Responding to the call of all Christians to remember and care for the poor, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development will conduct its annual collection the weekend before Thanksgiving, Nov. 20-21, in parishes around the Diocese of Trenton and nationwide.

The need, as with many social service programs, has become more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic, with in-person donations thwarted by restrictions.

“We collected less than half of what we normally do in 2020,” said Brenda Rascher, diocesan executive director of Catholic Social Services and acting director for CCHD. “Financial requests far exceed the amount we can give.”

Known as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ anti-poverty program, the collection will go toward the mission of breaking the cycle of poverty, helping low-income people participate in decisions that affect their lives, families and communities. “CCHD offers a hand up, not a handout,” the USCCB entity advertises on its website.

Of the amount collected, 75 percent is allocated to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops national CCHD office for grants and programs that assist in communities across the country. The remaining 25 percent is used by each diocese to support local anti-poverty projects through grants.

“In 2017 we were able to give six organizations grants, for a total of $33,414,” Rascher explained. “As of Sept. 20 this year, we ended up receiving just $14,849.”

Previous grant recipients in the Diocese of Trenton, for example, have included parish-based St. Vincent de Paul conferences and other diocesan agencies such as Mount Carmel Guild, a Trenton-based outreach agency; the Mercer County CYO, which provides athletic and educational programs for youth of Mercer County, and parish-based food pantries.

“These programs need that money if they’re going to help people to become self-sustaining and get out of poverty,” Rascher stressed. “We can’t help [them] do the significantly important work they’re doing without the encouragement and support of parishioners.”

Founded in 1969, CCHD’s pastoral strategy includes not only empowerment of the poor, but also educating on poverty and its causes. The dual strategy of education and helping the poor speak and act for themselves reflects the principles of Catholic social teaching and the Scriptures.

“We give out 100 percent of the funds we receive,” Rasher said. “It’s not meant to be money for operations, but rather to use to help people lift themselves out of poverty.”

Supported projects include expanding access to affordable housing, promoting access to education, developing worker-owned businesses, and reforming the criminal justice system. The campaign also nurtures solidarity between people living in poverty and their neighbors.

“CCHD does enormously great work because it’s an arm of the Church,” Rascher continued, “and we are the face of the Church: the people.”

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