Msgr. Bertagni Praises Compassionate American Catholics
On the long, dusty road that led to school, she stumbled and fainted. Hunger had made her weak and the morning sun was brutally hot. Marie had walked those rough miles to school many times before, but today her strength finally gave out.
Fortunately, a kind soul found the seven-year-old girl and brought her in to the missionaries at the school. They were able to revive and care for her until her mother arrived.
Such is life in Haiti, where every day is marked by hardships.
“ Visit Haiti or any other desperately poor Third World country and you will discover how difficult life is for the poor. These are levels of poverty that you just don't see in America. For example, hunger isn't just a problem in Haiti - it's a way of life for millions of people and it has a devastating impact, especially on the children,” explained Msgr. Ted Bertagni, an outreach preacher for Cross International Catholic Outreach, one of the leading Catholic charities serving the poor worldwide. As a leader on the ministry's staff, Msgr. Bertagni visits Catholic parishes throughout the United States to preach on behalf of the poor, describing the needs overseas and explaining how concerned parishes can provide direct and meaningful assistance.
“ Many Americans presume that most people in the world live like we do here in the U.S., but that isn't true. More of the world is like Haiti where food is scarce, there's no access to safe drinking water, sewage services are virtually non-existent and medical care is so inadequate that children die daily from illnesses that would be easily treated here in America,” Msgr. Bertagni added.
The media loves bad news and that's what fills newspapers and TV. But there are also amazing and heroic things taking place in the world…
Msgr. Ted Bertagni, Outreach Preacher
But Msgr. Bertagni's message to U.S. parishes is hardly a story of “gloom and doom.” Instead, he emphasizes the generosity of American Catholics and highlights the inspiring work the Church is doing to help the poor overseas.
“ While your first impression when visiting Haiti may be shock and dismay at the level of poverty, you are also inspired by the work that our dedicated priests and nuns are doing. You meet men and women who live sacrificially and work tirelessly to provide needy families with food, shelter and hope. Their clear vision and noble purpose are inspiring and give you a desire to help them succeed. That's what I try to communicate during my visits to U.S. parishes – I try to invite American Catholics to support the heroic work our Church is doing 'in the trenches' on behalf of the poor.”
One of the specific ministry programs Msgr. Bertagni describes was established specifically to help young school children in Haiti's poorest villages. Through the program, American donors are able to support special feeding programs that have been put in place to fight malnutrition and its effects.
“ The feeding programs that Cross International Catholic Outreach has launched work through existing schools, so they are extremely cost-effective. A child like Marie can be fed a daily meal for the full school year for just $55,” Msgr. Bertagni explained. “Many American families spend that much going out for lunch or dinner. If they can set that money aside for this special purpose, it can have a huge impact – feeding a needy child for the entire school year.”
Where Cross International Catholic Outreach has established its school-based feeding programs, there have already been meaningful results – literally, measured in lives saved.
“ A report was done in the village of Thomonde in central Haiti where St. Joseph Catholic Church is located. It showed a significant drop in deaths among children after Cross International Catholic Outreach launched its feeding program. And that wouldn't have been possible without the help of our donors in America. Their gifts to Cross made the difference. They've literally saved the lives of scores of children – children like Marie.”
When Msgr. Bertagni visits American parishes and meets the people who support the work of Cross International Catholic Outreach, he thanks them on behalf of the poor who are being helped.
“ I try to explain to them how important their contributions have been to our work – how much good they are doing,” Msgr. Bertagni said. “The media loves bad news and that's what fills newspapers and TV. But there are also amazing and heroic things taking place in the world, and the Catholic priests and parishes overseas have inspiring stories to tell. Yes, there are still great hardships for the poor living overseas, but I am confident that American Catholics will help us respond to those needs too. I've seen their spirit of compassion and their generosity firsthand. I know that they will rise to the occasion – they always do.”
- September 5-11, 2004