Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem., professed solemn vows to the Community of St. Norbert Abbey in 1991. For several years, he headed the justice and peace ministry of St. Norbert Abbey and presently serves as Manager of Mission and Ministry, Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria, VA. His current ministry connects him to national Catholic issues and Church ministers throughout the country.
DISCLAIMER: This blog represents Br. Herro's own opinions and experiences. It does not represent an official position or opinion of neither of the organizations, St. Norbert Abbey nor Catholic Charities USA, nor of any of the organizations' members.
January 14, 2012
Entry #1: "We're 27! We're 27!"
by Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simonand those who were with him pursued him and on finding him said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ He told them, ‘Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.’ So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” Mk 1: 35-39.
Our Catholic Charities USA staff was gathered for Mass, and, as is his custom, our President and CEO, Fr. Larry Snyder, invited our comments after his homily. Fr. Larry reminded us that less than one week after the close of the Christmas season, and three days after Epiphany, Mark introduced us to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He reminded us that Jesus was portrayed as an energetic, all-inclusive minister in this Gospel. Ironically, I had just finished a phone conference with the Leadership Team of our Parish Social Ministry Professional Interest Section, in which I had made a strong appeal for us to invite a co-author of a recent survey of U.S. Catholics to present at our upcoming Leadership Team meeting. We were also sharing liturgy in the midst of the primary campaign for the U.S. Presidency.
As Jesus devoted his energy to “preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee,” I asked during Mass, “What is the particular contribution that our Catholic Charities staff can offer at this time? What is the particular contribution that people of faith can offer to the 2012 campaign?”
By January 2012, the economic indicators had produced mixed signals. According to the United States Department of Labor:
“…state personal income growth slowed to 0.1 percent, on average, in the third quarter of 2011, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis… Personal income fell or was unchanged in twenty states and grew 0.2 percent in the other thirty. Inflation, as measured by the national price index for personal consumption expenditures, decreased to 0.6 percent in the third quarter from 0.8 percent in the second quarter of 2011.”
Depending on whether you are a political incumbent or a challenger, you will spin these indicators to promote your own candidacy. Since 2010 national poverty figures were announced in September 2011, I have waited for our 2012 candidates to address the state of national poverty in the United States. Some of the bare facts from the 2010 U.S. census (see "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States, 2010").
- Real median household income in the United States in 2010 was $49,445, a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.
- The nation's official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 –the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate.
- There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 –the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published.
- The number of people without health insurance coverage rose from 49.0 million in 2009 to 49.9 million in 2010, while the percentage without coverage − 16.3 percent – was not statistically different from the rate in 2009.
And Patrick McCarthy, President and CEO of the Anne E. Casey Foundation, challenged our audience on January 17, 2012, when he noted that 50 percent of all U.S. children have at least one risk factor that can stunt their development and inhibit their ability to compete in the world market; that our country has experienced a 30 percent increase in childhood poverty since 2000; and that 22 percent of all U.S. children are now living in poverty.
To top it all off, truthout.org noted that the U.S. ranks 27th of 31 countries in the developed world in a social justice ranking that combines a country’s record on health care, income inequality, pre-school education and child poverty in a single aggregate score. (As I commented to a friend in Washington, D.C., now I know what a Minnesota Viking fan feels like: "We're 27!")
McLaughlin and Associates’ January 2012 survey report, “Poverty, the Media, and Election 2012: What do Voters Think?”, verified that U.S. voters do care about the scourge of poverty in our country today. Their Fall 2011 poll demonstrated that 88 percent of all Americans believe that a candidate’s position on poverty is important and that 49 percent of all Americans disagreed that they have “heard” enough from candidates about poverty.
So, how do we help move the discussion by the candidates and the media from candidates’ marital relationships, tax returns, and religion of birth to the scourge of U.S. poverty? Will our preachers follow Archbishop and President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Timothy Dolan’s call to action to address poverty from U.S. pulpits (see "Archbishop Dolan Asks Nation’s Clergy to Preach on Poverty, Educate, and Advocate for Poor and Jobless")? Will each and every one of us embrace the challenge of Washington, D.C., television anchor Maureen Bunyan and demand of our print and broadcast media that they step up to the plate and honestly report the grim, yet human, dimension of poverty facing our country’s people today?
This is my take. What is yours? Contact Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.