WASHINGTON – The Catholic Relief Services Collection, an annual fund supporting Catholic Church organizations that carry out international relief efforts, will be taken up in March, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

"With so many global humanitarian disasters and suffering people, it's often difficult to decide how to respond effectively," Bishop James S. Wall, of Gallup, New Mexico, chairman of the USCCB Committee on National Collections, said in a written statement about this year's effort. However, he said thanks to gifts to the Catholic Relief Services Collection, sponsored by the USCCB, Catholics "can address a range of needs worldwide."

"Each gift to this annual collection, which most dioceses will take up this year on March 18-19, helps people everywhere in the name of Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church," he added. "Whenever you give, your offering is multiplied by thousands of fellow Catholics, bringing rescue and relief among the most vulnerable and marginalized people on earth."

Local Effort for National Collection

 “Our local CRS collection is our way of reaching out and walking hand in hand with our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering in ways we, here in the Diocese of Trenton, can only imagine,” said Brenda Rascher, diocesan executive director, Office of Catholic Social Services.

“CRS serves as our hands and feet on the ground to help those in need with not only a handout as may be needed, but also a hand up to get better lives back. While the government does provide a small amount of foreign aid through bills like the Farm Bill that is up for reauthorization this year, that aid does not cover all the needs.  

“That is where the national annual CRS collection taken up in local parishes comes in. Our local CRS collection is an irreplaceable lifeline for CRS to work for us around the world. I truly pray everyone will be as generous as possible,” Rascher said, noting a local CRS Chapter in the Diocese of Trenton “is advocating for the reauthorization of the Farm Bill and asking for increased flexibility in how funds are spent.  

“Funds need to be spent in ways that make sense to the community in need. What one country needs as help is not identical to what another country might need. So we advocate for flexibility because one-size does not fit all.”

Bishop Wall noted also that Catholics can give through the #iGiveCatholicTogether campaign (igivecatholictogether.org) where the USCCB collection is listed.

The fund will provide support for Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency, as well as the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, or CLINIC, the Holy Father's Relief Fund, the USCCB Department of Migration and Refugee Services for refugee resettlement, the USCCB Department of International Justice and Peace, and the USCCB Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church.

Generosity Supports Good Works

"As chairman of the USCCB Committee on National Collections, I see the good works that our Catholic people make possible through this collection," Bishop Wall said. "Their support helps reveal Christ's love to refugees, victims of wars and disasters, and people with unique pastoral needs."

In a 2021 annual report, the USCCB reported more than $13 million in net assets from the fund at the end of that year. The report detailed disbursements of grants to groups aiding migrants around the globe and other efforts to care for the vulnerable.

The fund has previously aided more than 75,000 Afghans who fled Taliban persecution in their homeland to resettle in the United States, peacemaking efforts in Congo and improved conditions in refugee camps in Uganda, Bishop Wall said.

The fund also has provided for an the apostolate of the Catholic Church for the people of the sea, known as “Stella Maris,” part of the USCCB program for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers, which ministers to people who work in seafaring roles without regular access to Mass.

"Stella Maris missionaries at ports on the Gulf Coast brought sacraments and pastoral care, co-sponsored COVID vaccinations and provided Bibles, rosaries and care packages for voyages ahead," Bishop Wall said.

Acknowledging that the "needs are many," Bishop Wall continued, "I ask you to be especially generous this year to bring hope to those who do not know how they will survive, who feel alone and no longer believe that anyone cares about them."

"Please prayerfully consider whether you can increase your giving to this collection this year," he said. "I have shared some examples of the good works that this collection supports. And although you cannot see the recipients, God does, and when you give to this collection you become his instruments of love and mercy."

Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on Twitter @kgscanlon.

Mary Clifford Morrell, contributing editor for The Monitor, Diocese of Trenton, contributed to this article.