Archdiocese of Chicago

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Catholic Relief Services: New Hope for Ethopia

By Fr. Kevin J. Feeney

"For I was hungry, you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me..."

A group of eight seminarians from Mundelein Seminary, two priests from the east coast, Fr. Joe and Fr. Manny, and myself journeyed to Ethiopia last month to witness the Gospel in action, C.R.S. style, in Ethiopia. This "mission trip" is part of the seminary pre-theology field education program, the focus of which is service of the poor. Our mission was simple: to witness by means of our presence to the care of the Church for the poor while witnessing the work of C.R.S. and their partners in Ethiopia.

After some pre-trip reading and discussion here at the seminary, focusing mainly on the Church’s social teaching, we spent a couple of days in Baltimore (C.R.S headquarters) to prepare with the help of various presenters for our experience.

We eventually arrived in Ethiopia, an ancient and proud country – the cradle of civilization - which faces many challenges: Life expectancy of 52 years; 35.9% Adult Literacy; 22% have no regular access to potable water; 23% live on a dollar a day.

The scarcity of water is particularly troubling in a country that depends so heavily on agriculture. Rains have become less dependable, droughts longer and deeper in the past few decades in Ethiopia. I had read somewhere that the average Ethiopian daily uses the amount of water that we in the U.S. use to brush our teeth each day. When we saw the vast stretches of dry land, all of us began to re-think how we would use the precious gift of water when we returned home. We had the opportunity to visit a number of the impressive water management projects which have transformed some of this parched land into brilliant green terrain. Catholic Relief Services is providing funds and technical assistance for these projects. It was a delight to hear the beneficiaries speak of how their lives had changed and to see the crops that are growing in areas that had been desolate not long ago.

This is the second such mission trip that I have taken with C.R.S. (last year it was to Ghana and Burkina Faso), and I have an even deeper respect for the agency’s work to provide food water and promoting development and peace in Ethiopia and in over 100 countries throughout the world. C.R.S supports the work of the Missionaries of Charity with funds and food as that impressive group serves the poorest of the poor in Ethiopia. All of us who participated in the mission trip came home changed by the experience; we will live with a greater sense of responsibility and connection to the world’s poor. Join us in supporting the work of Catholic Relief Services.


Friday, March 26, 2010 2:37 PM


A Blessed Holy Week to you as well. Thank you for your message. In addition to making changes in our use of water, and talking to to friends, famil and colleagues about the same, the best advice I can give to help folks overseas is to support Catholic Relief Services. 93-94% of your donated dollar goes directly to benefit the people in need.CRS's involvement in water and sanitation projects include the following: water for domestic use - human consumption, bathing and washing; water for productive use - small scale irrigation and water points for animals; and ecological sanitation. Visit the CRS website for more information. Thanks again!

Fr. Kevin J. Feeney

Thursday, March 25, 2010 2:23 PM

Hi Father! I often think of our brothers and sisters in the Lord who live in all parts of Africa who do not have access to fresh, potable water... and conversely, how we, on the other side of the vast Atlantic Ocean, waste water like no one's business. When we sit down in a restaurant, the first thing we're given is water, and often the glasses stay full the whole time. When I was in Australia many years ago, I was told that I wouldn't be seeing "free" glasses of water everywhere because of their on-going drought status.. Just meditate this Lent on the fact that for the people of Africa fresh drinking water is indeed a blessing. These people are grateful to God to be able to consume what they can get, and here we are being told to be sure to get our 8-10 glasses in a day...Water is a multi-billion dollar business here in the US... It might serve us well to reflect upon this in our hearts the next time we automatically reach for that ubiquitous plastic bottle!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks Father Feeney. Please tell us how we can best assist in seeing that our brothers and sisters get clean water! A Blessed Holy Week!

Carol B.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 6:29 AM

Thanks for your comment, Nancy. I'm open to suggestions as well. I thnk that the issue of water scarcity may continue to grow in many places in the world. I think the first thing is the awareness of the issue which can contribute to a sense of solidarity. Awareness can lead to prayer. Thank God for water; pray for the people of Ethopia. Then examine current uses of water: take shorter showers, don't run the tap more than necessary. Catch rain water in barrel for outdoor use. Support CRS with prayer and monetary support.

Fr. Kevin J. Feeney

Monday, March 22, 2010 4:51 PM


I was one of the seminarians who participated in the Catholic Relief Services immersion trip to Ethiopia with Fr. Feeney.

You are very right, the average American ought to conserve water - and yet the 'how' depends largely on one's own pattern of use. Our access to clean water ought not be taken for granted.

As Fr. Feeney says, by supporting Catholic Relief Services, you can help provide resources, financial and technical support to relief and development projects in Ethiopia and 99 other countries around the world. The CRS website offers a wealth of information - and there are tons of exciting domestic programs through which people here at home can learn more and take action!

Desmond D.

Monday, March 22, 2010 11:51 AM

Fr. Kevin
I heard that tdoay was World Water Day...your blog fits in perfectly. How will your experience in Ethiopia change how you use water at home. What can the average American do to conserve water? Any suggestions on how we can help the people of Ethiopia without leaving the U.S.?

Nancy P.