“WHAT CROSSCARE MEANS TO ME”
Opening of Crosscare photographic exhibition on the 75th anniversary of its foundation
Introductory words of Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin
Saint Paul’s Church Arran Quay at 6.00pm, 31st August 2016
Crosscare was born 75 years ago in wartime Dublin when Archbishop John Charles McQuaid brought together under one umbrella a wide range of social service initiatives of the Catholic Church within the Archdiocese of Dublin under the name “Catholic Social Service Conference” (CSSC). It was initially an emergency coalition to address the particular poverty which was affecting wartime Dublin. “The Emergency”, as people called it, was a harsh time marked by widespread hunger and a lack of basic health care provisions especially for children and mothers. CSSC was a forward looking initiative which was community rooted. It was initially entirely funded by the Dublin Mass-going Catholic community of the day.
CSSC was an emergency wartime measure which then developed into a service, later to be renamed Crosscare, which proved versatile in addressing a variety of new needs and it became a permanent and established structure of care able to adapt and face changing situations.
I would imagine that Archbishop McQuaid felt that there would always be a need for social services as the diocese and the city began to expand and as the diocese doubled in its population and increased in its diversity. New areas of the city were beginning to develop. Too often houses were built without any social and community support. The need to ensure adequate nourishment, schooling and basic primary medical care would increase.
I wonder at that time if Archbishop McQuaid would have imagined how responding to the situation of the disadvantaged across the Dublin diocese would change with the times. Already in his time, the city authorities and government would take on their own specific responsibilities as Ireland became wealthier and economically more developed, as policy evolved and as budgets were increased.
It is the primary responsibility of government is to ensure basic services and human security for all its citizens, formulated within a human rights framework. All in all credit is due to successive governments and local authorities for the quality of the services that were provided.
But over the last ten to fifteen years a situation has emerged which few would have imagined and in a certain sense few have fully adverted to. Just look at last year, where as a result of an economic crisis and financial austerity we witnessed unprecedented pressure on all of Crosscare’s services. Decreasing financial support from statutory bodies was accompanied by significant increase in demand for services. Crosscare, alongside others, has been called to respond directly to the staggering increase in the numbers of families and children who are now homeless. Crosscare now finds itself providing additional family meals to those who are living in hotels along with increasing the provision of food support locally through community based food banks. Over the last few Christmases Crosscare has had to make additional appeals for basic food for families as stock of food banks went low.
The extent of homelessness and hunger in today’s Dublin is creating a divided society of which no one can be proud. A child who has to grow up without a proper home and who misses out on basic nutrition brings disadvantage with them for the rest of their lives. A hungry and homeless child is faced with unequal opportunity on so many fronts. More and more elderly who have contributed so much to building our prosperous and successful Ireland find themselves facing new insecurity and loneliness in the latter years of their lives.
It is easy to point fingers and identify failure on the part of policy makers. But in the long run we have to admit that all of us bear some responsibility, at the minimum though turning a blind eye to the seriousness of the new divide in Irish society. At various stages in my life I have listened to calls for new crusades to address social and cultural issues within Irish society. Today we need a real crusade against poverty and a real revolutionary campaign to fight poverty. We need to provoke broad engagement within society. Crosscare has a rich tradition of community involvement and of investment in building up community. There is no place today just for polemics and for conflict between public and private, statutory and voluntary. We need a new sense of common purpose and participatory society.
I repeat what I said earlier that ensuring basic services and human security for all its citizens is the primary responsibility of government. It would be foolish, however, to think that this should be done simply by public bodies. The Christian inspiration of Crosscare stresses that every individual is created in the image and likeness of God and therefore that we are all brothers and sisters and we all share responsibility for the welfare of others. Care for others requires more than policy and funding: it requires a true sense of community. The fight against poverty and exclusion must involve all of us. It is not that the State should privatize social care and renege on its responsibilities. We need a vision of society which is not just State centered, but is community focused in which being a citizen does not mean being the recipient of support but being a citizen also means actively supporting.
I am impressed by the emphasis that Crosscare places on building community. It does so through the way it provides services, but it also does so through fostering very simple direct person-to-person services which humanize the life of those we care for. I am thinking of simple services for the sick and elderly like “plate pals” volunteers who sit with sick person in hospitals or in homes while they eat; “appointment companions” who help older people attend medical appointments; or the volunteers who regularly telephone the elderly living alone.
Pope Francis has written that “The name of God is mercy”. Mercy is not do-goodism but humanizing lonely or troubled lives by personal contact and support and human warmth. Crosscare is the social support organization of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin. It provides support in all our names. But it has another mission. It is called to remind the entire Christian community that the Christian is one who directly brings Christ’s care to others and does not simply delegate that responsibility. It reminds the Church that it must itself be a witness to the care of Jesus Christ not through being a structure of power, but living the precariousness of trusting and depending on the God whose love is revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
I am proud of Crosscare but I am grateful to Crosscare for the way it challenges my own conscience and the collective conscience of the Church about our common responsibility for all our brothers and sisters and especially those who are marginalized and those we might easily opt to forget about. ENDS