Pope Francis Declares World Day of the Poor

November 19, 2017

Are you aware that:
• Child poverty in the City of Rochester reached 52% between 2011 and 2015 (ACT Rochester Community Report Card 2017)?
• 50 million people in the US are in poverty (Thomas Picketty French economist)?
• in a January 2017 study by OXFAM International, it was revealed that 8 people possess wealth equal to the combined wealth of 3.6 billion people?

What can we do about this? Pope Francis has declared Sunday November 19, 2017 to be the first World Day of the Poor. Prayer and action are urgently needed. It is not enough to make a financial contribution but we need to develop a “culture of encounter.” Pope Francis calls us to “draw near to the poor, to encounter them, to meet their gaze, embrace them and to let them feel the warmth of love that breaks through their solitude.”

If your life has never been touched by the poor, there are many opportunities here in Rochester. Consider volunteering at one of the homeless shelter sites such as the House of Mercy, St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, or Bethany House. Consider working at one of the many soup kitchens in our community. Perhaps you would like to assist homeless persons to die with dignity and be remembered. Contact Greater Rochester Community of Churches (GRCC) Indigent Burial Program. St. Joseph’s Neighborhood Center welcomes medical personnel and others who can offer healthcare to the working poor without health insurance. The agencies in our community who offer assistance to the poor are many and your assistance is needed.

We can address the culture of disparity by providing opportunities and training for employment; addressing the needs of "forgotten people,” those with physical or mental challenges that face hidden barriers to employment; and providing for those who are unable to work because of their health or age.

Sadly, our poverty rate in this city will never decrease until we address the structural issues that underlie the increasing poverty rate. Monroe County’s Anti-Poverty Initiative Statistics reveal that many residents must work two or more jobs in order to survive. Roc/ACTS, an interfaith community organization based on the Gamaliel principles of community organizing, recently called for public action on funding for child care assistance, raising the wages of health care workers, and addressing police violence.

Contact elected officials with your views and this, in turn, will help change public policy.

When people are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. Can we come together to ensure that these rights be respected as our solemn duty?

Sister Janet Korn, RSM, for The Sisters of Mercy and Associate Members
Sister Phyllis Tierney, SSJ, for The Sisters of Saint Joseph and Associate Members