Hearing the Cry
This story originally appeared in our winter edition of News from HOME.
The City of Philadelphia is abuzz with expectation for Pope Francis’s visit this September for the World Meeting of Families, a triennial international Catholic conference on the family.
This dynamic pope has seized the imagination of millions around the globe — Catholic and non-Catholic alike. This is due in large part because he has spoken out so forcibly about those who are poor and suffering. “The times talk to us of so much poverty in the world and this is a scandal,” he said. “In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.”
In the depths of our humanity, all of us hear this cry, and it calls forth from us our truest selves. Pope Francis has given us a gift, by urging us to refocus on the truth of poverty and struggle in our world, both in its global and local forms. He is inviting us to tap the wellsprings of compassion and goodness within us, and he is urging us to re-envision our society along the lines of justice and human dignity.
This is a message that Philadelphia needs to hear. Our city has a poverty rate of 26 percent — the highest among the 10 largest cities nationwide. Almost one of every three children lives in poverty. Thousands experience homelessness. Food pantries and soup kitchens are strained to meet the growing needs of people facing food insecurity. As Pope Francis says, a scandal indeed.
The Project HOME community is positioned to play an important role in light of the Pope’s visit. Our Executive Director Sister Mary Scullion was asked by the World Meeting of Families to chair a special Committee on Hunger and Homelessness. Several of our residents and staff, along with advocates and partners, will be working to mobilize people of faith and conscience in our region to raise awareness about the issues of hunger, homelessness, and poverty in anticipation of the pope’s visit. We will create venues for the voices and stories of those who are economically struggling. We will reach out to our schools and our faith communities, to create deeper understanding of the issues and opportunities to respond.
We will be inviting all members of our community to envision how the pope’s visit can spark new opportunities for services and programs to those in need and new resources for effective solutions of housing, education, health care, employment, and income supports. Even for a few days, the pope’s presence here can engender deeper impulses of charity and broader support for public policies that foster true social and economic justice.
Pope Francis has said, “The measure of the greatness of a society is found in the way it treats those most in need.” He will undoubtedly reiterate that message next fall here in Philadelphia — a message that echoes deep in our own historical origins, as a community founded to be a “city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.” We hope our city, our region, and our nation will hear Pope Francis’s message, and we will respond to the invitation to true greatness — a greatness rooted in human dignity, compassion, and justice.
We invite our friends and supporters to join us in seizing this tremendous opportunity. We will report in future newsletters and on our website of activities and events related to the papal visit. Stayed tuned – and continue to hear that cry of our sisters and brothers who are poor and struggling.
Visit us here for more on the Pope's visit.