Our parish is a member of Bread for the World, a national Christian advocacy movement working to end hunger, both here in the US and around the world. Each year Bread for the World focuses on particular issues related to hunger and urges public officials--primarily members of Congress-- to take appropriate action. St Francis and many other churches around our nation--including several in Holland--join this effort by conducting an annual Offering of Letters (letter-writing campaign). At St. Francis we'll conduct our 2018 Offering of Letters on May 19/20.
The theme of the 2018 Offering of Letters is For Such a Time as This, an expression taken from the Old Testament book of Esther. The story of Esther provides us with a challenging example of courageous advocacy for people under threat. The Persian king had ordered the killing of the Jewish people, and Queen Esther's cousin Mordecai urged her to approach the king on behalf of her people, at great personal risk. Mordecai reasoned that it was "for such a time as this" that God had intervened in history to allow Esther to rise to her privileged position.
What about us? We live in a democracy and have the right to communicate to our elected officials on behalf of our brothers and sisters. Perhaps now more than ever, we have a responsibility to exercise that right.
Every day, millions of people in the United States and around the world feed and support their families through lifesaving programs that we Americans fund through our federal government. Our investments have contributed to tremendous progress toward ending hunger. Globally, hunger has been cut in half over the past 25 years, though violent conflicts have recently reversed some of that progress.
Here in the United States, 1 in 8 Americans lives with the risk of hunger. Many of our nation’s hungry are children or senior citizens. Locally, the problem of food insecurity is worsened by a shortage of affordable housing.
Our parish’s support of the St. Vincent Center and Kids’ Food Basket provides valuable help to our neighbors, but these efforts only supplement the far more comprehensive help provided by federal programs such as SNAP (food stamps) and school lunches. Similarly, though our support of the Catholic Relief Services Collection is a valuable means of reaching needy people in other nations, these faith-based efforts are no replacement for our nation’s international aid.
Despite the importance of our nation’s programs for hungry people, the administration and many members of Congress are calling for deep cuts in both domestic assistance programs and poverty-focused international aid.
Similar cuts were proposed last year, but we need not despair. Bread for the World President David Beckmann assures us:
“As part of the 2017 Offering of Letters, Bread for the World members led the way in preventing cuts to crucial programs. This year, we have a real chance to get our nation and the world on track to end hunger.”
Letters will be available to sign after the Masses of May 19/20. However, consider also writing your own personal letter, since they are more effective than form letters. Or, as a compromise, you could simply add a personal note to the form letter you sign on May 19/20.
Last year, we collected about 200 letters for Senator Stabenow, Senator Peters, and Representatives Huizenga and Upton combined (total 600 letters). Together with other area churches we generated 50 letters to Rep. Upton and more than 560 letters to Rep. Huizenga.
The letters for our 2018 Offering at St. Francis are shown below.
Letter to Represenative Bill Huizenga (District 02, which includes all of Ottawa County and a small portion of Allegan County)
Letter to Representative Fred Upton (District 06, which includes most of Allegan County)
You can learn more about Bread for the World and the Holland Bread Team by viewing their websites, bread.org and hollandbreadteam.org, respectively. Also, the facebook pages, facebook.com/breadfortheworld and facebook.com/hollandbreadteam, provide updates and allow you to post your own news and commentary.