Catholic Campaign for Human Development

By Molly Langfels

Image retrieved from United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is a national program that the Archdiocese runs. It’s work directly benefits social justice grassroots organizations around the country. While Catholic Charities works to help the immediate needs of marginalized and folks experiencing homelessness, the Catholic Campaign for Human Development works to support more long term efforts. In the Chicagoland area alone, 31 grant applications were pushed through to the board who begins to delve into the details of each application. The Archdiocese of Chicago provides a large amount of the funds and the applications for this program. 

Through CCHD, there are three different types of grants, local, national, and economic development. Each of these provide a certain amount of money and have specific requirements based on how long an organization has been receiving CCHD grants. There is a set of guidelines provided to each organization that wants to apply for a grant, regardless of the type of grant. These guidelines are set to ensure that each organization is working for and with marginalized communities and follows Catholic Social Teaching. In order to be considered, an organization’s board must contain at least 50% low-income folks. There must also be comprehensive leadership development that contains leaders that are more than half low-income as well as proof that they are financially responsible and capable of continuing their practice. Once the organization is given the money, they are allowed to use it in any way they wish (unless it has otherwise been discussed). This differs from many grants since most federal grants are provided to be applied to specific campaigns or aspects of an organization.  

The people who work with CCHD are largely volunteers. In Chicago’s chapter, this group of volunteers is mostly retired folks and those that are involved with social justice. Some of these individuals have been on the board for years and have experience organizing, or in the case of the economic development grants, there are some whose expertise lies in finances. Regardless of one’s passions, everyone involved has a dedication to bettering Chicagoland and the Archdiocese. In addition to the volunteers, there are grants given out to Catholic colleges and universities so that the board contains younger people with different perspectives. In order to understand the applicants to a greater degree, the CCHD board is split up into groups and each group is assigned 3-4 organizations to meet with and learn about. Each volunteer is provided with the grant applications for all 3-4 organizations that were assigned. Following the site visits, the CCHD board gets together and discusses each organization, culminating in a vote that is then sent to Cardinal Cupich to look over and determine what organizations should receive grants.

My experience with CCHD has been eye-opening. Having the opportunity to work with and advocate for organizations that are changing the communities we live in and reaching out to marginalized folks has been something I have wanted to do for a while. My group met with ARISE Chicago, Housing Action Illinois, ONE Northside, and Community Renewal Society. Each organization focused on different issues and locations, providing me with a wide overview of the types of organizations that are working tirelessly within our community to better it. When visiting each organization, we were met by both members of the board and oftentimes people who have been directly impacted by the organization. During our visit with ARISE Chicago, an organization that deals with worker’s rights, half of the people present were impacted by ARISE and/or were on the board. In the first bilingual meeting I have attended, the participants explained their stories in English and Spanish, explaining how they were exploited by their employers and how ARISE assisted them and helped them regain their dignity in the workplace. Their presence allowed for us to have a deeper understanding of how influential ARISE is. Each organization provided a strong argument for their grant, but I feel that ARISE’s exemplifies the values of the Church and CCHD that I find to be most powerful. Their ability to listen, advocate for each other, and create a community despite there being multiple languages being spoken was a testament to how universal the church and those who seek its assistance are.

If you are interested in being a part of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development or just want to know more about it, feel free to contact me! 

Molly Langfels: [email protected]