On the first day of January 2020, coronavirus for many people in the United States was a mysterious disease happening somewhere else. Just three months later, most people not only recognized the term and its specific designation, COVID-19, but also acted to slow its spread. By March 2020, COVID-19 had swept across the U.S. and began infecting people at an alarming rate. In response, many workplaces shut their doors and households sheltered in place.
The staff of Catholic Charities USA and many local Catholic Charities agencies around the country responded similarly, closing offices and starting telework. But the response of the Catholic Charities ministry had another aspect as well: continuing to serve its clients during the challenging time of the ongoing pandemic.
As early as March 11, 2020, CCUSA asked Congress and the administration to enact immediate and effective policies to limit the impact of COVID-19. CCUSA has continued throughout the pandemic to advocate for the most vulnerable by urging the availability of stimulus funds and increased funding for programs like the Emergency Food and Shelter Program. CCUSA also distributed $6.1 million to agencies for COVID-19-related disaster grants and helped to deliver almost 2 million face masks, 650 gallons of hand sanitizer, and gloves, masks, shields, and gowns.
Member agencies across the U.S. have responded with the same speed and generosity in a variety of ways too many to recount. Local Catholic Charities staff, careful to follow social distancing guidelines, still managed to get food to needy families either by delivering items to doorsteps or creating drive-thru pantries. Staff and volunteers at agencies also made phone calls to senior citizens who were quarantined in nursing homes, counseled people over video chats, and constructed shelters for people without housing.
The response of the Catholic Charities ministry during COVID-19 has been amazing in its generosity and innovation, from both the national office and the local agencies. Representing just part of this response are the articles found in two sections of this issue: “Catholic Charities USA, the national office” and “Catholic Charities, member agencies.” Each section contains four articles describing some of the ways Catholic Charities has responded to COVID-19.