, providing personal protective equipment, helping with contact tracing and food security, setting up community health centers and promoting health education in an effort to help stem the spread of the ebola virus. It is one of the latest efforts that Woo says she hopes will end up in CRS’ success column.

Storm relief efforts in the Philippines is one such example. Nearly one year after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the islands and other parts of Southeast Asia, CRS programs have been instrumental in recovery efforts.

“We’ve done relief work to make sure people have transitional shelters and we’re now working on development to make sure they have livelihood options,” says Woo. Coconut groves, for which much of the population riled on for its agricultural livelihood, were decimated by the winds. CNS volunteers are continuing a program to “engage people now to have livelihood options beyond the coconut trees,” says Woo.

In Haiti, five years after a massive earthquake leveled much of the habitable space in the island nation, “CRS will be inaugurating the hospital called St. Francois de Sales, the very first public structure to go up in Port-au-Prince in the last five years,” says Woo. The medical facility, built in collaboration with the Catholic Health Association of the United States, “will be a teaching hospital, and it will also have a wing for rich people so that we can generate the revenue to support the wing for poor people. It changes the model a little bit.

“We have also done system-wide work with the Catholic education system in Haiti, and we’ve dealt with what we call ‘from mountain to market,’ which is changing agricultural practices in Haiti.”

Such direct aid is not the only type of help CRS provides. When necessary, unique diplomatic efforts can smooth an otherwise bumpy road.

“One of the biggest areas is peace, as always,” says Woo. “We do a lot of interfaith work. Sometimes you can point to short-term success. In central Africa, for example, this spring there were the types of conflict that could morph into religious conflict. We made sure we brought together the bishops, the imams and the pastoral leaders to work together so the conflict was not allowed to become a religious conflict.

“We work through people, so we always have to be very sensitive that the way we do our work does not create more conflict and that it allows the local communities to feel that it is their work. After all, we are guests. We’re not there to direct what the future of that country is, but to facilitate the good that can come out of that country.”

Such wide-ranging work requires a healthy budget and the funding to cover it; CRS has both. Woo estimates that the agency’s annual budget ranges from about $650 million to $950 million and that about 60 to 65 percent of it is covered by funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Another 15 to 20 percent comes from funds allocated by the United Nations and sometimes from the European Union or the British government. Another 15 percent comes from donations to appeals such as the annual CRS Rice Bowl collection and from annual givers and large benefactors.

Beyond funding, however, Woo points to the “C” in CRS as a distinct plus.

“Is our Catholic identity an advantage? I would say, absolutely, yes. Do we run into difficulty sometimes? Yes. But overall, that is our identity and that is how people receive us. Some people cannot even pronounce our name, but they will say ‘Those are the Catholics and they’re from the United States.’ The reason we work in some of these countries…is because they trust us. They have done this over the decades, I think, because we have truly demonstrated that we are there to improve the situation for people, that we don’t have another agenda.

“We believe that the way we evangelize—and we are evangelizers—is by our actions. We evangelize by the way we treat other people. Our evangelizing is not necessarily to preach or to convert but to let them know that we are people of God. And to the extent that we are people of God, this is how we try to behave.”

The work can be wrenching. But, says Woo, “we’re never without hope. We may not understand the world and in the end we only encounter a small part of it in time and place. But this is God’s world. And so whatever we do, we have to remember that this is God’s work and we’re just given a piece of it. Mother Teresa said she was not there to get rid of poverty; she was there to give service, to love and to provide dignity to those she met. We use the same model. The other part of it is that suffering absolutely makes no sense. There is nothing good that can come out of that woman losing her four children. But Christ on the cross is in our suffering. And he’s also on the other side of that suffering in the resurrection.”

Meanwhile, CRS’ efforts in the Middle East continue. Winter is on the way, with its freezing temperatures and snow in some regions, says Woo, so CRS is busy building shelters in places such as Iraq and Gaza for displaced people. There is always work that needs doing.

“I would say that the work that we do is a privilege and we are glad to be doing it in the name of Americans with Americans,” says Woo. “Why is it a privilege? Because I think the poor are entrusted to us by God. He sends them to us. And they are our path to salvation.”