Longtime Bucks County resident, Larry Blankemeyer, was selected as one of over 120 supporters from 27 states to attend the first-ever Catholic Relief Services (CRS) National Gathering June 27-30 in Washington, D.C. As part of this delegation, he visited the offices of senators and congresspeople to advocate for lifesaving, humanitarian foreign aid.

The National Gathering is part of CRS’ efforts to mobilize U.S. supporters to further assist in its mission of eradicating poverty and injustice in more than 100 countries.

Blankemeyer, a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Richboro for over 30 years, says the main focus of the multi-day event was prayer, reflection, and education.  He also had the opportunity to meet with staffers from the offices of Senator John Fetterman, Senator Bob Casey Jr., and Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick on June 29.

Larry Blankemeyer, St.Vincent DePaul, Richboro PA CRS Chapter. (Courtesy Photo)

“We spent the day in meetings talking about the needs of those living in poverty and hunger around the world, and what we as nation can do to alleviate some of their suffering,” he said. “We talked about humanitarian aid and opposing any cuts to that aid because it’s so sorely needed, he added.”

Foreign aid currently accounts for less than 1% of the federal budget.

Blankemeyer attended St. Anastasia school in Newtown Square and graduated from Cardinal O’Hara High School in 1974. He says he received “great inspiration from the I.H.M. Sisters” (Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary) throughout his Catholic education.  He also has four I.H.M. Sisters in his family tree –  two on each side of his family.

As a parishioner at St. Vincent de Paul, Blankemeyer participated in the parish’s CCD program by serving as a catechist for some 20 years. He taught lessons that give us a model for how we should treat others and reinforced what he learned as a Catholic school student, especially the message of “thinking of others before ourselves,” he said.

Blankemeyer also credits his former pastor of 28 years at St. Vincent de Paul, Father Joseph McLaughlin, as being “a positive influence” on his faith journey and encouraging him to help those in need through direct involvement.

He remembers Father McLaughlin as a faculty member during his time at  O’Hara. “Father McLaughlin inspired a lot of people in our parish to live out their faith, and demonstrate their faith by serving others.” Blankemeyer also cited the many parish activities and ministries that Father McLaughlin supported.

These parish-based experiences led Blankemeyer to become involved with CRS, first as a parish ambassador in 2015. In 2019 his parish became one of the first in the United States to form a CRS chapter, of which Blankemeyer is a proud member.

His CRS chapter coordinates Operation Rice Bowl at the parish, and, along with Rise Against Hunger, conducts meal packing events with over 100 volunteers to send over 10,000 meals to West Africa and other countries in dire need.

“There is a desire out there that we have as a Christian community to do something. I think Catholic Relief Services does a really good job of giving opportunities to do that,” he said.

Involvement with his CRS chapter provided Blankemeyer with the opportunity to attend the National Gathering and visit Washington, D.C. last month.

“We talked about our domestic budget, including the Farm Bill, which contains programs that help those living in poverty around the world, as well as benefitting American farmers, whose products go into fulfilling those nutritional needs,” Blankemeyer said. “We expressed our desire to see that funding optimized, so that it’s used to benefit those people and those communities,” he added.

Blankemeyer invites those who are interested in getting involved and helping our neighbors in need to consider joining in these critical efforts.

“I’m very excited by the work of CRS, and I invite anybody who’s interested in raising their voices for people in need to go to www.crs.org,” Blankemeyer says.  “It’s a great opportunity.”