February 12, 2010


Solidarity with Haiti requires a long-term commitment

In his stewardship talks, the late Archbishop Thomas J. Murphy used to praise the generosity of the American people in their response to natural disasters.

Hurricanes, floods and earthquakes bring out the best in us, he would say. They provide occasions for solidarity and unprecedented generosity. They allow us to set aside our selfish preoccupations and to reach out to our sisters and brothers in need.

But then Archbishop Murphy, who served as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ ad hoc committee on stewardship, would point out that the impulsive generosity of the American people in response to disasters is not enough. Long after the immediate crisis has been met, the hunger, homelessness and poverty remain.

As the American bishops write in their pastoral letter, “Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response,” true stewardship is not impulse-giving. It is a way of life that invites, and challenges, us to be grateful for all our gifts, to nurture and develop them, and to share them generously with others.

Christian stewards cannot be content with impulsive generosity. Instead, they must be willing to make sacrificial giving—of their time, talent and financial resources—an integral part of daily Christian living.

If ever we needed a poignant reminder that impulsive giving is not enough, the tragedy in Haiti has brought this truth home in the most dramatic ways possible.

Thank God for the generous giving of Americans in response to the utter devastation and horror of the earthquake in Haiti, the poorest country in our hemisphere.

Thank God for Catholic Relief Services and the many other agencies—religious and secular—that have served as channels for the outpouring of generosity since the earthquake struck with such cruel force.

Thank God for all the gifts—large and small—that have made short-term relief possible for the homeless, the hungry and the infirm all across this desolate land.

But short-term relief is not enough. As important, and welcome, as our immediate, impulsive generosity is, it is not nearly enough.

What the people of Haiti need are neighbors who remain by their side for the many years that it will take to build their country anew. The people of Haiti need solidarity, and the results of a long-term commitment to stewardship as a way of life if they are to sustain the good that has come from short-term disaster relief.

How can we help our neighbors build new communities that can sustain them and help them grow?

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, has written to officials in the Obama administration to urge the development of “a long-term coherent strategy for recovery, development and poverty reduction in Haiti.”

The key elements of such a strategy, Bishop Hubbard says, include debt relief and an expansion of trade, an extension of temporary protected status that has been granted to Haitians living in the United States, and sustained reconstruction and development assistance. According to Bishop Hubbard, how our nation responds in both the near and long term is a test of who we are as a neighbor.

Catholics in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, and throughout our country, have demonstrated their generosity beyond any doubt. Many parishes and other Catholic organizations had already made a stewardship commitment to Haiti long before this recent earthquake.

Now these commitments must continue with even greater intensity. And many new Catholic organizations have said they will make long-term stewardship commitments well-beyond the current crisis.

Solidarity with Haiti requires a long-term commitment. Stewardship as a way of life requires the willingness to share generously both in moments of crisis and in the ordinary times of daily living.

As Archbishop Murphy would say, long after the tremors and aftershocks associated with this particular earthquake have subsided, its effects will be felt. The hunger, homelessness and health care needs will remain.

As a good neighbor, our nation must make a long-term commitment to Haiti. As disciples of Jesus Christ, and the sisters and brothers of the people of Haiti, each one of us must be willing to do our part.

Let’s pray that God who is love will inspire us all to be good neighbors and good stewards—for both the short run and the long haul, in Haiti and wherever our solidarity and our stewardship are needed.

—Daniel Conway

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