For All The Charities: “The Christian Foundation for Children and Aging”

Christ has a way of getting us to listen. I’ve been struggling to fully obey the Second Commandment, loving your neighbor as yourself. In fact, I blogged about it yesterday morning. Shortly thereafter, my husband and I and our two sons headed to Mass at  St. Peter the Apostle Parish in New Brunswick, NJ, where both our boys had been baptized. We arrived early and as I lingered in the foyer, I noticed some brochures set up on a table. It seemed there would be a guest preacher at this Mass.

During Mass, the guest preacher, Father Tom Singer O.M.I , read from the Gospel the Canticle of Mary from the Book of Luke. And then he did something remarkable, something I never had seen a priest do. He raised the Lectionary high in one hand and proclaimed “THIS is the Gospel of the Lord.” By then, I was eager to hear what he had come to share.

He began by talking about the Our Lady, given that yesterday was the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This dogma teaches us that when Mary died, her body and soul were assumed into heavenly glory. This means that Mary is fully human in heaven, just like her son Jesus.

What, Father Tom asked, does this have to do with us? He explained that the fact of Mary’s Assumption means that the more human we are, the more holy we are. God did not design us to avert our gaze from others. He designed us to love others, even in their poverty and their despair. Father Tom has been a priest for more than half a century. He told us one of the most meaningful experience of his life was when his superiors sent him to do mission work in a Brazilian slum. He said that caused him to understand we all must be a voice for the poor and the hungry, “God’s favorites,” he called them, because otherwise no one will hear their voices.

Now in semi-retirement, Father Tom spends his days preaching for a lay Catholic organization called the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. Neither Greg nor I had ever heard of it, but you can look it up. CFCA has a beautiful mission and the highest possible ratings from Charity Navigator and the American Institute for Philanthropy. Virtually all the funds it raises help people in need. Sponsoring an individual costs $30 a month.

One aspect of CFCA’s work in 24 developing countries that impresses me is that it offers sponsorships to  the aging as well as to children and teens. This reflects the Catholic value of honoring life in all its stages and Catholic social justice teaching, articulated in the 1998 by the United States Catholic Bishops.

Dear readers: are any of you sponsors with CFCA? Do you have experiences with other Catholic groups of this kind? Close friends who are Evangelicals always have pictures on their refrigerator of children they sponsor through church missions. Until yesterday I was unaware of any Catholic group with such an outreach.

Based in Kansas City, Kan., CFCA was founded  in 1981 by four siblings and a family friend. Perusing its website this afternoon I discovered one of those founders, Bob Hentzen, is walking 8,000 miles from his home in Guatemala to Chile. Right now, he’s in Ecuador. Check it out.
http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=9580485&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0Walk2gether: 12 countries, 16 months, 8,000 miles from CFCA on Vimeo.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09158421880497827083 Athos

    Hi Allison – I am not going to disagree at all. But I will say that it is a temptation particularly among the mainstream Protestant Christianities in which I grew up to show the world that our faith is more than its equal in being an agent for care of human needs.And why not? Doesn't our Lord's parable of judgment (Mtt 25, 32ff) tell us the absolute importance of the 2nd Great Commandment: love your neighbor as yourself?But what makes the Catholic Church unique is that we want to fulfill the 2nd Great Commandment by helping people remember that we are mortal and doomed to die as well. We want to show love by concern for our neighbors' eternal lives as well.Monsignor Ronald Knox says it well here. Best

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Athos: Thanks for reading and responding. My perspective is that this is not an either/or position in Catholicism. Perhaps in some Protestant sects, social work alone is seen as the one manifestation of Christian faith. That saddens me.The beauty and truth of the Catholic Faith is we are blessed with the Eucharist AND we can go forth and do good works for God's favorites, knowing Christ's Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity are with us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09158421880497827083 Athos

    And so we agree. For my money, Catholicscomehome.org depicts the two-pronged emphases very well here.

  • Father Tom

    Thanks, Allison, for your generous words. Our KC office wrote this afternoon that "we came across this wonderful blog post." Now I just hope I don't get nervous, wondering if there's a blogger in the congregation! Blessings on you, your family, and your wonderful ministry, Allison, and please remember me in your prayers.Thanks again… Tom

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    @Father Tom:Wow and thank you for reading and responding. It was a blessing to hear you preach!I would love to hear here on YIM Catholic from sponsors or from others involved in the important work of CFCA.

  • Julie

    Hello Allison,I am a sponsor with CFCA for almost 2 years now. It has been a blissful experience. I have sponsored a child in the Philippines whom now able to go to school and at the same time I am also able to help his family in a little ways. He writes to my family frequently, sharing his experiences and letting us know how he is doing at school – I share those letters and his stories to my own kids and just seeing my kids smile when hearing his stories makes me a complete person – just one of those most wonderful feeling. I soon will see my sponsored child in a few months and I am excited to meet him and his family in person.CFCA organization helped a lot of people around the world, not just kids but elders as well and I am just so proud to be part of this organization. In the near future, I will soon sponsor another child, at least in any way possible I can be part of that child's dream and help that child succeed in the near future.God Bless You!Julie

  • http://blog.cfcausa.org/ Christian Foundation for Children and Aging

    Thank you, Allison, for such a lovely blog post! As web editor and writer for CFCA, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on our organization.I especially appreciated how you tied the Catholic value of honoring life in all its stages and social justice teaching to our outreach. You can read more about our core values at http://www.cfcausa.org/aboutus/corevalues.html.Thanks again, and blessings on you and your ministry!

  • Anonymous

    I also was introduced to CFCA by a visiting priest, at a parish "mission" more than 10 years ago. Since then I have sponsored 3 children in Nicaragua. As a retired teacher, I believe in the focus on education that CFCA espouses; and as a pragmatist, their focus on helping groups establish what I call "boot strap" enterprises. I am always impressed by the selfless dedication of Bob Hanzen and all CFCA personnel.

  • Lee

    I have sponsored 2 children through CFCA for a few years now. I like that CFCA takes care of the child, which helps the family, and in turn helps their community. I am so blessed with what I have, I felt called, as you did, to help those in need. We took a leap of faith after one of our Masses and sponsored a young man from India (and later a young girl from South America). It's amazing to watch him grow up and receive his letters. Thanks for your great post. When you sponsor though CFCA, it's like your part of a larger family.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16021781602272064901 Allison

    Thanks to all who are writing in. I love to hear these stories. I am also impressed by the mission trips, where folks visit the children they sponsor. Why is that an important part of sponsorship? I;ve never heard of that aspect with any other sponsorship charity. I think it is cool idea and am wondering what folks experienced doing that.

  • Brigitte

    We have sponsored three girls for the past 3 years with CFCA. We were going to sponsor one child but our three girls could not agree on one so I decided they could each pick one. So each of them picked a girl near their own ages. We have maintained sponsoring our girls even through periods of being laid off because we felt it was that important.

  • Esther Rogers

    I have sponsored 5 different children through CFCA and have gone on 4 trips with CFCA to visit the children that I sponsor in Venezuela. It is one of the greatest experiences that I have had in my life. I am just in awe of the dedication to their job given by the CFCA workers in that country, I learned so much more on these trips about all the programs that the project has to better the life of the whole family with all the various programs that they have developed teaching and involving the whole family. The children and seniors who receive a visit from their sponsor are so excited They don't have much but they are so proud of what they do have and excited to share with their sponsor. Having the opportunity to travel with Robert and Christine Hentzen is worth the trip itself. To see how Bob interacts with the kids is a verfy emotional experience. Being a CFCA sponsor and going on the CFCA trips has been the highlight of my retirement years.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08580199016685597021 Judy

    Allison, wow! I love your witness for CFCA! Fr Tom, kudos to you as well. I signed up four years ago to sponsor a girl in Honduras. Over the years we've written a few letters back and forth. She's now 10 years old, and last year I signed up for the August Mission Awareness Tour to Honduras. I cannot express the blessings and love I've received not only from my friend Sayra and her family, but all the friends who are benefitted by CFCA. I don't think our President could have received a bigger welcome full of genuine love and enthusiasm. And we were only 22 sponsors out of thousands. But we put a face on the sponsors and learned about how much our friends in Honduras appreciate all their sponsors. Their welcome was so great, and we felt enfolded in love and humbled by gratitude. We learned that all sponsored friends are provided social workers to assess the living conditions; medical and dental annually; food, school uniforms, education, community groups and more. In some severe living situations, home improvements are made. When a child is abandoned at home while parents work, Casa Hogar in Proyecto Ocotepeque is a beautiful place that helps the family by giving beautiful foster care in a lovely group home. Casa Hogar is also home to several of the sponsored aging. The work CFCA has done in Honduras was definitely visible all throughout our MAT. If you ever get a chance to do the MAT, you will be more encouraged to continue a good thing by your sponsorship.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16623290366097443724 Sallie (Sarah)

    My name is Sarah and I live in Canada. CFCA has a "sister" organization in Canada by the name of CHALICE. One of the girls I had sponsored for a number of years was moved from CHALICE to CFCA and, as I could not bear to give her up, I continued my sponsorship under CFCA even though I get no tax credit for it since I don't file taxes in the U.S. I presently sponsor 5 girls in total — 1 with CFCA and 4 with CHALICE. Both these organizations, as far as possible, spend a major percentage of donations on helping those in need. I tried sponsoring with World Vision in Canada at one time, but felt they were spending too much on TV commercials, etc. So, now, all my sponsorships are with these two Catholic organizations. As a Catholic, I am proud of the wonderful work that so many, Catholic, largely volunteer-staffed organizations are doing to help the less fortunate. The most inspiring part is how low the salaries are for the staff members in comparison to the secular world. I think many in the Church still love St. Francis' "Lady Poverty" and for this I am very grateful.

  • http://dragonfliesandkatydids.blogspot.com Katy

    I just came across this post from the CFCA webpage. I have been considering sponsorship and trying to compare organizations according to their missions and stewardship of money. It is important to me to find an organization that not only feeds individual children, but also supports and empowers communities. I really appreciate hearing about everyone's experiences, and I am impressed by the variety of impacts that CFCA has. Thank you!

  • http://springraine.blogspot.com Bethany

    This was a fun post to read! My family has sponsored multiple children over the past 20+ years through CFCA. I myself have sponsored a little girl in the Philippines for a few years. My younger sister and I will be going on a CFCA mission trip to Guatemala in June and are excited to meet some of the children or family sponsors! :)


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