Martin Luther King Jr. Day event features bishop’s talk on poverty


By Linda m. Linonis

The speaker asked his audience to work toward reducing, then eliminating, poverty.

YOUNGSTOWN — Bishop George V. Murry of the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown offered six action points people can take to work toward eliminating poverty.

The bishop addressed about 150 people representing various faiths, social services and community activism during the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebration sponsored by the North Side Interfaith Partnership at Congregation Rodef Sholom, 1119 Elm St.

Here’s what Bishop Murry challenged people to do in his talk, “Poverty Locally and Beyond.”

1. Pray. “Pray for the elimination of poverty,” he said. “Praying helps us remember what our community needs.”

2. Work together. “Providing social and health services to those in need,” he said, is a cooperative effort. The diocese is getting hundreds of calls from people seeking help with food, rent, housing and utilities, he said, adding, “There is a good working relationship among agencies in the city.”

3. Be advocates. “Ask politicians what they will do in the first 100 days in office to reduce poverty,” the bishop said. He urged people to hold them accountable and make sure that “the promises they made are implemented.”

4. Support community organizers. Bishop Murry said the Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development are two endeavors. ACTION (Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods) recently received a grant from the Catholic Campaign and hired a new organizer to continue its Crime and Safety Campaign. He also noted that the Presbyterian Church provides grants for community organizers.

5. Credit services. “Providing realistic credit services for the poor is necessary,” he said, noting that they have been “taken advantage of.” “They need asset-building and credit-enhancing services to bank smarter,” he said.

6. Educators, artists and cultural leaders must unite. “They must come together and talk about and study the effects of poverty,” he said. “They should use their educational and artistic skills to break the grip of poverty.”

Bishop Murry cited the speech that Dr. King gave when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in which he discussed poverty. The bishop noted that King said there was no deficit in human resources but a deficit in human will to accomplish this goal. King realized, the bishop said, that the poor were eliminated from the mainstream of life and invisible. The bishop said to the audience, as King also did, that the time has come for an all-out war on poverty.

And here’s why. Bishop Murry prefaced the six points by noting that the MLK observance Monday calls attention to the civil rights activist’s work that included the goal of “outlawing poverty in the United States and the world.”

The bishop cited statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau concerning poverty. He said nationally about 12.4 percent of all American households live in poverty. In 2007, statistics showed that 37.4 million people were impoverished, he said, and in 2006, the number was 36.4 million.

“In Ohio, 13.1 percent of the population is in poverty,” he said. “Ohio is 19th in the nation of people living in poverty.” Bishop Murry said. He also added that Youngstown has 37.6 percent of its households living in poverty.

Bishop Murry said poverty reveals “broken relationships with ourselves, our community and God.” He said it is the duty of for-profit and nonprofit organizations to reduce and eliminate poverty. “In the Catholic diocese, Catholic Charities wants to reduce poverty by half by 2020,” he said, adding that the National Jewish Federation and interfaith efforts also are working to reduce poverty.

Bishop Murry was introduced by Dr. Sherry Linkon of Rodef Sholom.

Before his talk, a Kabbalat Shabbat was led by Rabbi Franklin Muller of Rodef Sholom. Writings of Dr. King from the Birmingham, Ala. city jail were featured and read by the Rev. Solomon Hill of Centenary United Methodist Church, the Rev. Joseph Rudjak of Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Sister Isabel Rudge of St. Columba Cathedral, Monsignor Robert Siffrin of St. Edward Church, Pastor Dennis Garner of Tabernacle Baptist Church, Sister Patricia McNicholas of Beatitude House and Karen O’Malia of Rodef Sholom and First Unitarian Universalist Church. Pastor Greg Calko and Richard Brown United Methodist Church also are in the interfaith partnership. A potluck dinner also was held.

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