Witness of the Church


Catholic Relief Services Global Fellows made their voices heard in a one-day advocacy push last fall covering issues including human trafficking, refugee assistance and the war in Syria. The 26 global fellows visited 40 congressional offices.

The United States government can and should do more to help those most in need, the fellows told members of Congress. The issues they discussed with lawmakers are priorities of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and CRS’ Catholics Confront Global Poverty initiative.

CRS Global Fellows are clergy engaged in CRS’ mission who strive to engage parishioners around the world by sharing their experiences of witnessing CRS’ work overseas.

By participating in advocacy, the global fellows gain valuable experience on impacting policy to support the most vulnerable and marginalized members of society. They participate in training with staff, learn how the Church works through CRS and Caritas, and receive talking points on important global issues.

In their visits to congressional offices, the fellows focused on gaining support for anti-trafficking legislation, specifically the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2015, H.R. 3226 and S. 1968. It requires companies to provide evidence that their supply chains do not support trafficking, slavery, and child or forced labor.

They also emphasized the need for the U.S. government to support Syrian refugees and work to end the ongoing war in Syria. They reinforced that attacks on civilians are violations of international law.

The advocacy day was many global fellows’ first experience speaking directly with congressional staff members on Capitol Hill. Deacon Roger Vandervest, of St. Philip Benizi Parish in Fullerton, California, was one of them. He says it was a powerful and memorable experience.

“I was a bit apprehensive,” he says, “but CRS provided training that prepared me for the reality of what I was going to do. I was pleasantly surprised at how responsive the staffers were to the message I had to share.”

He visited the offices of Sen. Barbara Boxer and Sen. Diane Feinstein as well as Rep. Ed Royce, all of California.

The advocacy by CRS Global Fellows is extremely valuable. For example, global fellows from Georgia visited Rep. John Lewis’ office and were clearly instrumental in persuading him to cosponsor H.R. 3226. Rep. Andre Carson of Indiana also agreed to cosponsor the bill.

Although the legislation did not pass in the last Congress, CRS’ work on trafficking and other issues is ongoing. Through Catholics Confront Global Poverty, CRS and USCCB look forward to providing more opportunities for global fellows to get involved in advocacy, and we hope that we will see increased involvement of great advocates like Deacon Roger and his colleagues who participated last fall.

Thank you for all of the hard work you do on behalf of vulnerable people!

CRS Global Fellow Deacon Roger Vandervest lobbying in the office of Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA 39th Distrcit).
CRS Global Fellow Deacon Roger Vandervest lobbying in the office of Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA 39th Distrcit).