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Catholic Campaign For Human Development (CCHD)
Archdiocese of Baltimore

(Not either- or, but both- and)

Institutional Change
Long-term solutions
Deals with root causes, structures.
Impacts laws, policies.
Justice (Essential part of Christian Life)
Exemplified by Moses & the Prophets
Empowerment of People
Community Organizing
Legislative Lobbying
Educating for Justice
Cooperative Enterprises: (Credit Unions, Worker-Owned Enterprises like production, consumer, housing)
Direct Service
Daily Christian Lifestyle
Helping people survive current crisis. Short term relief.
Charity Exemplified by Good Samaritan
Soup Kitchens
Homeless Shelters
Food Banks, Pantries
Clothing Centers
Visitation programs: elderly, sick, prisoners
Sponsor immigrants
Birthright ( food, clothing, funds)

When you are finished doing volunteer work in Direct service, have your group sit down and do a Social Inquiry (analysis).


  1. Why are these people hungry (homeless, poorly educated, without medical insurance, in need of clothing, unemployed/underemployed?
  2. What are the causes of this/these problems?
  3. Other observations or facts we need to know?

Judge: What can we do to empower these folks to remove some or all of these causes?

Act: What shall we do next, so that we are not just dealing with symptoms, but helping to make institutional (permanent, long-range solutions) change?

"Christians…are called by God to be involved in the world in order to transform it according to the gospel…these duties include positively contributing to the establishment of just laws and structures that foster human values." (Pope John Paul II, Nairobi, 1980)

Credit: Social Action Department, Diocese of Davenport, 2706 Gaines St., Davenport, IA, 52804-1998, (563) 324-1911, Rev. Martin A. Mottet

It takes TWO FEET to walk. Otherwise we lose balance. It's not either–or, but both–and. If we use only the first foot (direct service), we could make matters worse by fostering dependency. If we use only the second foot (institutional change), we might become too far removed from the realities of the situation. A true Christian lifestyle requires of us that we live in solidarity with those in need and come to their assistance in emergencies. We cannot isolate ourselves.

Direct service can provide us with the data needed for institutional changes: extent and kind of need, workable solutions, a greater sense of urgency. Direct service is sometimes classified as "charity". Institutional change is "working for justice." There can be no love without justice. If we really love someone, we want him or her to have what is rightfully theirs and to be all that God intended him or her to be. If we really love, we will work to change structures, systems, laws and policies which are harmful to people.

Empowerment of low-income people and self-determination is our goal wherever possible. Self-help is our priority, helping people to become self-sufficient wherever possible. The functions listed in both feet are what an ordinary citizen in a parish or congregation might do.

To help achieve policy change contact:

  1. Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). Use CCHD education materials; invite CCHD-funded group leaders to speak to the parish.

  2. Maryland Catholic Conference (MCC). Write to MD legislators on education, pro-life, and social concern issues. or call (410)269-1155.

  3. Pax Christi. Use education materials and organize in the international Catholic peace process.

  4. Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Write to US Congresspersons on issues regarding international relief and peace initiatives. or call (410)951-7462.

  5. NETWORK. Write US Congresspersons on issues regarding national and international topics.

  6. Bread for the World. Write to US Congresspersons for national and international institutional change.

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