Lancaster Online published a great article today. Please take a few minutes to read it. The full article can be read on their website at: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/939621_Local-Catholics-confront-poverty.html
By ELIZABETH EISENSTADT-EVANS
January is the month in which American Catholics are asked to pay particular attention to the widespread and damaging effects of poverty — and how to help break the cycle that keeps more than 46 million people living in "Poverty USA, Our Largest State."
But you wouldn't know it by talking to a number of the activists addressing economic disadvantage on the front lines in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg.
"We don't have an opportunity to follow the trends," says Milzy Carrasco, in charge of business development for San Juan Bautista, a Catholic parish in Lancaster's southeast corner.
Whether its January or June, its work among those who may have to choose between eating and paying the rent continues unceasingly.
"To us, poverty in America is not just a month, it's (year-round), every day," says Mark Totaro, executive director of the diocese's Catholic Charities. "We know the causes, we just don't have all the solutions," he adds, saying that the causes of poverty include unemployment, lack of education and teen pregnancy.
Resources provided by the agency in the 15-county area (which includes Lancaster County) covered by the diocese include adoption and foster care services, a home for women battling drug and alcohol addiction, one for unwed mothers, and a homeless shelter for families, among others, he says.
Catholic Charities currently has three programs in the Lancaster area. They include family-based and individual counseling programs, as well as a program for children with behavioral problems for whom a public school setting isn't suitable, Totaro says.
In the city's southeast corner, the vibrant parish of San Juan Bautista has 45 different programs that address the needs of area residents, Carrasco says. They range from a pre-school program (in which 91 percent of the children attending come from low-income families ), a thrift store and food pantry, funds for helping families in need of help with utility bills and resources for seniors, she says.
Nor do they differentiate between those who are and aren't Catholic, she says, noting that the majority of those served aren't parish members.
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