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Parish Microfinancing

Dear Clergy, Religious, Pastoral Administrators, and other Friends:

Catholics tend to be extremely generous in performing acts of Charity, and certainly our Faith calls us to continue and to ever grow in our outreach to others in Charity. However, Charity is just ONE BRANCH, or one of the TWO FEET of CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTION. The other foot is JUSTICE, which involves the changing of unjust structures. Please reference "Communities of Salt and Light" by the USCCB, for example.

St. Michael's Parish in Suttons Bay has begun a rather remarkable PARISH MICROFINANCING project. Attached is an "update flyer" the Justice and Peace Commission of St. Michael's has recently published to its members to provide an update on the status of the project. MICROFINANCE is highly supported by the Catholic Church as it seeks to change the structure of current banking methods by allowing the poor, who normally cannot obtain loans, to obtain financing. These loans respect the Dignity of the people taking the loans, and enable them to help lift themselves and their families out of poverty. Microfinance is a work of Justice in the eyes of our faith.

I offer the flyer below to you with the permission of the Justice and Peace Commission of St. Michael's Parish, Suttons Bay. It is intended as a working example of a justice project that one of our parishes is accomplishing as a result of their own formation and education in Catholic Social Teaching.

Father Wayne

USCCB Campus Website

Dear Colleagues:

The Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has recently announced the launch of a new website to help campus ministers and college students promote Catholic social teaching on campus. IT WILL ALSO BE PARTICULARLY USEFUL IN OUR CATHOLIC SCHOOLS. The website, Transforming Our World: Our Catholic Faith in Action, is at and includes Catholic social teaching, prayer materials, small group resources, tools for action, and multimedia such as videos and podcasts. A press release about the website is attached and provides additional information about the origins of the website.

Please spread the word in your parishes, Catholic schools, campus ministers and young people in your diocese by sharing this site with your list serves. While the website is oriented to youth, it is well done and can readily be useful to most any adult or adult group as well. Please check it out!

Why is Haiti so poor?

With the devastating earthquake that has struck Haiti recently, the island nation has become the focus of international emergency aid which is so sorely needed. While incredible amounts of disaster-relief will be needed in Haiti for a very long time to come, more can be done. The international community has become accustomed to the fact that Haiti already was incredibly poor before the earthquake occurred. But that same community (i.e., everyone outside of Haiti) has seldom inquired into the CAUSES of Haiti's extreme poverty. Asking that sort of question begins to mark the transition from CHARITY to JUSTICE, which are the TWO FEET OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL ACTION.

The essay below is one author's worthy effort to chart or describe the principle causes of poverty in Haiti. The article is a bit dated (1986, reviewed in 1999) but is still an excellent analysis of history. I would encourage reading, even studying the essay. Perhaps doing so will prompt even further research. Perhaps some spiritual reflection will also be prompted, for example, "Why have we allowed Haiti to remain so poor? Why have we remained silent? What would JUSTICE call for with respect to the Haitian situation? What concrete actions can be taken to address the issues? What does CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING offer us to assist with these reflections and solutions?”

I would be happy to be of assistance to any group or parish that would like to struggle with these questions. Through this devastating earthquake, Haiti and its people have been lifted up for all the world to see as the island nation is so dearly joined to the Passion and Death of Christ. Even through all the sorrow, death, and destruction, we know by faith that God is with the Haitian people, as God was intimately with Christ during His final days in Jerusalem. Through our emergency relief support now, and through our actions for poverty-relief and justice in the future, and certainly through the grace of God, Haiti and its people will also share in the fullness of Resurrection.

Father Wayne

(GMO) Genetically Modified Organisms Crops 8-09

Peace Friends:

The topic of GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) crops is one that is only about 15 years old. Church teaching is still developing concerning this topic. Below please find an article that seems to explain the issues concerning GMO better than anything that I have seen to date. The article was forwarded by Paul Stankewitz of the Michigan Catholic Conference as a result of discussion that occurred in Lansing at our last meeting of the Michigan Catholic Rural Life Conference. Please also find a non-GMO Shopping guide for those who may be interested. Thanks! Fr. Wayne Dziekan

Guest column: Pursue transgenic crops with care, respect
JAMES ENNIS is executive director of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. Contact:

As noted recently in the Register, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, an independent body within the Vatican, recently endorsed transgenic plants as necessary for food security. Not all would agree, both within and outside the church.

Scientists of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, a global, United Nations-backed think tank, last year rejected genetically modified crops as a solution to hunger.

Some say the Pontifical Academy, when holding its seminar on transgenic plants at the Vatican in mid-May, excluded dissenters within the church who fear that technology for genetically modified organisms allows corporate agribusiness to control agriculture and food production at the expense of the poor. An aggressive push of genetically modified seeds and crops, critics say, runs the risk of pushing out small landholders, making remaining farmers dependent on the production companies and abolishing traditional methods of seed-keeping.

So within the broad Catholic community, genetically modified organisms remain an open question. In many cases, it is not the science or the technology itself that's in question, but its application and who truly benefits if transgenic plants pervade local food-production systems around the world.

The National Catholic Rural Life Conference, based in Des Moines, has followed the issue of transgenic plants since their commercial introduction in the late 1990s. In discussions with both row-crop farmers and Catholic bishops, we came to depend on a set of principles that guide us as a people of faith in understanding use of this technology.

In the eyes of the church, human beings are co-creators who help bring the world to the fruition God intends. Technology, including genetic modification of plants, is at base a tool for doing good. But while the making of transgenic plants is morally neutral in itself, concrete applications are subject to moral judgment.

Both the promise and risk of genetically modified crops are uncertain because the technology is still relatively new and requires long-term study of environmental and human-health impacts. Each application of the technology must be evaluated on its merits and judged in light of current practice. In general, widespread commercial application of the technology should be pursued with great care.

In principle, genetically modified seeds and crops are acceptable for a just food production and distribution system, but only as they serve the common good. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, genetically modified herbicide-tolerant crops have not increased yields significantly, so the claim to food security seems overblown. The benefit appears to be little more than reducing a farmer's time in the field. Higher seed costs accrue to the very few seed companies with patenting rights.

The Pontifical Academy addressed the question whether technology for genetically modified organisms should be developed so as to better serve the needs of small-scale farmers and the poor. The promise is that their production will improve, with transgenic plants engineered to better deal with pests, drought and other agricultural challenges. The reality is that genetically modified seeds are part of a global, industrialized agri-food system that is biased toward large producers and mega-farms.

By applying precautionary principles to transgenic plants, we believe this technology has a role to play in food production and security. Failure to abide by precautionary points will:

- Accelerate the decline of agricultural biodiversity in local areas, where vast crop varieties have already been lost in the past century to monocultural practices.

- Allow a few dominant seed companies to control the supply of seeds worldwide, reaping a greater share of the food dollar at the expense of farmers and primary producers.

- Deny farmers of the world their just benefits to the development of genetic resources by their experimentation and local application.

- Threaten the livelihoods of smallholder farmers and indigenous people who depend on open access to resources, such as the traditional saving of seeds for future sowing.

Proponents of transgenic crops should not over-promise, should be respectful of alternatives and should engage critics in a responsible way. Similarly, critics should state their objections without exaggerations and engage proponents in a responsible way.

Non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) Shopping Guide