Guest Columnist

By A. B. Hill

“Feed people dying of hunger, because if you do not feed them you are killing them.”

Strong words from our Church fathers. They teach that we are bound to come to the aid of the poor and to do so not merely out of our superfluous goods (see Gaudium et Spes, 69).

The downturn in the economy is squeezing the wallets of our friends and family, neighbors and fellow parishioners and our own. Jobs are lost, mortgages are foreclosed, pensions shrink and uncertainty clouds our future; more families find themselves in need of a helping hand.

As our local economy and our own family budgets begin to feel the pinch, how will we, as a community, fulfill the command to meet the needs of those less fortunate?

Pennsylvania’s eight Catholic Charities agencies serve thousands of people. Local parish soup kitchens, food banks, thrift shops, homeless shelters and many other worthwhile projects serve countless others. Through these important ministries, the Church provides material goods like food and clothing, helps people to make ends meet on utility bills or housing, offers emotional support through counseling to cope with stress or substance abuse and meets many other urgent needs. This year, Charities are already reporting a measurable increase in demand for services.

Catholic Charities agencies obtain the means to provide these services from a variety of sources – financial donations, government funding, generous volunteers who provide “in kind” support and other creative ways.

To those of you who are generous with your financial support to your local Charities agency, thank you. Catholic Charities needs your contributions now more than ever. A significant part of an agency’s budget comes from direct financial donations. Your treasure goes a long way to help many people.

(In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, visit

But because times are tough for many right now, increased financial support might not be feasible for every family. A contribution of someone’s time and talent can be just as valuable in alleviating the suffering of others. Volunteering is an outward action of a faithful follower of Christ. Catholic Charities has many opportunities for people to help. Thousands of people volunteer every year with Catholic Charities programs. Thank you to all volunteers, too.

Federal, state and local governments spend hundreds of millions of dollars on programs to help people in need. Catholic Charities’ agencies receive some of these government dollars. Tax dollars provide modest support, but the funding allows Catholic Charities to extend their reach to more people in need.

As taxpayers, we must urge our legislators to remember the needs of the poor in their budget deliberations, as the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference (PCC) does in its advocacy. We must encourage private citizens to give what they can out of their wallets and free time. As a community, we are bound to meet the needs of the “least of our brothers and sisters,” even when times are tough.

“Feed people dying of hunger, because if you do not feed them you are killing them.” Those strong words require strong action. Contributions of time, talent and treasure answer the call. When we feed the hungry, we give them life.

A.B. Hill is Communications Director of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference – the public affairs arm of Pennsylvania’s Catholic bishops and the Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania.