Catholic Relief Services

Last updated
Catholic Relief Services
Founded1943;77 years ago (1943)
Founder United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Type Humanitarian aid
Area served
Key people
Sean Callahan,
President and CEO
Most Reverend Gregory John Mansour, Bishop of Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn,
Chairman of the Board
US$ $979 million (2017) [1]
5,211 [2]

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. Founded in 1943 by the United States Conference 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 13 clergy (most of them bishops) and 10 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] One of the key relief workers in those early years was Father Fabian Flynn, CP, who directed their efforts in Germany, Austria, and Hungary. [5]

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

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:

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:

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. [13]

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. CRS provided shelter kits to build tents and temporary shelters, as well as transitional, sturdier shelters meant to last for a longer time. Some of these efforts have now been codified and made a part of the Sphere Project, an international set of standards to be used by organizations providing emergency assistance. [14]

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. [15] 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. [16] 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. [17]

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 peace building.

CRS is a member of the Interfaith Partnership for the Consolidation of Peace (CIPP) in Central African Republic, a joint project launched in 2016 to support the process of national reconciliation and peace building. The CIPP brings together CRS, the Interfaith Peace Platform, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Aegis Trust, Islamic Relief and World Vision International in promoting social cohesion at various levels, supporting economic development and assisting those who have been affected by violence in the country. [18]

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. [19] During this first year of relief efforts (2013-2014), CRS rebuilt over 3,000 homes, had 5,000 under construction, and rebuilt 2,800 household latrines. [20] CRS also created a Livelihood Recovery Program to help all those who lost their jobs because of the disaster. The program offers locals the choose of five programs and provides grants for training. The programs are: intercropping, livestock production, aquaculture, small and medium-sized enterprises, skills development, and communal nursery. [20]

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. [21]

Awards and recognition


Accountability standards

See also


  1. "Catholic Relief Services 2017 Annual Report". Catholic Relief Services. Catholic Relief Services. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  2. 1 2 "Wise Giving Report for Catholic Relief Services". Better Business Bureau. Retrieved 2010-01-13.
  3. "CRS Executives". Catholic Relief Services. Retrieved 2017-01-04.
  4. 1 2 "Catholic Relief Services History". Catholic Relief Services. 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2013.
  5. Sean Brennan The Priest who put Europe Back Together: The Life of Father Fabian Flynn, CP (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2018)
  6. Agriculture
  7. Emergency Response
  9. Peacebuilding
  10. "Four Looming Famines Highlight Need for CRS Rice Bowl". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 2017-04-11.
  11. Operation Rice Bowl Archived 2010-08-18 at the Wayback Machine
  12. Global Solidarity Partnerships Archived 2008-01-24 at the Wayback Machine
  13. U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, Global Trust members
  14. Services, Catholic Relief (2009-12-28). "Catholic Relief Services: What We Learned from the Indian Ocean Tsunami". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  15. "One year later, local efforts to help Haiti rebuild continue". January 16, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011.
  16. Challenge and Commitment in Haiti: A Progress Report One Year After the Quake Archived 2012-03-28 at the Wayback Machine
  17. CRS Haiti Financials
  18. "Central African Republic: CSW welcomes Interfaith Partnership for Peace". May 19, 2016. Retrieved June 8, 2016.
  19. CRS Philippines Financials
  20. 1 2 "In Philippines, Typhoon Haiyan Survivors Reflect on Recovery One Year Later". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 2017-04-18.
  21. "The Latest on Nepal Quake: US Soldiers Stay in Nepal to Help". The New York Times. 26 April 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015.
  22. Winters, Michael Sean (Oct 1, 2013). "National Catholic Reporter". Germaine Grisez on Pope Francis. National Catholic Reporter.
  23. [CharityNavigator]

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