March 28, 2012

Catholic Charities of Boston President Speaks at Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND Lecture

Deborah Kincade Rambo, LICSW, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston, addressed "Meeting the Needs in our Communities through Catholic Charities" at the annual Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND Lecture on March 28th in the Janet M. Daley Library Lecture Hall.

"Our Catholic faith calls us collectively and individually to work for social justice," Rambo said in her opening remarks. The Catholic Church, she noted, has an extensive fabric of social institutions, including schools, health care institutions and charities, which are rooted in the ministries of the Church, but serve the American society as a whole.

"We do what we do, not because you are Catholic, but because we are Catholic," Rambo said of Catholic Charities' continued mission to build "a just and compassionate society rooted in the dignity of all people."

Catholic Charities agencies across the country serve approximately 25 percent of the nation's 46 million poor, answering the call of an emerging social policy that "expects less from the state and other public agencies, more from the market and a great deal from nonprofit organizations," Rambo said.

On a local level, poverty is a growing problem within the Archdiocese. Rambo offered statistics from The Boston Foundation's 2011 report, The Measure of Poverty: A Boston Indicators Project Special Report, which stated that from 2005-2009, 90,000 Bostonians, not including college students, were living in poverty. Also, the percentage of children living in poverty in the Dorchester/Mattapan/Roxbury area has hit 42 percent the highest concentration in the state. To compound the issue, the cost of living in Greater Boston increased by 68 percent between 1990 and 2009, while federal poverty guidelines, which set a benchmark for government aid, rose by just 55 percent.

Rambo has seen the impact of the increased economic hardship on Catholic Charities' resources. In 2008, a food bank in the Dorchester/Mattapan/Roxbury area donated approximately 5,000 pounds of food each month. At the present, they provide 15,000 pounds a week.

Including several Basic Needs Service sites, which offer food pantries and rent, heat or utilities assistance, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston provides more than 100 programs in 33 locations. They are second only to the state in the services they provide, which include education programs to help new immigrants or refugees learn English and job skills or programs to support young mothers who have left school. They also provide daily daycare service for 1,100 children, in programs accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Catholic Charities of Boston also has five transitional shelters for families in Boston, Cambridge and Lowell.

"We're sort of a soup-to-nuts agency," Rambo said.

Last year, Catholic Charities helped 200,000 individuals across Eastern Massachusetts, with the help of 600 full-time and part-time staff and 2,500 volunteers.

In her current role as president and CEO, Rambo is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of one of the largest social services, not-for-profit agencies in Massachusetts.

For more than 32 years, she has had the opportunity to serve in all of Catholic Charities' community service centers and divisions as an advocate for the poor and working poor.

During the more than 15 years after joining Catholic Charities, Rambo served as a clinical social worker and program director, working with at risk children and families in disadvantaged communities.

Rambo holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Pennsylvania State University and a Masters of Social Work degree from Boston College.

The Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND Lecture is dedicated to promoting the social justice mission of Emmanuel College. This annual lecture honors one of Emmanuel's most esteemed graduates and faculty members, Sister Marie Augusta Neal, SND '42, who influenced several generations of students and scholars worldwide through her inspirational teaching and her numerous groundbreaking publications on social justice and change, and women in the church.