It’s hard for children growing up these days. The innocence which should be theirs to enjoy as long as possible is increasingly encroached upon by our violent culture. In news broadcasts dominated by reports of crime and violence, children are often the victims.

The special report in this week’s Catholic Standard & Times presents five stories examining the impact of violence upon on children. Too often, we see news accounts of kids beating or shooting other kids, innocent children caught in the crossfire of dangerous urban environments, or teens struggling with adolescence who turn to harming themselves.

Our reports reveal how the Catholic Church, partnering with community groups and utilizing a variety of resources, is unwilling to permit this reality to go unaddressed. There is hope for children because there is help for them.

The children themselves talk about how Church resources are a lifeline for their families. If it weren’t for Catholic Social Services and Catholic education, many thousands of children would have less hope for the future than they deserve.

According to the new annual report of CSS, in 2008 6,369 children received help in Youth Services programs and 7,063 in Juvenile Justice Services. Meanwhile, 141,000 people found aid in a variety of services through CSS’ community-based programs, primarily its regional Family Service Centers.

Since CSS is supported in large measure by the Catholic Charities Appeal, your generous donations directly supports the programs that do so much to help at-risk children.

At the same time, Catholic education is providing a solid education and a daily reminder of God’s presence with his young and vulnerable people. The Secretariat for Catholic Education reports that of the 59,607 students enrolled in parish elementary schools last year, 13 percent were not Catholic, including a remarkable 45 percent in Philadelphia-South. This means that the Church is serving not only its own members but also the wider society.

Parents are expending enormous efforts to enroll their children in Catholic school, as is the Church, by accommodating them and providing them with a values-based education.

Catholic education and social services, including those provided by parishes, continue to make contributions to society that are incalculable.

Just ask the young recipients how they value these treasured institutions passed down by our Catholic forebears. They are likely to say that their education and the services they received may very well have saved their lives. These contributions of the Church need the continued support of her members not only for the benefit of the wider society but especially for those most in need, our children.