|October 26, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 18 • Oakland, CA|
CCHD grants reach advocates
for people on the margins
Nine East Bay organizations that advocate for people on the margins — including homeless youth, disabled people, senior citizens and those living in economically challenging communities — received $285,000 in grants from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development at an Oct. 7 awards ceremony in Oakland.
The larger, national grants were made to Contra Costa Interfaith Sponsoring Committee (CCISCO); Gamaliel of California; Oakland Community Land Trust; Parent Voices Oakland; and Prospera.
CCISCO will use grant to train leaders to participate in the organization's efforts to ensure that Richmond residents benefit from the UC Berkeley Global Campus to be built in their city.
Prospera, which was formerly known as Women's Action to Gain Economic Security, or WAGES, will use its $35,000 grant to assist low-income Latina leaders to fund a worker-owned food cooperative that will produce and sell sustainably sourced paletas, traditional Mexican ice pops.
Smaller grants, decided on by a local committee, went to Community Resources for Independent Living in Southern Alameda County; People United for a Better Life in Oakland; United Seniors of Oakland and Alameda County; and Youth Spirit Artworks, Berkeley.
The awards luncheon, hosted by St. Columba Parish in Oakland, provided an opportunity for Bishop Emeritus John S. Cummins to reflect on the campaign and its value to the East Bay communities.
"I was around at the beginning of the Campaign for Human Development," Bishop Cummins said. The question for the bishops at its founding in 1969, he said, was whether the collection would have "a five year sunset clause or a 10-year sunset clause."
"People did not identify our church activities with justice; they did it with charity," he said. "That's where people were."
But the labor movement in the East Bay; the Christian Family movement; and Vatican II altered that thinking.
Bishop Cummins noted that in 1983, when the diocesan pastoral council was being formed, participants identified social justice as one of the three top interests in the diocese.
"They made that mainstream," he said. "The St. Vincent de Paul Society was not just about charity, but about rehabilitating those who had come out of prison. That was a matter of justice. First time I ever heard, 'inner city schools, a matter of justice.'"
The Catholic Campaign for Human Development, he said, has been "very good for the diocese, and very good for the two counties."
In receiving the lifetime achievement award, Millie Burns, former deputy program director of Catholic Charities said, "We're called not just to understand the dignity of every human being, not just that, it's the intrinsic worth of every human being."
"It is not something we earn. It is something that comes with our humanity. That's the hard part of justice. We have to heal. We have to forgive. We have to offer that unconditional love. If you want to change the trajectory of a child's life, the most important thing is to be that one caring adult. It's about relationship.
"As a punitive society, we decide: If you harm me, if you break my law, you break my rule, you can go," she said. "We think that people are disposable, and we're not. It's not just black lives that matter; all lives matter."
Burns said, "What we learn along the way: the power of healing. Power doesn't come from perfect life, it comes from how you deal with your mistakes, your suffering."
Burns' work with Catholic Charities included working with schools on restorative justice programs, which transforms the way people respond to behavior. She played a vital role in the establishment and direction of Catholic Charities' crisis response and support program in Oakland, in addition to coordinating the response to Hurricane Katrina.
The keynote speaker, Fania Davis, founding director of the Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth, spoke about the success of the program in keeping students in school, raising graduation rates, and improving teacher retention.
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