Catholic Relief Services changes lives

By Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) turns 75 this year, and The Christophers would like to express our gratitude for the aid they consistently bring to those in desperate circumstances around the globe. Christ said, “For I was hungry, and you gave Me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me; I was naked, and you clothed Me…” (Matthew 25: 35-36). The work of CRS reminds us all of the missionary spirit Christ calls us to live out in service to those in need.

CRS began in 1943 in response to the refugee crisis of World War II. CRS workers provided food, clothing and housing to those who had been displaced, sometimes leading people on long journeys to new countries and safety. As a child in 1943, Julek Plowy was one of many Polish people rescued from a Siberian death camp. Plowy’s family then joined other refugees in making a long trek south to Persia. When CRS learned of their plight, they led the family on another long journey across the Indian and Pacific Oceans to a CRS community in Mexico.

An EWTN segment celebrating the 75th anniversary of CRS shows an elderly Julek Plowy returning to the CRS community in Mexico, where he and his family relocated many years ago. Plowy drops to his knees at one point, overwhelmed with emotion. Asked to recall his arrival as a boy in Mexico, Plowy says, “We didn’t know what we were facing, didn’t know whether the people would welcome us or it was another internment camp.”

Recalling the ordeal they had already been through, Plowy says, “We saw our friends and neighbors and family die… so you build a hatred within you, not wanting to, but you do that. This provided hope,” he says of the transforming effect of the CRS community.

With his wife by his side, Plowy walks the grounds of his former home, which now serves as a home for at-risk Mexican youth. He recalls running around the grounds of the facility in the same way the young people do today, and it brings to mind for him the many displaced youth of our time from war-torn areas around the globe. Plowy says, “History repeats itself in many different ways for evil reasons, and we don’t learn. So, what can we do to learn? It starts with faith and the love of God.”

Plowy and his family eventually moved to the United States. He attended Catholic schools, became a Marine, and later went on to have a successful career in business. He sees his own experience with CRS as a model for reaching out to others in need.

Bishop Alphonso Miranda, Secretary General of the Mexican Bishops Conference, joins Plowy at one point and reflects on the vital nature of the CRS model in bringing peace and prosperity to the world, saying, “If we don’t think like brothers, countries and humankind won’t succeed.”

CRS continues to change people’s lives through their outreach to those who are suffering around the globe, such as the devastating flooding that recently took place in India. They consistently answer Christ’s call to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and care for the sick. What a profound witness CRS provides of the fruits of the Catholic faith in our time. May they enjoy another 75 years and continue to model for us all what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.

For free copies of the Christopher News Note FINDING YOUR PATH HOME TO GOD, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org.

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