Catholic Charities USA’s annual gathering will keep poverty in forefront

Poverty grew in the U.S. in 2007, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics as reported in our story last month.

The data show that 12.5 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2007. That’s a slight increase from 2006. Since 2002, the poverty rate has been virtually unchanged, fluctuating between 12.1 percent and 12.7 percent.

Those percentages translate into one in eight Americans living in poverty.

Some interesting stats from the most recent government poverty report show:

— A family of four with an income of $21,203 or less is considered to be poor.

— 10.9 percent of people in poverty held full-time jobs all year.

— 58.9 percent of children living in female-headed households lived in poverty.

The difficulties posed by poverty in a land of plenty is being held up as a major election campaign issue by an interdenominational group of religious leaders and organizations, including Catholic Charities USA. In addition, the agency has called for cutting poverty in half by 2020 through its Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America.

It’s no small task. Still, Precious Blood Father Clarence Williams, director for racial equality and diversity at Catholic Charities USA, told us last week that such work is a requirement of the Catholic faith.

“In ‘Faithful Citizenship’ we’re called to find our voice. If we speak up, (elected officials) will listen because our voice has influence,” he said.

When Catholic Charities USA convenes for its national gathering in New Orleans Sept. 25-28, workshops and programs will look at ways to better support people in poverty and to help them rise into the middle class.

“Jesus’ life speaks to poverty and marginalization,” Father Williams said. “Whether in housing or the justice system, Jesus’ life was about being a witness in the depths of society where we find the poor, the aged, the dispossessed.”

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