More people continue to seek help from Catholic Charities

Even though the government says the economy has turned the corner and things are slowly getting better, Catholic Charities agencies nationwide reported more people seeking assistance over the summer.

For instance, agencies saw a growing number of requests for assistance from the working poor (up 81 percent), families (up 71 percent), seniors (up 48 percent) immigrants (up 48 percent) and homeless people (up 45 percent), according to Catholic Charities USA’s Snapshot Survey covering the third quarter of 2010.

“The number of moderate income families continues to increase,” Linda McKamie of Catholic Charities of Corpus Christi, Texas, was quoted as saying in the most recent survey. “A group that in the past was not in need of the type of assistance we provide started to access our pantry and financial assistance — these families report a lost of financial assets due to the loss or lack of employment.”

A big concern facing local agencies is the loss of state funding for poverty programs. With less money coming in under government contracts, programs that provide employment training, child care, pregnancy counseling, emergency shelter to domestic violence victims, housing support, health services and food distribution have implemented significant cutbacks.

Local agencies don’t expect the trend to get better any time soon as many states face large deficits because of a loss in income tax revenues.

The economic challenges have led Catholic Charities agencies to look at ways to trim costs, consolidate services and raise additional money in new ways, all in the hope of continuing to serve as many people as possible, the most recent survey said.

Newspaper gives close-up look at Cardinal Wuerl

Washington Cardinal Wuerl at Vatican (CNS photo)

The Catholic Standard, newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese, provided in-depth coverage of the Nov. 20 consistory where Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl’s and 23 other prelates received their red hats.

The online edition includes stories on the ceremony itself as well as reflections by the new cardinal and reaction of Washington pilgrims in Rome. The print edition of the paper also includes background pieces on the new cardinal, a Pittsburgh native.

Two days before the consistory, Cardinal Wuerl spoke with the Standard’s editor Mark Zimmermann about his upbringing and his father’s example, saying: “My father was probably the most influential person in my life. He was a man of enormous integrity, a very kind but firm man.”

His father, Francis, worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a weighmaster in a marshaling yard.

One memory Cardinal Wuerl cherishes is of a Saturday morning when he was about to run out the door and play ball with his friends and he saw his father, just home from working the night shift, kneeling beside his bed and praying.  “I’ve never forgotten that scene. … That image will come into my mind as I go into my room to say my prayers,” he said.

The Standard also focused on Cardinal Wuerl’s reputation as a teaching bishop, pointing out that he is nationally known for his catechetical and teaching ministry. He co-wrote the best-selling catechism “The Teaching of Christ,” which has been translated into 13 languages, including Chinese.

At the cardinal’s boyhood parish, St. Mary of the Mount in Pittsburgh, a stained-glass window depicts the young Jesus teaching in the temple. Below the window is the inscription, “With gratitude, the Wuerl family.”

This fall, Cardinal Wuerl issued a pastoral letter on the new evangelization that he described as “retelling the story” and helping people to “hear all over again … the good news.”

The cardinal told the Catholic Standard that he sees the church’s new evangelization effort as “the defining pastoral initiative” in his ministry and that as cardinal he looks forward to “having a wider platform, a bigger pulpit, to proclaim the importance” of this work.