In recent weeks, we have learned about the 70 per cent cut by the federal government in Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funding for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) in the WCR and in other media.
This will result in an immediate 26 per cent cut in the total budget of CCODP in the funds available to support the ongoing development programs overseas and the programs in Canada.
Last month, Archbishop Richard Smith, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged us to be especially generous this year in our contributions to the Share Lent collection. Some CCODP members across the country with the support of some local bishops, encouraged us to do a special fast on Good Friday, and send the food money saved to CCODP.
Now the initial shock of bad news is behind us. We are now past the time of the immediate special appeals during Lent. The call to support CCODP is entering a new phase.
Each of us needs to name for ourselves our own personal stake in CCODP and its work of international solidarity and justice for the poor. I first became a volunteer with CCODP in 1975. A few years later, I was able to go on a solidarity trip to Mexico and see CCODP's work first hand. Since then, I have been a regular financial contributor and I have volunteered in different capacities.
One way we need to respond is political. Leaders of CCODP are encouraging Catholics across Canada to send personal letters and emails to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and to local members of Parliament. These letters are important.
Many of us are often hesitant to write letters because we feel we are not experts. These letters do not have to be long or complicated. A simple personal letter expressing support for the important work of CCODP, our own response to the government cuts to CIDA funding, and a request for the government to review its funding decision sends a clear message.
With the funding cuts, CCODP is facing an immediate funding shortfall. The reduced funds will have a drastic effect on CCODP's ability to support its 186 partner organizations in 30 countries. Our appeals to the government to review its funding decision will take time, and may or may not be successful.
The funding crisis is urgent. The CCODP board will meet in June. Unless additional funds are forthcoming soon, the CCODP board will have no choice but to approve a budget of large-scale cutbacks and mandate a process of organizational restructuring and downsizing.
The shortfall is $5 million a year. This sounds like a lot but it is only 35 cents for each of approximately 15 million Catholics in Canada. Last year, with 378,000 Catholics listed as living within the boundaries of the Edmonton Archdiocese, the archdiocese total contribution was $444,004. We can do better.
Significantly, the Saskatchewan bishops last month urged the members of their dioceses to increase their donations by 25 per cent. If this were done across the country, the $5 million shortfall would be reduced by more than 60 per cent. This is possible.
How do we get there? Those who contribute once a year in the Share Lent campaign, should look and see if it is possible to write a second cheque to CCODP. Even if it is smaller than the first donation it will make a major difference.
Look at becoming a monthly donor. For many years, I contributed during Lent, and then once or twice during the year. Three years ago, I became a monthly donor with an automatic monthly withdrawal from my chequing account. I found my annual donation doubled without any real financial distress in my life.
Last year, there were 255 Share Year Round Donors in the Edmonton Archdiocese. Surely this number can grow at this important time. These monthly donors are especially important as national board members have to estimate expected revenues for a new budget.
Another way we can help at this time is to sign on as a member of CCODP (www.devp.org). This only costs $5 a year. This is a clear statement of personal commitment and solidarity with people all around the world. At this crucial moment, we can make the difference.
(Bob McKeon: firstname.lastname@example.org)