Matt Cato, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland, speaks to recipients of Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants. “A person is not a task,” Cato said, urging the groups to focus on building relationships, not check off lists. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
Matt Cato, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland, speaks to recipients of Catholic Campaign for Human Development grants. “A person is not a task,” Cato said, urging the groups to focus on building relationships, not check off lists. (Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel)
An immigrant farm family near Springfield needed to get to the next level. They knew almost by instinct how to cultivate produce but had to increase volume and boost sales. The problem was their rickety farm equipment and the lack of an updated business plan.

That’s where Community LendingWorks came in. While few banks would have touched the situation, the Springfield-based nonprofit offered the hardworking family a modest loan to purchase a tractor. Loan officers helped the family develop a sales strategy.

“They are flourishing,” said a beaming Cory Deel, senior loan officer for Community LendingWorks. “Their business is growing. This is the best year they’ve had.”

The not-for-profit, in turn, receives support from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the anti-poverty arm of the U.S. Catholic bishops. Without the money from Catholics, the farm would still be struggling.

The most recent CCHD grant for Community LendingWorks — $75,000 — will go for Spanish-speaking loan officers to help even more budding immigrant entrepreneurs.

“CCHD is an expression of compassionate solidarity of the Catholic community for the world,” said Matt Cato, director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. He oversees the local campaign and hosted a banquet for a dozen grant recipients July 11 at the archdiocese’s offices.

Funds come from an annual collection in parishes near Thanksgiving. Some grants are given by the archdiocese and some from the national CCHD office. The idea is to move beyond charity to funding projects that attack the root causes of poverty. CCHD funds projects in which people who are poor exercise leadership.

At the banquet — catered by a small immigrant-run Colombian restaurant and employing reusable dishes and silverware — Archbishop Alexander Sample acknowledged a “great mixture” of people in the room, Catholic and otherwise. “It is important as a community that we get together and rally around these sorts of initiatives, ministries, projects that make a difference in people’s lives,” the archbishop told the group. “Those of you who are not part of the Catholic Church, I am so happy you partner with us to do good work in our community.”

He held out CCHD as a model of people with different views cooperating for the good of others. “That’s doing the work of the Gospel,” he said.

The local projects, suggested by a commission and approved by the archbishop, all have some link to a Catholic parish, whether it is sponsorship, the presence of a pastor on the agency board or the involvement of many parishioners.

A grant of $3,000 will help L’Arche Portland team up with Holy Trinity Parish to begin a Beaverton community of those with disabilities and those without. Currently, L’Arche has two homes in Southeast Portland.

The Beaverton site will house six to eight people and will involve a big team of volunteers.

“It will be a home not just for people who live there but for that entire community,” L’Arche executive director Andy Noethe said. He explained that the initiative would not be happening without Holy Trinity’s dynamism.

“Just bringing in an inclusive community and being present: That is how inclusion happens,” said Maggie Clack, director of operations for L’Arche. “And that’s how lives are changed.”



St. Charles Parish in Northeast Portland received a grant of $5,000 for work in two areas. The first is supporting local immigrants.

“There are lots of ways we can decrease their anxiety and provide support in a relational way,” said Leif Kehrwald, pastoral administrator of St. Charles. Parishioner Elizabeth de Jesús Lopez advocates with government leaders so unauthorized immigrants in Oregon can have driving privileges. That will help advance self-sufficiency, said Lopez, whose husband is in the country without papers. “I am always wondering, when he leaves, will he be able to come back?” she said.

In the second St. Charles project, the parish works to keep nearby mobile home parks open, so residents don’t get priced out by rising rents. The parish also works to improve conditions at the parks. Gabe Triplett, pastoral associate at the parish, has led the effort. Two parks have been preserved but three more are threatened with gentrification, Triplett said.

Cato told grant recipients that their ministries and projects are relationships with neighbors. “Connections are built through conversation: after Mass, on a porch or at the park; over a cup of coffee, a fence, a beer . . . at the dining table,” he said. “Time passes and connections evolve into relationships. Relationships are about making yourself available. Sometimes just to listen.”

Cato cautioned the group against making ministry a to-do list, saying, “A person is not a task.” He challenged agency leaders to “go out and encounter, talk, share, build relationships and build communities.”