The unofficial summer season gets off to a chilly and breezy start this Memorial Day Weekend after the most challenging, tragic, and tumultuous six months in Jersey Shore history.
Since it became clear in late October that Hurricane Sandy was headed straight for New Jersey, the Diocese of Camden’s Catholic Charities has been tireless in its response to the storm. The work continues steadily today, shifting from relief to recovery.
Statistics provided by Camden’s Catholic Charities are simultaneously sobering and inspiring. It’s heartbreaking to think of so many lives broken. But we are also so proud of the work of Catholic Charities in the face of tragedy. This is what the Church does. This is who we are.
Immediately after the storm, Catholic Charities set up two distribution centers near the shore.
- 136,000 pounds of food and supplies were distributed
- 15,000 individuals were assisted
- 392 volunteers participated
As weeks passed, the response from diocesan parishes and dioceses all over the country was robust:
- Almost $300,000 received in donations from diocesan parishes
- More than $350,000 received from dioceses across the country
- $225,000 spent in assistance
- Over 150 families received financial support
- More than 50 have received case management
The need for recovery work continues. While 31,000 FEMA applications for aid were submitted by residents of the diocese, Catholic Charities estimates 5000 people here will have unmet needs. The storm’s damage to the shore’s robust hospitality industry cost many people jobs — many of whom are undocumented immigrants. (Catholic Charities reports that New Jersey’s proportion of undocumented immigrants in the workforce ranks fifth in the nation.)
Last night, the Diocese of Camden’s Catholic Charities held its 10th annual Justice for All Dinner, a gathering that benefits the dozens of services Catholic Charities provides to those in greatest need.
Here are five takeaways from the evening:
1) South Jersey’s Catholic Community supports the essential work of Catholic Charities. Despite a persistently sluggish economy, over 400 folks came to the dinner, including a particular Super Bowl MVP, and over $100,000 was raised.
2) “There are seven great Catholic Social Teaching principles. If you don’t know them, learn them.” Bishop Sullivan pulled no punches in a short reflection about Catholic Social Teaching. So here is some similar directness: If you want a basic rundown of the CST principles, click here. If you want some great quotes from popes and bishops about CST, broken down by topic, click here. If you’re interested in a treasure trove of online resources exploring CST, click here. If you’d like an attractive image to print and hang on your fridge as a reminder of the principles, try this one:
3) Every person is a neighbor. The title of Bishop Emeritus Joseph Galante’s pastoral letter on immigration, it was also the name of the video presentation show last night honoring Bishop Galante’s legacy of caring for those who are most in need. He was a shepherd who stood with the poor. Read his letter on immigration by clicking here.
4) In many places in the world, the war on religion is not a metaphorical war. Keynote speaker John Allen, Vatican correspondent for CNN and the National Catholic Reporter, said that one of the most pressing challenges facing the church today is the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world. This persecution has led to the deaths of about 100,000 Christians a year for the past 10 years because of their fidelity to the faith. Read more from John Allen about this under-reported scourge here.
5) “Hope is sweaty.” Fr. Joe Messina led a closing prayer punctuated with the refrain “Hope is sweaty,” which he borrowed from Fr. Jeff Putthoff, SJ. The work of service and justice — work rooted in hope — is roll-up-your-sleeves stuff. Benefit dinners are necessary and fun celebrations, but the sweaty work continues today and everyday.