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Catholic leaders caution that federal spending must safeguard common good

Catholic leaders cautioned that federal spending must safeguard the common good after the White House released its fiscal year 2019 spending plan that boosts military spending and cuts human services, environmental protection, diplomacy and international humanitarian assistance while assuring that the budget deficit will grow over the next decade.
The chairmen of two U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' committees joined Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities USA and Jesuit Refugee Service/USA officials in expressing concern that the proposed budget disproportionately cuts programs assisting the poor and elderly, placing human life and dignity in danger.
The White House plan, "Efficient, Effective Accountable: An American Budget," proposes slashing federal spending by billions of dollars on food stamps, federal housing vouchers and health care for the poorest Americans even as defense spending would rise by tens of billions of dollars.
The proposal from the Office of Management and Budget at the White House cuts $17.2 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and more than $1.1 billion from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It eliminates the requirement to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and caps the amount of money states receive for the program. It also widens work requirements to receive federal assistance in some cases.
Others set for elimination include the Community Development Block Grant ($3 billion), Community Services Block Grant ($715 million) and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. ($3.4 billion).
Overall, the proposal eliminates 66 programs for a savings of $26.7 billion. The cuts are in line with President Donald Trump's campaign pledge to reform the federal government and reduce the federal workforce.
The budget proposal also serves to acknowledge that the $1-trillion tax reform law passed in December will spur long-term deficits that will not be offset by projected economic growth.
Reminding Congress that the federal budget is a moral document that sets forth the country's priorities, the USCCB chairmen urged lawmakers to "ensure a budget for our country that honors our obligations that build toward the common good."
"Budget decisions ought to be guided by moral criteria that safeguard human life and dignity, give importance to 'the least of these' and promote the well-being of workers and families who struggle to live in dignity," Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, said in a Feb. 13 statement.
"Our nation must never seek to balance the budget on the backs of the poor at home and abroad," the statement said in calling on Congress and all Americans "to evaluate the administration's budget blueprint in light of its impacts on those most in need."
The White House budget is unlikely to be adopted. Congress adopted a two-year budget plan as part of the latest stopgap spending measure passed early Feb. 9 after a brief government shutdown.
While the measure only funds the government through March 23, it included a broad spending outline covering two fiscal years. It kept social services spending largely intact while giving the president his much-desired increase in funding for the armed forces.
Congress still must write an omnibus spending bill to keep the government in operation through Sept. 30, the end of fiscal year 2018.
Congressional observers believe lawmakers will continue to stay the course and only tweak federal spending especially in an election year when every seat in the House of Representatives and one-third in the Senate are on the November ballot.
Even so, the prospect of having to defend vital human needs funding from cuts in the face of more military spending is troubling to leaders within the social service and humanitarian aid fields.
Bill O'Keefe, vice president for government relations and advocacy for CRS, said that the agency's concerns center primarily on the administration's proposal to reduce funding for international humanitarian aid, especially the elimination of food assistance.
While Congress is expected to write its own budget plan that funds key aid programs, uncertainty remains in what the amount of funding will be, he told Catholic News Service.
"(The agencies) know that Congress is going to reject the budget, but they're hearing from the administration that this is the budget," O'Keefe explained. "The last time we saw that some part of the government acted as if the president's budget was going to be the budget. Other parts of the government acted with knowledge that Congress was going to overturn it. That created uncertainty and inconsistency.
"Helping people in communities requires that when you say the funding is going to be there, then it's going to be there. Relationships depend on trust and trust depends on reliability. This undermines that trust," he said.
O'Keefe expects Congress will fund programs targeted for elimination such as McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Food for Peace "because millions of lives depend on it."
"Fortunately a bipartisan consensus in Congress is well aware that as the richest country in the world we have a responsibility to help the more vulnerable," he added.
Giulia McPherson, interim executive director at Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, told CNS the agency's focus will be with Congress to pass a spending plan that holds the line on international humanitarian funding, which makes up about 1 percent of the federal budget.
Under the administration's budget, the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development would see more than 30 percent of their allocations slashed.
McPherson worries that the Trump budget signals to the world that the U.S. is withdrawing from its long-held leadership role in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and forcibly displaced people.
"The U.S. historically has invested in these kinds of programs and has demonstrated the kind of leadership that brought other countries on board," she said.
Any rollback in funding for international humanitarian and food assistance likely will worsen, not lessen, dangers to U.S. security, she added.
"Without education for example, people would be recruited into other armed groups or would face things like early child marriage or would be on other paths that could lead to broader insecurity. There are clear links in investment and humanitarian programs that would lessen the need for (more spending on) security measures."
Agency representatives such as McPherson, O'Keefe and others know they have a large task ahead with Congress. They told CNS they will press the moral arguments that the church has long made about the importance of protecting the most vulnerable people in the U.S. and abroad.
  • Published in Nation

CRS Rice Bowl

As Pope Francis asks us to “Share the Journey” with migrants and refugees aground the world, Catholic Relief Services’ Rice Bowl offers Catholics in the United States a way to encounter Lent, to encounter the causes of migration and displacement and to learn about the challenges faced by families around the world in their Dioceses, parishes and homes.
CRS Rice Bowl, the agency’s flagship Lenten program now in its fifth decade, will begin once again on Ash Wednesday — Feb. 14 — giving Catholics throughout the country an opportunity to encounter the stories of people in need throughout the world.
“From CRS’ work in more than 100 countries, we know that people do not want to leave their homes, that they do so because they feel they have no other choice,” said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of church engagement. “Lenten sacrifices contributed through CRS Rice Bowl help give them that choice by providing sustenance and livelihoods in communities around the world.”
Begun as an ecumenical effort in the diocese of Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1975, CRS Rice Bowl soon spread across the country as it called on Catholics to perform a simple act of Lenten sacrifice: substitute a low-cost meatless meal for more expensive dining once a week during Lent and put the money saved in a cardboard rice bowl.
That concept remains at the heart of the program even as it has expanded to include broader Lenten faith enrichment through a wide variety of resources available for the millions of Catholics who participate. These include prayer resources, a daily Lenten calendar, weekly stories of hope that introduce families from around the world and recipes from various countries for meatless meals that can be enjoyed on Fridays during Lent.
Funds collected in the rice bowls, which are turned in at the end of Lent, are distributed both throughout the world and in local communities to combat hunger; 75 percent of every donation goes to CRS programming in targeted countries worldwide while 25 percent remains in the Diocese from which the donation came, supporting initiatives that help alleviate poverty.
But the goal is to go beyond collecting money and spur discussions — both in churches and around family dinner tables — about the meaning of Lent and the daily reality that people living in poverty face.
“We see CRS Rice Bowl as much more than a fund-raising opportunity,” said Rosenhauer. “It is an opportunity for Catholics in America to encounter what Lent means, what poverty means, what resilience means, what hope means.”
“We want families to participate together so they can experience the joyous feeling of solidarity that comes from generosity and sacrifice,” she said. “We know from years of experience that CRS Rice Bowl can be life-changing.”
As part of CRS Rice Bowl, speakers from throughout the world will travel across the United States telling their stories of how CRS Rice Bowl-supported programs are changing lives. For Thomas Awiapo, a feeding program in his village in Ghana funded by CRS Rice Bowl brought him as a hungry young orphan to school for food. He stayed for an education, eventually a master’s degree in the United States, returning to Ghana for a career with CRS there. Cassandra Bassainthe, who left Haiti as a young child, will talk about why she returned to her home country to help the poor and vulnerable. Micter Chaola of Malawi and Jacques Kabore of Burkina Faso will share their experiences working in agriculture in their respective countries.
“CRS Rice Bowl does far more than feed people,” said Rosenhauer. “It also helps develop agriculture so that families and communities can support themselves. As we heed the request of Pope Francis and ‘Share the Journey,’ we know that the best way you can help a migrant is to make sure that she doesn’t have to leave home in the first place. That’s what CRS Rice Bowl can help accomplish.”
To learn more about CRS Rice Bowl, go to crsricebowl.org.
  • Published in Nation

CRS presentation at Rice Memorial High School

Jacques Kabore, partnership and capacity building coordinator for Catholic Relief Services Burkina Faso, gave students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington an idea of what life is like in his homeland:
+ Seventy-six percent of households have no food stock on hand.
+ Most people have limited access to safe drinking water, health facilities, schools and sanitation.
+ Only half of households have toilets.
+ Inconsistent and insufficient rains cause crop failures.
+ Women’s literacy is 11 percent in rural areas; 23 percent nationally.
+ 80 percent of the population is engaged in agriculture and livestock production.
“You are in a privileged way, a privileged life,” he told the Catholic high school students Jan. 26. “The world is not everywhere like this” in Vermont.
Rice is one of 11 CRS global high schools, part of a program that provides opportunities for Catholic secondary schools to join with CRS to educate about Catholic social teaching and advocate for solidarity with the global poor.
Kabore shared with the students what life is like in Burkina Faso, one of the four poorest countries in the world. He said people there work hard, yet 46 percent live on less than $1 a day; many carry water for household use from rivers.
CRS is working to help residents of Burkina Faso, and since 1960, 500,000 people have been served in areas like agriculture; water, sanitation and hygiene; nutrition and governance. “Your support [of CRS] is doing something fabulous in the world,” Kabore said, adding that CRS also helps with emergency responses like helping 58,000 refugees from Mali get food and water.
“Jesus tells us to feed and care for our brothers and sisters,” he said, and CRS is a way for “the hand of God from here [to reach] to overseas.”
After the school-wide assembly, students were given the well known cardboard CRS Rice Bowls and asked to make sacrifices of food and specialty drinks during Lent and to contribute the savings to the CRS signature project to help people in need throughout the world.

Kabore spoke at four locations in Vermont as part of the CRS Lenten Speakers Tour, including parishes in Manchester and Bennington and schools in Bennington and South Burlington.
Catholic Relief Services carries out the commitment of the bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas. It is motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice and embody Catholic social and moral teaching while promoting human development by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty and nurturing peaceful and just societies; and by serving Catholics in the United States as they live their faith in solidarity with their brothers and sisters throughout the world.
For more information, visit crs.org.
  • Published in Schools

People of prayer, people of action

When Vermont Catholics are asked to assist persons who have been affected by natural disasters like hurricanes and flooding, they respond with generosity.
Recent collections for victims of Hurricane Harvey raised nearly $212,000; for those reeling in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, Vermont Catholics donated more than 95,000.
Sandy relief efforts here in 2012 raised just under $15,000; Irene fundraising in 2011 was nearly $154,000, which stayed in hard-hit Vermont.
Nearly $400,000 was collected for victims of Hurricane Katrina over the course of one year from September 2005 to October 2006.
Earlier this year Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne requested all 73 parishes throughout the statewide Diocese take up a collection and respond generously to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. Collections continued for natural disasters that followed. 
"Along with all of the other generous people of the state of Vermont, the Catholic community is ready to stand in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters whose lives have been so devastated by these natural disasters. We are not just people of prayer. We are people of action,” he said.
All donations for humanitarian and recovery efforts were distributed by Catholic Charities USA to areas in greatest need.
About $7,500 was collected for this year’s relief efforts at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Williston and Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Richmond, where Father Daniel Jordan is pastor. “People were very generous, especially with the beginning of school” and related expenses at about the same time the collections were taken, he said. “It tends to be a fairly hard time for a lot of people.”
He was gratified that people gave as much as they could to help their neighbors in hard-hit areas. “This is neighbor helping neighbor beyond the borders of a parish or state. ... It is helping our brothers and sisters in Christ, all made in the image and likeness of God,” he said. “Our faith calls us to respond to all those in need. Even though we are a small diocese, the Vermont Catholic community is very generous.”
--Cori Fugere Urban
A Shining Beacon of Hope
A Prayer After a Hurricane
Mary, Star of the Sea,
We ask your intercession for our brothers and sisters,
who have weathered too many storms and
borne too many hardships.
Be near them in their time of trouble.
Comfort all whose homes have been washed away.
Console all who have lost loved ones.
Fill those who wait in fear and uncertainty with your peace.
We pray for a spirit of perseverance,
Especially for those who have emerged from the storm as
caretakers and victims;
Be a shining beacon of hope as they begin the journey of
And stand us firm beside them in solidarity.
We ask this in the name of Jesus, your Son.
--From Catholic Relief Services

— Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan

Share the Journey

A prayer, a share on social media, a voice of support in a letter to the editor — supporting migrants can take many forms. Pope Francis hopes Catholics will act during the next two years to encounter people on the move.
Share the Journey is an initiative of Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies.
It urges Catholics to grow in understanding of migrants who have fled poverty, hunger, violence, persecution and the effects of climate change in their homelands.
In the United States, the Church’s leading organizations have developed a series of activities that families, parishes, schools and individuals can undertake during the Share the Journey campaign the pope opened in September at the Vatican.
U.S. partners in the effort are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.
The effort will give Catholics the opportunity to learn and explore Catholic social teaching, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. operations for CRS.
“Catholic social teaching has clear messages of caring for strangers, the importance of hearing their stories and understanding their needs,” she said. Much of the effort will be focused on sharing stories about migrants, said Kristin Witte, coordinator of domestic Catholic educational engagement at CRS.
“The hope is that through the stories that are presented, the images presented, that people will be moved from their place of comfort to a place of encounter.
That’s what the Church is calling us to. That’s what the pope is calling us to,” she said.
There also is an advocacy component to Share the Journey, Rosenhauer said, giving U.S. Catholics the opportunity to take what they learn about migrants and approach federal policymakers to better allocate international assistance to address the factors that cause people to flee.
On the Share the Journey launch day, Sept. 27, 2017, Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne participated in the #ShareJourney social media campaign, posting a picture with arms outstretched in front of the Bishop Brady Center in South Burlington. The caption read: “Reaching out is the first step in loving neighbors fleeing war, persecution and poverty.”
Later, Elias Bakhash, from Aleppo, Syria, spoke to students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington and to a group at the University of Vermont Catholic Center about his experience as a Syrian refugee.
Michael Hagan, coordinator of religious education and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, encourages persons of all ages to read the stories on the Share the Journey website. “Remembering that these are people created in the image of God, not just names and faces on television, will help convert our hearts and spur us to prayer and action,” he said.
For more information and resources, visit sharejourney.org.
Cori Fugere Urban contributed to this story.
Originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine. 
  • Published in World

Day of Prayer for persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria

The U.S. Catholic Church will focus attention on the plight of persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria with a day of prayer Nov. 26 and a weeklong observance to raise awareness and educate people about their situation.
The effort is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association and Aid to the Church in Need.
A Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians Nov. 26 initiates "Solidarity in Suffering," a Week of Awareness and Education that runs through Dec. 3.
The prayer day falls on the feast of Christ the King, which "is a fitting time to reflect on religious freedom and Christians around the world who are being persecuted in unheard of numbers," said a USCCB announcement.
"To focus attention on the plight of Christians and other minorities is not to ignore the suffering of others," said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president. "Rather by focusing on the most vulnerable members of society, we strengthen the entire fabric of society to protect the rights of all."
He made the comments in his presidential address Nov. 13 during the bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore. He asked the U.S. church to "come together in a special way for a day of prayer for persecuted Christians to express our solidarity with those who are suffering."
The special awareness week "is an opportunity to inform people about the dire situation facing Christians in places like Iraq and Syria where our faith has been present since the time of the Apostles, but could soon disappear," said Knights of Columbus CEO Carl Anderson. "It is a time to pray, and to offer help and crucial hope to those who have lost everything but their faith for their faith."
To help educate Catholics and others about the persecution of Christians, the Knights have organized several events during the week, including a roundtable discussion and talks in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.
The Knights also are sponsoring an evening memorial Mass for victims of Islamic State genocide to be celebrated Nov. 28 by Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil, Iraq, at the St. John Paul II Shrine in Washington. The archbishop, who will be in the United States for the week, also will hold a morning news conference Nov. 28.
On Nov. 30 Archbishop Warda will speak at a conference at the United Nations on "Preserving Pluralism and Diversity in the Nineveh Region," sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Vatican's Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations.
Since IS invaded Northern Iraq in 2014, the vast majority of Christians in that country have resided within the Archdiocese of Erbil, where Archbishop Warda has overseen a massive humanitarian operation to feed, clothe, shelter, educate and care for this displaced community and those of other faiths also in the church's care.
Since the defeat of IS in the Nineveh region of Iraq earlier this year, Archbishop Warda has helped oversee the return of displaced people back to their recently liberated homes.
During the awareness week, Knights of Columbus councils throughout the country will work with their parishes to share information about persecuted Christians and the Knights' efforts on their behalf, including a $2 million initiative to rebuild Karamles, a predominately Christian town in Nineveh that was previously under the control of IS.
A section of the USCCB's website -- www.usccb.org/middle-east-Christians -- has a wide array of resources available to assist parishes, schools and campus ministries related to the Day of Prayer for Persecuted Christians and Week of Awareness and Education.
Resources include homily notes, intercessions, education materials; background on Catholic Churches in the Middle East and on Christians of the Middle East; a video titled "Religious Freedom and Christians in the Middle East": and logos for the observance in English and Spanish.
For social media, the hashtag is #SolidarityInSuffering.
  • Published in World

Share the Journey

A prayer here, a share on social media there, a voice of support in a letter to the editor, even a get-to-know-others potluck.
Supporting refugees and migrants can take many forms, and Pope Francis is hoping Catholics around the world will act over the next two years to encounter people on the move.
In the U.S., the Church's leading organizations have developed a series of activities, including prayers, that families, parishes, schools and individuals can undertake during the Share the Journey campaign the pope is set to open Sept. 27 at the Vatican.
Share the Journey is an initiative of Caritas Internationalis, the global network of Catholic charitable agencies. It is meant to urge Catholics to understand and get to know refugees and migrants who have fled poverty, hunger, violence, persecution and the effects of climate change in their homeland.
In addition to Pope Francis' formal announcement at his weekly general audience, key church representatives, including Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, president of Caritas Internationalis, were to conduct a media conference the same day.
U.S. partners in the effort are the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its Migration and Refugee Services, Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities USA.
The effort will give Catholics the opportunity to learn and explore Catholic social teaching on refugees and migrants, said Joan Rosenhauer, executive vice president of U.S. operations for CRS.
"Catholic social teaching has clear messages of caring for strangers, the importance of hearing their stories and understanding their needs," she said.
Much of the effort will be focused on sharing stories about migrants and refugees, the struggles they face and why they chose to seek a better life elsewhere, said Kristin Witte, coordinator of domestic Catholic educational engagement at CRS, which is the U.S. bishops' overseas relief and development agency.
"The hope is that through the stories that are presented, the images presented, that people will be moved from their place of comfort to a place of encounter. That's what the church is calling us to. That's what the pope is calling us to," she said.
The coalition of Catholic organizations has developed a toolkit in English and Spanish that includes prayers, suggestions for activities for families, prayer groups, classrooms and clergy, and utilizing social media with references to #sharejourney.
"We're giving people clear direct ideas, not just in their neighborhood but to mobilize communities. To create an environment or an opportunity for action is critical especially at this time," Witte said.
Mark Priceman, communications for the bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that about 22 million people are on the move around the world, making the Christian community's awareness and response to their situation critical.
The number of refugees to be admitted to the U.S. was capped at 50,000 by President Donald Trump for fiscal year 2017, which was to end Sept. 30. It is less than half of the ceiling of 110,000 set by President Barack Obama. A presidential determination on the number of refugees to be accepted for fiscal year 2018 was due by Sept. 30.
Since 1996, the number of refugees admitted has fluctuated between 70,000 and 90,000 annually. The number of refugees to be accepted each year is determined by the president under the Refugee Act, which was signed into law in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. The act amended earlier law, created a permanent and systematic procedure to admit refugees, and established a process for reviewing and adjusting the refugee ceiling to meet emergencies.
Share the Journey looks to mobilize people quickly. Soon after the opening, the campaign is calling for a week of prayer and action for migrants and refugees Oct. 7-13.
Special prayers at Masses, prayer vigils, simulation exercises, school announcements, lesson plans and speaking events are among the activities suggested as ways to learn about people on the move.
Similar activities will be taking place worldwide throughout the campaign, Rosenhauer said.
"It is a reflection of the Holy Father's leadership, but it's also a reflection of the commitment of leaders around the church around the world," she explained.
Nearly three dozen cardinals, archbishops and bishops as of Sept. 25 have pledged to participate in the campaign, according to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Archbishop Thomas G. Wenski of Miami addressed the concepts of the Share the Journey campaign in an op-ed column Aug. 28 in the Sun Sentinel in Broward County, Fla.
"'Share the Journey' invites us to see through the eyes of others rather than turning a blind eye," he wrote. "As Pope Francis says, 'Not just to see but to look. Not just to hear but to listen. Not just to meet and pass by but to stop. And don't just say, 'What a shame, poor people,' but to allow ourselves to be moved by pity.'"
The campaign will take advantage of specially designated days throughout the year to raise awareness, including the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe Dec. 12; Lent; the church's observance of National Migration Week in January; World Refugee Day June 20 and the September 2018 United Nations meeting to consider two global compacts on refugees and migration.
There also is an advocacy component to Share the Journey, Rosenhauer said, giving U.S. Catholics the opportunity to take what they learn about migrants and refugees and approach federal policymakers to better allocate international assistance to address the factors that cause people to flee.
Together with Catholics worldwide, the U.S. organizers said they hope the campaign will begin to ease the burdens under which migrants and refugees live.
"We're mobilizing the worldwide Catholic Church to serve," Witte said. "There are so many networks that the Catholic Church already has that we can infuse an opportunity allow them to live their baptismal call and to stand up for the most vulnerable."
  • Published in World

Dr. Carolyn Woo to speak at diocesan conference

A former head of Catholic Relief Services will be in Vermont to speak at the “Action for Ecological Justice: Celebrating a Year of Creation” conference at St. Michael's College on Sept. 30 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The conference will be the main event of the Diocese of Burlington’s Year of Creation, a yearlong, statewide, intentional focus on embracing the message of Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical letter, “Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home.”
Dr. Carolyn Woo, who from 2012-2016 was president and CEO of CRS, the U.S. Catholic Church's official, international humanitarian and development aid agency, will present a personal look at the encyclical she helped Pope Francis present in Rome, at environmental degradation and its effect on the poor and at measures to minimize further environmental harm from carbon emissions and remediate damage already done.
With perspectives from scientists, politicians, activists, economists, professionals, academics and people of various faiths, the conference will offer the opportunity for dynamic conversations about the state of creation and how people can work together for a sustainable future.
CRS staff “works face to face every day with the effects of climate warming,” Woo said. These include working with farmers whose livelihood is negatively impacted by erratic rainfall, which causes problems like drought on one extreme and soil erosion from deluges of rain on the other.
Catholic Relief Services was founded in 1943 by the Catholic bishops of the United States to serve World War II survivors in Europe. Since then, it has expanded to reach more than 100 million people in over 100 countries on five continents.
Its mission is to assist impoverished and disadvantaged people overseas, working in the spirit of Catholic social teaching to promote the sacredness of human life and the dignity of the human person. With that mission rooted in the Catholic faith, CRS operations serve people based solely on need, regardless of their race, religion or ethnicity. In the United States, CRS engages Catholics to live their faith in solidarity with the poor and suffering people of the world.
Before working for CRS, Woo served from 1997 to 2011 as dean of the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. During her tenure, the Mendoza College was recognized frequently as the nation’s leading business school in ethics education and research. It received and has retained top ranking from Bloomberg BusinessWeek since 2010 for its undergraduate business program.
Prior to the University of Notre Dame, Woo served as associate executive vice president for academic affairs at Purdue University.
She was one of five presenters in Rome at the release of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment in 2015.
Her faith journey and work at CRS are recounted in her book, “Working for a Better World,” published in 2015 by Our Sunday Visitor.
Representing CRS, Woo was featured in the May/June 2013 issue of Foreign Policy as one of the 500 most powerful people on the planet and one of only 33 in the category of “a force for good.” Her Catholic News Service monthly column took first place in the 2013 Catholic Press Association Awards in the category of Best Regular Column—Spiritual Life.
Woo was born and raised in Hong Kong and immigrated to the United States to attend Purdue University where she received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees.
She is married to Dr. David E. Bartkus; they have two sons. Her parish is the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.
The Vermont event at which she will be the keynote speaker is hosted by the Catholic Church in Vermont. Sponsors for the event include Catholic Relief Services; Oregon Catholic Press; St. Michael's College; the Sisters of Mercy; Catholic Climate Covenant; United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Department of Peace, Justice and Human Development; Courtyard Burlington Harbor Hotel; Keurig Green Mountain Coffee; Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity and Green Mountain Monastery.
The conference at St. Michael’s College will be open to people of all faiths.
General registration is $35 per person and includes morning pastries, lunch and afternoon breakout sessions. Students can register for free.
For more information, call Stephanie Clary at 802-846-5822.

Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan
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