The Church is our mother and welcomes all of us as a mother.
The image of the Church as our mother is one of the oldest in Christianity — a love that, like the liturgy, transcends differences in language and culture.
At CRS, we’ve increased the number of countries we’ve served in almost every one of our 75 years. No matter how far from home we go in more than 100 countries, the Church is there to welcome us. It is not only that the Mass and liturgy are always familiar. It is the feeling that we are enveloped by the love of our Mother Church.
“The Church is our mother and welcomes all of us as a mother … through an attitude of understanding, goodness, forgiveness and tenderness,” Pope Francis explains. “And where there is motherhood, there’s life, there’s joy, there’s peace, and we grow in peace.”
Mothers love their children. They want to take care of them. They are there to nurture.
As part of our Gospel mission to serve the poor, CRS supports maternal love as a reflection of God’s love and the love of the Mother Church. We partner with government ministries of health, with faith-based hospital systems, with community groups, with churches and with families to reach 3.3 million women and children directly – and more than 12 million indirectly. We offer nearly 39 early childhood development and maternal and child health projects in more than 2 dozen countries. We take a holistic approach, treating the leading causes of illness and death in expectant mothers and young children.
At the household level, we counsel parents on disease prevention and the importance of prompt treatment. At the local level, we build community-based services to provide essential care. And at the national level, we strengthen health systems to better serve mothers and their children.
Stunting – a failure to thrive caused by malnutrition in early childhood – has lifelong consequences. For a decade, CRS has been combatting childhood malnutrition in Sierra Leone, providing assistance through community health workers and mother-to-mother support groups. The result: Acute malnutrition decreased from 13% to 5.2% among children under age 2.
In India, the CRS ReMiND project uses a cellphone app to help community health workers deliver counseling and assessments to more than 30,000 expectant and new mothers. The program was more cost effective at preventing disease and death than vaccinations—which CRS also supports against polio in Angola, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Kenya for more than 750,000 children under age 5.
In Nicaragua, the USAID-funded Child Survival Project improved care to mothers and children for safe deliveries and childhood illnesses. The result: More mothers and their children are getting the care they need, alleviating suffering and saving lives.
These are just a few of the ways we work to strengthen the universal bond between mothers and their children. As Pope Francis says, “One of the most beautiful and human things is to smile at a child and make him or her smile.”
We’re privileged to do that often in our work. Thanks to our Mother Church.
Copyright 2018 Michael Hill for Catholic Relief Services
About the author: As senior writer with Catholic Relief Services, Michael Hill is responsible for much of the editorial production of the Communications Unit: press releases, op-eds, speeches, etc. Before joining CRS is 2008, Michael had a 35-year career at the Baltimore Evening Sun and Sun, with assignments that ranged from county government reporter to television critic. He was based in Johannesburg as The Sun’s Africa bureau chief when Nelson Mandela was elected president in 1994.