"The vision and hearing of all this nation's people can no longer be clouded or dimmed with propositions based on suppositions of what we think would be good for the poor. It is the poor who must be masters of their destinies."
-- Bishop Michael Dempsey
First national Campaign Director, 1970
Awarding of national grant to Olde Huntersville Development Corp, 1993.The year 1969 marked the forging of a new frontier for the nation when American astronauts first set foot on the moon. This event capsulated a decade defined by idealism, disorder, hope and radical shifts in societal structures. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement, the conflict in Vietnam and the Johnson Administration's War on Poverty left many Americans questioning the ways of the country.
It was during this time that the Catholic Church first began feeling the reverberating changes of the Second Vatican Council. A fresh spirit had swept through the Church and the Council's emphasis on national bishops' conferences and shared responsibility between the hierarchy and the laity began to take hold.
"Each time we stand up for an ideal, or act to improve the lot of others, or strike out against injustice, we send forth ripples of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest wall of oppression and resistance."
-- Sen. Robert F. Kennedy
Though the nation had been experiencing the benefits of progress for decades, the prevalence of racism and class division in the United States sparked great turmoil. The urban riots in the late 1960s resulted in a national focus on problems of race and poverty that was mirrored in the U.S. Catholic Church. Various dioceses around the nation began funding and expanding offices for urban ministries and racerelations.
Cardinal John Dearden of Detroit led the archdiocese in becoming a model for the U.S. Catholic Church. Following the Detroit riots, he called for a greater understanding of urban and racial problems, as well as educational programs and innovative and realistic projects that would deal with the problems inflicting the Detroit community.
"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality."
-- Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At this time, Cardinal Dearden was the president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops / U.S. Catholic Conference. Through his leadership and influence in April 1968, the bishops recognized the importance of changing attitudes and societal structures surrounding poverty. In this spirit, bishops became committed to setting up an Urban Task Force which would coordinate all Catholic activities, relating them to those of others working for the common goal of a just society. In the summer of 1968, an announcement was given of a 45 member Urban Task Force to serve as the principle instrument of Catholic involvement in interreligious and civic programs aimed at addressing the crises of race and poverty.
The recommendations of this Task Force lead the Bishops to discuss the need for education of the Catholic community in terms of a more Christ-like attitude toward the poor and minority groups as well as the possibility of establishing a special domestic poverty collection.
In November 14, 1969, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Resolution on Crusade Against Poverty. This resolution would lead to the creation of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, which is now in its 38th year of existence.
"Dempsey had made his mark as a friend to the poor as a pastor in a parish in a run-down neighborhood in Chicago. When he was named pastor, he canvassed the area door-to-door asking what the Church could do for them and their neighborhood. When he was named bishop in 1968, he continued to live in the parish rectory as he ran all the archdiocese's inner-city programs and oversaw a vicariate of 82 parishes."
-- Empowerment & Hope: 25 Years of turning Lives Around,
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Upon the establishment of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the general secretary of NCCB/USCC, Cardinal Bernardin, appointed the first executive director, Robert Beuss and the first national director and spokesperson, Bishop Michael Dempsey.
In July of 1970, Cardinal Dearden wrote to the bishops recapping the Campaign's history and designating November 22, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, as the annual Campaign for Human Development collection date. As means of promoting the Campaign, Dearden also asked the bishops to appoint a director in each diocese to coordinate the local functions of the Campaign.
During this time, USCC staff was asked to prepare a statement for the public on how the money collected would be spent. This statement distinguished the Campaign's funds to be utilized for "self-help and opportunity -- enhancement programs" that would extend through the lines of denominational and ecumenical ties and would "strongly emphasize human enrichment". Meanwhile, grant requirements were being drawn that would determine which groups would qualify for funding by the Campaign for Human Development, emphasizing self-help programs run by the poor.
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development was officially launched in October of 1970 with a press conference in Chicago. Cardinal Dempsey stated that the Campaign would encourage the poor to tell the Church their needs and would provide resources for them to see through with their visions.
Countless individuals gave of their time and energy in promoting the Campaign's first annual collection. When all figures were in, more than $8.4 million had been raised, making it the largest single collection in the U.S. Catholic Church to date!
In its nearly four decade history, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has responded to the needs of those left on the margins by enabling the poor to define their own needs. Through dynamic leadership, innovative education programs and evolving strategies on giving a voice to those most vulnerable, CCHD celebrates a rich and significant history.
During Pope John Paul II's visit to the U.S. in 1979, the Holy Father gave a message to the Campaign.
"This Campaign has been a witness to the Church's living presence in the world among the most needy, and to her commitment to continuing the mission of the Church, who was sent 'to bring glad tidings to the poor, to proclaim liberty to the captives, ... and release to the prisoners' (Luke 4:18-19).
I commend the bishops of the United States for their wisdom and compassion in establishing the Campaign for Human Development ten years ago; and I thank the whole Catholic community for the generous support given to this initiative during all these years.
Nearly 1500 groups and organizations, I have been told, have received Campaign funding. The efforts aimed at establishing self-help projects deserve praise and encouragement, for in this way an effective contribution is made to removing the causes and not merely the evil effects of injustice. The projects assisted by the Campaign have helped to create a more human and just social order, and they enable many people to achieve an increased measure of rightful self-reliance. They remain in the life of the Church a witness to the love and concern of our Lord Jesus Christ.
May God give you strength, courage, and wisdom to continue work for justice. God bless you all."
-- Pope John Paull II
Message to the Campaign for Human Development
Providence of God Church, Chicago, Illinois
The Diocese of Richmond has been blessed to be actively involved in the shaping of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development's history. Since the formation of CCHD in 1970, our diocese has awarded $3,168,400 in grant monies to a total of 119 groups. With a diverse and impacting history, the Diocese of Richmond embraces our future with hope and readiness.
"Most Catholics in Virginia have never met the low income people in their own towns or cities. It has been a real joy to meet dedicated grassroots leaders who work tirelessly to improve the lives of their low income neighbors. CCHD has helped these grassroots organizations to reduce drug trafficking, improve living conditions, build quality affordable homes, and gain access to health care and public transportation."
-- Michael Stone
Richmond Diocesan Director, Office of Justice & Peace