Lansing Bishop Earl Boyea is calling on Catholics in the mid-Michigan diocese to help the poor. Specifically, he wants them to focus on poor people living in Flint.
Flint is part of the 10-county diocese. But Boyea feels too many Catholics ignore Flint and its needs.
Decades of economic decline and population flight has left Flint with a poverty rate well above the state average.
Boyea launched “Faith in Flint” today. The initiative is aimed at raising awareness about Flint’s poor and increasing financial support from outside the city for groups trying to help.
“We got to care for the poor. We got to love them,” says Boyea. “And we have to listen to them.”
During his news conference, one of the women who is fed and sheltered by the church thanked the bishop.
Vicky Schultz is the CEO of Catholic Charities in Genesee and Shiawassee counties. She says the demand for help continues to outstrip their ability to meet it.
“Everyone says the recession is over,” says Schultz. “But we’re not feeling it.”
The Catholic Church is among those groups struggling in Flint.
Catholics have long been a large part of the city’s population. But as Flint’s population has shrunk to half its former size, the number of Catholics has declined as well.
The Rev. Tom Firestone has been tapped to try a new approach. He’s been appointed pastor of four Flint churches.
He says the intent is to make the churches work together to address Flint’s spiritual and non-spiritual needs.
“We need to look at new approaches to ministry,” says Firestone.