Catholic Relief Services

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Catholic Relief Services
CRS logo
Founded 1943
Founder United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Type Humanitarian aid
Area served
Key people
Carolyn Y. Woo,
Most Reverend Paul Stagg Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City,
Chairman of the Board
US$ $701 million (2013)[1]
Slogan Faith. Action. Results.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Founded in 1943 by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, the agency provides assistance to 130 million people in more than 90 countries and territories in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

A member of Caritas International, the worldwide network of Catholic humanitarian agencies, CRS provides relief in emergency situations and helps people in the developing world break the cycle of poverty through community-based, sustainable development initiatives as well as Peacebuilding. Assistance is based solely on need, not race, creed or nationality. Catholic Relief Services is headquartered in the Posner Building in Baltimore, Maryland, while operating numerous field offices on five continents. CRS has approximately 5,000 employees around the world. The agency is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of 12 clergy (most of them bishops) and 7 lay people.[3]


Initially founded as the War Relief Services, the agency’s original purpose was to aid the refugees of war-torn Europe. A confluence of events in the mid 1950s — the end of colonial rule in many countries, the continuing support of the American Catholic community and the availability of food and financial resources from the U.S. Government — helped CRS expand operations. Its name was officially changed to Catholic Relief Services in 1955, and over the next 10 years it opened 25 country programs in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. CRS's executive director during this period (1947–1976) was Bishop Edward E. Swanstrom.[4]

As the agency grew, its programming focus widened, adapting to meet the needs of the post-World War II Roman Catholic Church and the circumstances of the people it encountered. In the 1970s and 1980s, programs that began as simple distributions of food, clothing and medicines to the poor evolved toward socio-economic development. By the late 1980s, health care, nutrition education, micro enterprise and agriculture had become major focuses of CRS programming.[citation needed]

In the mid-1990s, CRS went through a significant institutional transformation. In 1993, CRS officials embarked on a strategic planning effort to clarify the mission and identity of the agency. Soon after, the 1994 massacre in Rwanda – in which more than 800,000 people were killed – led CRS staff to reevaluate how they implemented their relief and development programs, particularly in places experiencing or at high risk of ethnic conflict. After a period of institutional reflection, CRS embraced a vision of global solidarity and incorporated a justice-centered focus into all of its programming, using Catholic social teaching as a guide.[4]

All programming is evaluated according to a set of social justice criteria called the Justice Lens. In terms of programming, CRS now evaluates not just whether its interventions are effective and sustainable, but whether they might have a negative impact on social or economic relationships in a community.[citation needed]


CRS programming includes Promoting human development by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty and nurturing peaceful and just societies

  • emergency relief in the wake of disasters and civil conflict
  • long-term development programming in the areas of agriculture, water, community health, education, health, HIV/AIDS, micro finance and peace building.

Serving Catholics in the United States as they live their faith in solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the world


Overseas work is done in partnership with local church agencies, other faith-based partners, non-governmental organizations and local governments. CRS emphasizes the empowerment of partners and beneficiaries in programming decisions. Program examples include:

  • Agriculture — CRS’ immediate goal is to improve family well-being through agro-economic development and environmental stewardship. The long-term goal is to strengthen the capacity of local communities to take control of their own development.[5]
  • Emergency Response — Natural and human-caused disasters disproportionately affect the lives of the poor. CRS works to ensure that disaster-affected populations are at least able to meet their basic needs and live a life with dignity. The agency works directly with affected communities and local partners to help restore and strengthen their pre-disaster capacities.[6]
  • HIV/AIDS — CRS promotes community-based programs that help those infected, address the underlying causes of AIDS and reduce the spread of HIV. CRS is the lead agency in a consortium that is expanding the delivery of antiretroviral treatments to people infected with HIV in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. Funding for this venture comes from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. In addition to this, programming addresses AIDS-related stigma, poverty and the special vulnerabilities and burdens faced by women. Included in CRS’ HIV/AIDS work is home-based care for individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS; support to orphans and vulnerable children affected by AIDS; behavior change and life skills education; voluntary counseling and testing; and projects that help increase beneficiaries’ livelihoods.[7]
  • Peacebuilding — The agency's commitment to global solidarity led CRS to adopt peacebuilding as an agency-wide priority. Peacebuilding in this context is defined as the long-term project of building peaceful, stable communities and societies. CRS assembled a team of regional advisors and a headquarters-based technical staff to work with partners, and peacebuilding projects were started in dozens of countries. Each summer, CRS conducts training programs for its staff and overseas partners at the Mindanao Peace Institute in the Philippines and at University of Notre Dame’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. An increasing number of bishops from developing countries have attended these sessions.[8]

In the United States

The agency has also made engaging the U.S. Catholic population a priority. CRS is seeking to help Catholics more actively live their faith and build global solidarity. Program examples include:

  • CRS University - Provides direction and resources to connect college and university communities to the work and mission of CRS around the world, which is to promote human development and global solidarity.
  • CRS Rice Bowl — Nearly 12 million parishioners, students and teachers participate in CRS’ Lenten program, which emphasizes prayer, fasting, learning and giving. Materials offer daily prayers, recipes for simple meals and stories that teach about life in the developing world. And the bowl itself, a symbol of both hunger and hope, is used to collect funds for those in need. Seventy-five percent of funds raised support development projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America; the remaining 25 percent stays in the diocese for local poverty and hunger alleviation projects.[9]
  • Global Solidarity Partnerships — Tailored to an individual diocese or faith community, the initiative helps U.S. Catholics to connect with the poor overseas through education and awareness activities, reciprocal visits, shared faith and prayer experiences, as well as financial support for specific locally appropriate development programs.[10]

Catholic Relief Services serves as a leading member of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a Washington D.C.-based coalition of over 400 major companies and NGOs that advocates for increased funding of American diplomatic and development efforts abroad.[11]

Emergency Responses

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake

As part of the massive, worldwide humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Catholic Relief Services donated $190 million to fund a five-year relief and reconstruction effort to help 600,000 victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.

2010 Haiti earthquake

Catholic Relief Services has served in Haiti since 1954. Over 50 years of experience allowed CRS to respond to the earthquake immediately and has positioned the agency to be a key development actor as the country rebuilds. The agency works through a broad network of partners, including the Catholic Church in Haiti.[12] These relief efforts are in conjunction with the humanitarian response by other non-governmental organizations.

CRS is fostering local leadership and helping communities develop the knowledge, understanding and skills to build local capacity so that Haitians drive their own recovery.[13] CRS has committed to a $200 million, 5-year earthquake recovery program in partnership with more than 200 local organizations, focusing on community revitalization and shelter, health, water and sanitation, and protection.[14]

Highlights of the recovery programming include the $22.5 million reconstruction of St. Francois de Sales Hospital in Port-au-Prince, in partnership with the Catholic Health Association of the United States, turning the facility into a 200-bed teaching hospital; the Catholic Education Initiative, focused on building a vibrant Catholic school system throughout Haiti; and the development of innovative approaches for transforming camps into permanent housing communities, beginning with the construction of 125 housing units at Camp Carradeux.

Syrian Refugees

Since the civil war in Syria began in March, 2011, CRS has been working with their church partners in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt to provide urgent medical assistance, hygiene and living supplies, counseling and support for the nearly 1 million Syrian refugees who are children. Most now live in unfamiliar and uncomfortable surroundings, unable to attend local schools and traumatized by atrocities they have witnessed. To give them structure and a sense of normalcy, CRS is supporting formal and informal education, tutoring, recreational activities and trauma counseling.

Crisis in Central African Republic

Though this crisis in the Central African Republic has received little media attention in the United States, an estimated 930,000 people—20 percent of the population—have fled their homes since rebels ousted the president in March 2013. Millions of people are in urgent need of food, shelter and assistance. Although a new president took office in August, many embassies, including the United States, remained closed. Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Mbaiki, Bossangoa, and Bouar are working in the country to provide emergency food, shelter, and agricultural support, as well as supporting the work of Christian and Muslim religious leaders to promote conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

2013 Typhoon Haiyan

Participating in the humanitarian response to Typhoon Haiyan, in the first 3 months after the typhoon CRS collaborated with communities and Caritas partners to provide 40,000 families–200,000 people–with emergency shelter, clean water and sanitation. We are now focusing on long-term recovery and are committed to a 5-year plan that will help 500,000 people. CRS has spent $23.7 million on their response as of September 30, 2014.[15]

2015 Nepal earthquake

For the humanitarian response to the Nepal earthquake, Catholic Relief Services and its partner organizations have begun procuring emergency relief materials, like shelter kits and sanitation and hygiene materials.[16]

Awards and recognition

  • Villanova University: On May 18, 2008, the Rev. Peter Donahue, President of Villanova, conferred the degree of Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa on Ken Hackett for his work as President of Catholic Relief Services. Mr. Hackett was also selected to give the commencement address to the Class of 2008.
  • University of Notre Dame: On May 20, 2007, CRS President Ken Hackett received an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree and was among nine people recognized by Notre Dame in the fields of national and international politics, education, medicine, the arts, humanitarian work and the Catholic Church.
  • 2007 Aurora Award: CRS earned a Gold Award from the Independent Film and Video Competition for our "Water for Life" documentary video, which explores why more than 1 billion people do not have adequate access to clean water.
  • 2006 Pakistan Star of Sacrifice: On September 21, 2006, CRS was awarded the prestigious Sitara-i-Eisaar (Star of Sacrifice) honoring the agency's comprehensive and timely response to the devastating October 8, 2005 Pakistan earthquake. CRS was among the first agencies to respond, providing emergency supplies, shelter, education, water and sanitation materials, and livelihood support.
  • 2005 Caritas Flame of Hope Award: Catholic Charities saluted CRS' work around the world in bringing the very core of Christianity to millions suffering from natural disasters as well as human cruelty and injustice.
  • Knight Commander of Saint Gregory the Great: On October 31, 2004, CRS president Ken Hackett received the Knight Commander of Saint Gregory the Great medal, one of the highest papal honors. The ceremony took place in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, Maryland, and recognized Hackett's outstanding service to the papacy and the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
  • Millennium Challenge Corporation: On July 13, 2004, following the recommendation of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, President George W. Bush nominated CRS President Ken Hackett to sit on the Millennium Challenge Corporation Board of Directors. Hackett was unanimously approved by the U.S. Senate. The Millennium Challenge Corporation is charged with improving the accountability and impact of foreign assistance.

Accountability standards

  • 2011-2014 American Institute of Philanthropy: Catholic Relief Services has been named a top-rated charity and given the rating of A or higher by AIP for efficiently using the majority of funds toward programming versus fundraising.
  • 2011-2014 Better Business Bureau/Wise Giving Alliance: CRS was found to meet all 20 Standards for Charity Accountability, which take into account an organization’s governance, financial accountability, truthfulness and transparency. The September 2011 audit found that only 3% of the CRS's expenses were for administration, leaving 4% for fundraising and 93% for program costs.[2]
  • November 2011 Chronicle of Philanthropy: CRS was ranked 51st out of 400 charities in Chronicle of Philanthropy's Annual Top 400 Philanthropy List.
  • November 2011 NonProfit Times: CRS was ranked 23rd out of the 100 best charities reviewed by the publication.
  • 2012[17] awarded CRS as 3 out of 4 stars for utilizing 93.3% of funds to program costs.

See also


  1. "Catholic Relief Services 2013 Annual Report". Catholic Relief Services. Catholic Relief Services. Retrieved May 1, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Wise Giving Report for Catholic Relief Services". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved 2010-01-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "CRS Executives". Catholic Relief Services. Retrieved 2010-01-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Catholic Relief Services History". Catholic Relief Services. 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Agriculture
  6. Emergency Response
  8. Peacebuilding
  9. Operation Rice Bowl
  10. Global Solidarity Partnerships
  11. U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Global Trust members
  12. "One year later, local efforts to help Haiti rebuild continue". January 16, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Challenge and Commitment in Haiti: A Progress Report One Year After the Quake
  14. CRS Haiti Financials
  15. CRS Philippines Financials
  16. "The Latest on Nepal Quake: US Soldiers Stay in Nepal to Help". The New York Times. 26 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. [CharityNavigator]

External links

  • Egan, Eileen. Catholic Relief Services: The Beginning Years. NY: Catholic Relief Services, 1988. ISBN 0-945356-00-5
  • Egan, Eileen. For Whom There is No Room: Scenes from the Refugee World. NY: Paulist Press, 1995. ISBN 0-8091-0473-3
  • USAID 1994. Initial environmental examination for the Catholic Relief Service Food Transition Strategy Project in the Philippines. USAID, Washington, DC.

External links