Faces behind the numbers

What began as a month of celebration for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria is ending with days of trepidation as Illinois politicians consider drastic cuts in social service spending as one way out of an historic budget crisis.

There are a lot of numbers to digest to even begin to understand the situation, including a $9 billion deficit and about $6 million in possible contract cuts affecting Catholic Charities in our diocese and its thousands of clients. Millions of dollars needed by other agencies that form a safety net for needy persons across the state also hang in the balance pending outcome of the debate in Springfield.

Each person affected has a face, and when you read stories about the crisis in the coming days — or consider how you might respond — we’d like you to picture Kyndra.

“Whose heart wouldn’t she win?” asked Kyndra’s adoptive mother, Chris Lusk of Pekin, in a video played during Catholic Charities’ “Light of Hope” fundraising dinner on June 6. The video told how, as an infant, Kyndra sustained serious, long-term injuries, and how God brought her, through Catholic Charities, to the loving home and arms of Kenny and Chris Lusk. The involvement of Catholic Charities caseworkers such as Kim Hubbs didn’t end with the connection. “Somebody has always, always been there for us,” said Chris, pointing to Catholic Charites employees who share the challenges and the joys of caring for Kyndra, whom the Lusks accepted as a foster child and later adopted.

“You hold on tight and take it day by day,” she said.

Now Catholic Charities officials and many of its clients are the ones holding on, along with other social service agencies, awaiting what happens next in Springfield. Among the programs potentially targeted are the Crisis Intervention and foster care programs that provided help and hope for Kyndra.

In declaring June as Catholic Charities month, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, urged the faithful to “join in the work of social justice and to celebrate Christ’s loving presence in our world as exemplified by the work of Catholic Charities.” In June’s final days, we recommend three urgent ways of doing that: 1) Pray for wisdom for your representatives in Springfield as they make tough decisions; 2) Contact them regarding your concerns; and 3) Call your local Catholic Charities office to see how else you might help.

And when you act, remember Kyndra’s face, as well as that of the other Person behind each of those numbers: Christ, always our light of hope and victory. — Thomas J. Dermody, editor-in-chief, The Catholic Post

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