A Catholic campaign worthy of our support


By Barb Arland-Fye

Our diocese’s roots run deep in the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD), the U.S. bishops’ national anti-poverty program, whose future is under discussion at this week’s U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) spring meeting. CCHD, founded in 1969, works to break the cycle of poverty by empowering individuals, families and communities to do something about it. This is a Catholic campaign worthy of our support and, in our diocese, honors the legacy of the late Msgr. Marvin Mottet, who served as executive director of CCHD from 1978-1985.

“For a half-century, grants made possible through the annual CCHD collection have gone to help community organizations working to empower people striving to overcome poverty. Now, the bishops have begun the process of discerning the next 50 years,” the USCCB Public Affairs office said in a May 13 statement announcing the agenda for the June 12-14 meeting.

While CCHD maintained its level of support for people in need — even during the COVID-19 pandemic — donations have declined, the statement said. “Last year, the CCHD started a review to explore ways to renew the mandate and mission of CCHD. The bishops will spend time prayerfully discussing the best way to adapt to the post-pandemic needs and resources, while at the same time continuing a steadfast commitment to helping the poor and disenfranchised emerge from the cycle of poverty.”


 In a new biography of Msgr. Mottet, he reflected on his role leading CCHD. “I got to empower people to work for justice and get at the causes of poverty … I think it was the best job in the United States” (“How to Change the World Two Feet at a Time,” 2024). Even 45 years ago, “people who thought the poor should not be empowered,” led opposition efforts to CCHD, said Msgr. Mottet, who also served as the Davenport Diocese’s first Social Action director. He died in 2016.

According to OSV Catholic news service, “long-running criticisms, both doctrinal and political, made by some with respect to projects funded by the CCHD — have brought the initiative to an inflection point …” (May 17, 2024). However, CCHD-funded organizations “must pledge to pursue only nonpartisan projects in harmony with Catholic understanding of human life and dignity,” said Bishop Timothy Senior, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ subcommittee on CCHD (OSV, Nov. 15, 2023).

Funding for CCHD comes primarily from an annual collection, usually taken up on the World Day of the Poor in November in parishes around the country. Seventy-five percent of the collection goes to the CCHD national office to fund organizations nationwide while 25% stays in each diocese.

In our diocese, CCHD-funded groups “help individuals and families learn to express themselves and to effect change when the homes they rent are unsafe. Support from CCHD helps workers who lack safe working conditions or have not received promised wages. At its core, CCHD helps individuals maintain their God-given human dignity at work and home and, in doing so, supports children and families,” Diocesan Administrator Ken Kuntz said in his letter promoting the annual CCHD collection last November.

Diocesan Social Action Director Kent Ferris said our diocese often receives more funding than it contributes to CCHD. Last year, the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa and Escucha Mi Voz, both in Iowa City, each received national grants in the $50,000 range. The diocese receives additional funding for a CCHD internship.

Escucha Mi Voz (Hear My Voice) is a collective of immigrant-led groups striving to empower working-class, immigrant and refugee communities in Iowa. Among its most recent efforts were prayer vigils and rallies in four Iowa cities to oppose a new Iowa law that creates a state crime for unlawful reentry. 

The Center for Worker Justice (CWJ) focuses on wage theft and worker dignity, safe and affordable housing and migrant justice. The organization led a successful, multi-year effort to establish a community ID in Johnson County and raised $500,000 in pandemic relief funds for families excluded from federal assistance.

Past national and local grants have helped Quad Cities Interfaith (QCI) to address community immigration and housing issues. “CCHD makes a great impact in our work because we are able to use the funds in the areas other grants cannot cover,” said QCI Acting Director Mayra Hernandez, a former CCHD intern.

Father Guillermo Trevino, pastor of St. Joseph parishes in Columbus Junction and West Liberty, received CCHD’s Cardinal Bernardin New Leadership Award in 2022 for empowering lay people to become leaders in the parish and community.

In its 2021-2022 grant cycle, CCHD distributed more than $15.4 million among 224 projects (OSV, Nov. 15, 2023). These funds and the people and communities that benefit from them, demonstrate how we take the Eucharist that nourishes us to express love of God through love of neighbor. Send an email to the USCCB (https://tinyurl.com/2s3rctnd). Tell the bishops that the CCHD is a Catholic campaign worthy of our support.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

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