The Diocese of Rochester’s Public Policy Committee is inviting parishes to participate in a two-year educational effort titled “Seeking Justice for Children,” examining ways in which public policies affect low-income children.
The DPPC was slated to meet Aug. 30 at St. Mary’s Church, Canandaigua, to discuss the contents of a brochure that will be distributed to parishes and other diocesan faith communities, according to Marv Mich, director of social policy and research for Rochester’s Catholic Family Center. The brochure will likely suggest the following activities for parishes and their members to undertake, he said.
* Organize for October or November a “Children’s Sabbath” weekend, in which homilies, prayers and liturgical music will focus on children’s concerns, especially those of children in poverty. On a related note, Mich said Catholics are invited to attend a bagel breakfast focusing on the concept of Children’s Sabbaths, which also are being sponsored by a variety of Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and interfaith organizations. For information on the breakfast, which will take place Friday, Sept. 16, at the Jewish Community Federation, 441 East Ave., Rochester, from 7:45 to 9 a.m., call Michelle Yale of the Children’s Agenda at 585/256-2620 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Create an Advent “Giving Tree” that focuses on the children receiving the gifts. Parishes will be asked to think of ways to inform parishioners about the circumstances of families that benefit from the gifts, and possibly arrange meetings between gift givers and recipients. Mich stressed that parishes won’t be asked to violate anyone’s privacy, but rather seek ways to build relationships with recipients that go beyond one-time gifts.
* Volunteer during Lent to help low-income families learn about and sign up for benefits for which they are eligible, including the Earned Income Tax Credit, Food Stamps, Medicaid or New York state’s Child Health Plus health-insurance program.
* Support or volunteer at summer camps for low-income children.
* Help organize welcoming activities for migrant workers and their children in May. Such activities frequently have taken place at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Brockport, which annually hosts the welcoming ceremony Bienvenida for migrant workers arriving in the area.
Mich said the DPPC selected this focus for its efforts because the situation of children living in poverty in the diocese, the nation and across the globe remains just as dire as it was 1991 when the U.S. bishops issued the statement “Putting Children and Families First.” That statement outlined various threats to children’s health and well-being, including poverty, malnutrition, crime and family instability.
“Our nation is failing many of our children,” the bishops wrote. “Our world is a hostile and dangerous place for millions of children.”
In Rochester, Mich noted, 38 percent of children under the age of 12 live in poverty.
“Children can’t fend for themselves,” he said. “They need to depend on the adult community to be their advocates.”
To learn more about “Seeking Justice for Children,” Mich said Catholics should contact the Catholic Charities office in their area. To locate a Catholic Charities office, contact your parish or visit the diocese’s Web site at www.dor.org/charities/locations/locations.htm.