By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
In the middle of the second wave of COVID-19 sweeping Canada, Development and Peace-Caritas Canada is making its second attempt to raise the money and awareness its partners in poor countries desperately need.
The Recovering Together collection being held in 31 dioceses across Canada hopes to keep Canadian Catholics connected to people in poor countries where health systems and economies were struggling long before COVID-19.
In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, half of an annual Diocesan Mission Works collection Nov. 14-15 will be directed to the Recovering Together campaign. Gifts can also be made online at devp.org.
“While we’re all dealing with COVID here, at the same time all of our partners are dealing with COVID,” said Development and Peace director of engagement Genevieve Gallant.
While Canadians worry about too many Zoom meetings and missing the gym, 265 million people worldwide could face starvation by the end of 2020.
“The situations they’re living in, it’s in many ways so much worse,” Gallant said.
Development and Peace couldn’t stage its normal Share Lent collection in parishes that were locked down in the spring. As safety measures have been put in place and people have been able to return to church, the organization is hoping to make up for lost ground.
In a normal year Share Lent Sunday collections come to about $4 million, about half of the charitable gifts Canada’s Development and Peace / Caritas agency collects.
While some regular donors kicked in despite the lockdown this year, Development and Peace faces increased need among its partners in Africa, Latin America and Asia while it has less money to fill that need.
“Like most organizations, we did a number of things over the summer to help bring our costs down,” said Gallant.
But belt-tightening in Canada isn’t going to translate into program funds to help farmers in Ethiopia or keep Rohingya refugees safe and fed in Bangladesh.
Though the collection dates vary, with Hamilton already having run its Recovering Together Collection on Oct. 18, most dioceses — including the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon — have scheduled their collection for the World Day of the Poor, Nov. 15.
In Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto, Share Lent is covered by a diocesan appeal with funds set aside from the total for Development and Peace. The Recovering Together Collection will be taken up in the majority of dioceses that celebrate a Share Lent Sunday in which Development and Peace members appeal directly to their fellow parishioners for donations.
While Development and Peace has gone virtual for a lot of its activities, attracting enthusiastic participation from the most engaged of its 10,000 members, online activities can never entirely substitute for the parish-based community building of a traditional Share Lent campaign, said Gallant.
“Development and Peace is a church-based organization. We are built and structured on the parish community,” she said. “We want to be part of the discussion in the larger Church about how we re-engage people.”
Proof that Development and Peace can still rally the hearts and minds of Catholics comes in the form of 65,000 personally signed letters the organization recently sent from Canadian Catholics to two Amazonian communities. Development and Peace partners have been active, trying to preserve the lives and livelihoods of the Mura people of Manaus and the Seringueros of Machadinho d’Oeste.
The letter-writing campaign was capped off with a webinar that brought Development and Peace members into direct contact with their Brazilian partners in Manaus and Machadinho d’Oeste, who had before them stacks of personally signed letters.
“Development and Peace is successful because of the spirit of community,” said Gallant.