Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic Relief Services official strengthens bonds with Spokane Diocese

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the July 3, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Jim DeHarpporte of Catholic Relief Services visited groups and individuals in the Spokane Diocese last month. (IR photo)

Catholic Charities hosted the regional representative for Catholic Relief Services in the western United States during a get-acquainted visit June 17. Jim DeHarpporte, who has worked for CRS for 30 years, spent the day meeting diocesan officials, members of the business community and parishioners.

The post of regional representative is new, started by CRS to bring better connections between the agency and the region’s dioceses. The region is large, covering the Rocky Mountain states and the West Coast, including Alaska and Hawaii.

DeHarpporte, the first to hold the post, has been on the job for the past 18 months. His mission is to “deepen the partnership” between the diocese and CRS, and to learn if there are ways CRS can better facilitate its programs in the diocese.

DeHarpporte recognized the Spokane Diocese in its work with the poor, mentioning a project that took place some years back. Area farmers teamed with Catholic Charities and the military (under the Humanitarian Aid Act) to donate and transport several thousand pounds of wheat to Bolivia, one of the poorest countries in the world.

Another project he noted is the sister relationship that the Spokane Diocese has had with the Diocese of Solalá, Guatemala, for 30 years, helping the Mayan people there learn ways to support themselves in spite of many hardships.

Individual parishes also have other social ministry projects that they support.

“We have a lot to be proud of as Catholics,” DeHarpporte said. “It’s tremendous work the Church does, and that includes Spokane.”

DeHarpporte talked about the role of CRS in the world.

Traditionally CRS’s role has been that of he U.S. bishops’ overseas disaster relief and development agency. Today, there is a growing recognition that there is a third aspect to its work. “We still emphasize relief; that’s our primary mission,” he said. “We’ve also made an effort to empower communities, working with local Catholic Charities’ organizations or their counterparts in such projects as small loans for businesses.”

But there was “something missing,” DeHarpporte said. At a world meeting of CRS representatives held in 2000, DeHarp-porte said CRS reflected on its mission: “What do we bring that is unique? Why do we do what we do?” It had to be “more than material and more than empowerment.” In addressing those questions, CRS realized that what was missing was a stronger emphasis and wider knowledge on how CRS is “building and promoting global solidarity.”

DeHarpporte gave several examples of how the agency works with other churches and groups in a country, to promote unity, cooperation, along with “religious harmony.” What was needed was a way to show that global solidarity to others, especially in the United States.

There had to be a way, he said, to “involve American Catholics and find ways of engaging them in partnership and unity with the church and its people throughout the world. We’d like to bring back the message of what CRS does overseas to help them become more involved.” The Spokane Diocese “has been a leader” in this area, he said. “And I wanted to see how that worked.”

DeHarpporte, who is from Minneapolis, began overseas service as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia. That is where he met his wife and also where he first connected with CRS. His wife’s father knew a priest who was a director in the CRS program and DeHarpporte went to work for the organization.

Even a brief overview of his work with CRS is lengthy.

He served in the Philippines, India, West Africa, Ethiopia and Thailand. He opened offices in Vietnam and Cambodia and started projects in Burma and Laos. He worked for a few years at a CRS office in New York. From 1994 until he took the job in the U.S., DeHarpporte was the regional director for Southeast, East Asia and the Pacific. He expressed amazement at his CRS service: “I never dreamed the places it would take me,” he said. He also expressed gratitude: “It’s an enormous privilege to have represented the U.S. Catholic community overseas.”

DeHarpporte quoted Bishop Skylstad’s comment at the business breakfast that morning, that the ‘most difficult (mission) field is Western culture.” In his role as regional representative for CRS, DeHarpporte works now in that culture, to “explore new partnerships and look at how we can connect the dots ... and see the larger picture. If we open ourselves, we’ll realize how connected we are. We’ll recognize our common humanity and see what’s really important.”

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