July 6, 2012

Faith, Hope and Charity / David Siler

Planning under way for Indiana Catholic Poverty Summit

David SilerPlanning has just begun for an Indiana Catholic Poverty Summit that will be held sometime in the spring of 2013.

Led by the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame, other partners in the initiative include Catholic Charities from four of our five dioceses, Catholic health care, Catholic schools, the Catholic business community, St. Vincent de Paul Society and other social service providers, religious congregations and the Indiana Catholic Conference. The groups will seek to join forces in a focused fashion to significantly reduce poverty in our home state.

Inspired by Catholic Charities USA’s “Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America,” which was launched in 2007 with the goal of reducing poverty in our country by 50 percent by the year 2020, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ PovertyUSA initiative, we propose that the Church in the state of Indiana come together to do our part in achieving this worthwhile and ambitious goal.

We propose to call together the leaders of these various Catholic institutions in the state for a day of visioning for a future Indiana with a significantly declining rate of suffering due to the effects of material poverty.

We believe that the Church is in a unique position to lead the way in eliminating poverty because we have experience serving the poor of every kind, and the moral authority and Gospel mandate to do so.

Catholic Charities and other Catholic social service providers, together with Catholic health care and Catholic schools, stand on a set of values—namely Catholic social teaching—that offer a tremendous framework to lead the way in reducing poverty in our state.

Although these various institutions have their own unique missions, we share this set of values and guiding principles that bind us together.

We do not propose to exclude people from beyond the Catholic community from this work.

However, we see the need to come together as Catholics first to develop our vision into which we will invite others after we become clear about how we will lead. This vision will be deeply grounded in our faith and values.

Catholic institutions have been actively serving the needs of the poor and leading the way in advocating for just social structures for our entire history. We can be proud of the presence and the impact of the Church in Indiana. But could we be even more effective if together we developed a common vision that inspires us through the year 2019?

We believe that this effort is worthwhile because it is a moral outrage that 15.3 percent of Hoosiers are poor—that is 962,775 people—including 21.7 percent of Indiana’s children—342,172 of them!

The way that we measure poverty has not kept pace with economic realities and, by more realistic measures of quality of life, the numbers are much worse. By any standard, this is unacceptable. And we can do much better.

We will endeavor to act boldly. Solutions that only focus on the alleviation of the symptoms of poverty are certainly important, and Catholic institutions will continue to serve those in need, but it is time to take a hard, honest assessment of how we have gotten to this place and to create a pathway for

long-term, sustainable positive change targeted at the root causes of poverty.

I will keep you posted as the summit takes shape and after the vision is launched. In the meantime, if you would like to add your input to the conversation, contact me at dsiler@archindy.org.

(David Siler is the executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at dsiler@archindy.org.)

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