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Turn to Jesus (Article)

An Integral Response to Poverty
How Catholic World Mission is helping break the cycle of poverty in developing countries around the globe.

Catholic World Mission
People of Myanmar waiting in line for drinking water after Cyclone Nargis.

May 29, 2008. When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, it left a death toll of some 100,000 in its wake, not to mention a shattered infrastructure and a rising tide of sick, starving, and homeless people in need of the basic elements of daily survival.

Catholic World Mission immediately responded with an outreach effort partnered with Caritas Internationalis, the Catholic Church’s network of charitable and development organizations, and began working with the Missionaries of the Poor to provide food and medicine shipments.

Yet, the outreach to Myanmar is only one of dozens of projects supported by Catholic World Mission, the fundraising arm for the Legion of Christ’s charitable and development organizations. CWM’s broader goal is to transform lives by breaking the vicious cycles that often keep entire communities locked in poverty. It works toward this goal with a strategic approach to a triple problem.

The Three Faces of Poverty

One of the main insights that CWM brings to bear on its mission is the recognition that there is more to poverty than physical need. Poverty has at least three faces—it is not only physical, but also intellectual and spiritual.

To help alleviate physical poverty, CWM provides disaster relief and medical care, and helps
Catholic World Mission
The aftermath of Hurricane Dean.
create physical infrastructures for destroyed or underdeveloped communities. After Hurricane Dean swept the Yucatan Peninsula in 2007, CWM sent a total of $30,000 for relief and reconstruction.

After massive flooding in Tabasco, Mexico, CWM donated over $100,000 to help dispatch Telemedical care units throughout the city to provide on the spot emergency medical care to those in need.  (An article on the Tabasco relief project can be read at this link.)

And finally, CWM sponsors HELPING HANDS Medical Missions, which has sent medical missionaries on a total of 69 missions, serving over 105,000 patients worldwide. (A chronicle of a recent HELPING HAND medical mission to Ghana can be read here.)

To respond to intellectual poverty, CWN funds the highly successful Mano Amiga (Helping Hand) schools, which provide a top-quality education to the poorest children, enabling them to break the glass ceiling in societies where education is the only way out of poverty. There are currently 30 Mano Amiga schools worldwide serving 17,100 children and over 5,000 poor families. Plans are underway to build new schools in the slums of El Laurel, Mexico and in Guatemala, as well as significant expansions in Brazil.

And finally, to meet the spiritual needs of the people, CWM sponsors the Full-time Evangelizers program, which multiplies the evangelization efforts of missionaries by forming full-time catechists from among the native townspeople themselves. There are currently 703 Full-time Evangelizers spread across 59 dioceses throughout North and Latin America.

Ryan Flood, the Director of the World Mission staff in the United States, says that Catholic World Mission is uniquely positioned to respond in depth to the multi-faceted problem of poverty. Since the “integral approach” recognizes that there is more to
Catholic World Mission
Surgery during a mission in the Philippines.
poverty than a lack of material resources, it focuses on cultivating the roots from which true development can take place: the mind and heart of individual people in the context of their communities.

“This is about the transformation of people’s lives from poverty to self-sustainability,” he said. “It’s about reaching to the root of the problem through education, spiritual formation, and practical means that help them to break the mold and start a new life. And of course, it’s also about meeting immediate needs as they come up.”

The list of achievements for the 2007-2008 school year are a sampling of both the immediate solutions and long-term investments that CWM provides for the poor.

Specific Projects and Results in the Past Year

Bishop Pedro Pablo Elizondo, LC, President of Catholic World Mission and Prelate of Cancún-Chetumal in Quintana Roo, Mexico, reported the following results for the 2007-2008 year.

  • HELPING HANDS Medical Missionaries completed 9 missions in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America, administering medicines and health services to over 7,000 men, women, and children.
  • About $8,000,000 worth of medicines and vaccines were procured for the poor in the Philippines. The worth of medicines and vaccines gathered for Honduras was $1,200,000. All of these medications and supplies are in full conformity with the Catholic faith.
  • A new nutrition program was opened in Puebla, Mexico to help
    Catholic World Mission
    Mano Amiga (Helping Hand) schools effectively break the cycle of poverty.
    undernourished children and their families.
  • A total of 352 Mano Amiga child sponsorships were secured, bringing the total to over 8,000 worldwide.
  • Catholic World Mission’s Endowment Program, which started in June 2007, currently has over $28,000 invested in the fund, and will produce at least 2 Mano Amiga child sponsorships each year in perpetuity.
  • Construction started on St Patrick’s church for members of the Living Stones Community in El Salvador.
  • CWM helped fund the construction of homes for the poor in the diocese of Puebla, in conjunction with the University of Anahuac’s students and MissionYouth missionaries on Christmas break.
  • The 2007 Annual Fund Drive goal of raising $130,000 for child sponsorships in Latin America was exceeded – the actual total was $149,745.

For more information about Catholic World Mission and its array of projects, visit the web site at



Related links

Altius Foundation
Catholic World Mission
Helping Hands Medical Missions
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center

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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.

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