The Catholic Relief Services staffer was describing her young son's unique way of answering a classmate's question about where his mother worked. He told his friend, intending to communicate that she is on staff at CRS's San Salvador office, "She works in God's house."
Such insight from the mouth of a child! The work that CRS does in nearly 100 countries, helping those most in need, is surely God's work. And so, how fitting to call the CRS headquarters "God's office."
I am writing this month's column near the end of a five-day trip to El Salvador. I am here as part of a small delegation of members of the CRS board of directors, on which I sit, and supporters and staff. Our purpose is to observe the work the U.S. bishops' official international relief and development agency is doing to help people break the cycle of crippling poverty through community-based, sustainable development efforts.
El Salvador, a geographically small but population-dense Central American nation, is a beautiful land with even more beautiful people, but also a highly polarized country with deep political divisions between left and right. Its economic growth is very low, and a crisis of violent crime and public insecurity has resulted in wide-ranging consequences.
Our days have been intense, jammed with meetings with local bishops, the apostolic nuncio, the U.S. ambassador to El Salvador and a number of other officials. We celebrated Mass in the hospital chapel where Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated because of his prophetic preaching of the Gospel of justice. Tomorrow we visit a cocoa farm and meet with farmers to learn about an important initiative to strengthen this agricultural program.
Today we spent a very emotional and encouraging morning visiting the Youth Builders project, a CRS USAID-assisted program that works with the most at risk youth, helping them to make new lives with hopeful futures apart from often abusive home situations, poverty and gang violence. Two of the "graduates" of the program described the remarkable ways in which CRS provided vocational and entrepreneurial training, job placement assistance, life skills training and community service opportunities, quite literally giving them new lives.
Whenever I return from these occasional CRS board trips, I realize again how very well CRS, like Catholic Charities in our own diocese - both of which serve others not because they are Catholic but because WE are Catholic - are truly the jewels of the Catholic Church's social mission in the name of Christ.
Pope Francis would be very proud. I surely am.