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Catholic Charities Corporation Administrative Offices:

7911 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

(216) 334-2900

Behind October 17: The Priest, the Crowd, & Human Rights

Posted October 16, 2021

Behind October 17: The Priest, the Crowd, & Human Rights

It was October 17, 1987, when over 100,000 people gathered in the Trocadero Plaza in Paris, France, to emphasize the dignity of the human person: specifically, to show their refusal for extreme poverty in the world and honor those experiencing it. The large crowd had gathered in response to the appeal of French priest Fr. Joseph Wresinski, who was passionate about defending human life and helping those in misery. Fr. Wresinski founded the ATD (All Together in Dignity) Fourth World Movement, a movement that—even to this day—strives to unite the world in solidarity by assisting those who live in extreme poverty and isolation.

Through the ATD Fourth World Movement and the gathering in Paris on October 17, 1987, Fr. Wresinski and supporters of his mission influenced the declaration of the International Day of the Eradication of Poverty. On December 22, 1992, the United Nations General Assembly officially made October 17 this international day in an effort to motivate others to help eradicate poverty.

What You Can Do To Help

Life can get busy, but bringing an end to poverty requires us each to do our part. Helping create change in the world can start with the most manageable and straightforward actions. Here are six things you can do to help eradicate poverty in your community.

  • Use your talents and passions.
    • What are you passionate about? See if there are any organizations that may interest you which are dedicated to helping poor or low-income individuals, and reach out for volunteer opportunities (even if you could only take a few hours one day to help out.) For example, do you love being around babies? Consider volunteering at Zelie's Home in Cleveland. Are you passionate about mental health or about helping those battling addiction? You should look into volunteering at Matt Talbot for Men or Matt Talbot for Women at Catholic Charities. Do you like woodworking and building things? Habitat For Humanity might be a great place to look into! Are you an artist? You could sell your work and donate a portion of the proceeds to those in need. Be creative!
  • Bring your ideas to the workplace.
    • If you have an idea that your company could do, see if there is a suggestion box or employee to reach out to who could help coordinate it. Canned food drives, Toys for Tots, and team volunteering at a local nonprofit are just some of the ways companies can come together for a great cause.
  • Pray.
    • Prayer is always a simple, yet powerful, option. Keep those who are isolated, poor, homeless, and uncared for in your prayers. Ask God to help you become more passionate about serving others, and ask Him for ideas or opportunities to reasonably dedicate some time to bring greater life and justice to those who are not as fortunate as you.
  • Write and Educate.
    • Write a factual tweet to educate followers on local or world poverty, post resources and volunteer opportunities on social media that others may be interested in, send a letter to a government official to propose ideas and solutions, or even encourage a child in poverty by writing a letter (you can do this online at Children International).
  • Donate.
    • Many organizations advocate for human rights and strive to benefit the community. Donating is a quick and easy way to play your part in the eradication of poverty. You could donate items to a homeless shelter, buy an item on an Amazon Wish List to benefit those in need (such as helping the Afghan refugees coming to Catholic Charities by buying an item on our wish list), or donate money online.
  • Unite.
    • No matter your social or financial status, occupation, religion, race, or culture, we must unite in order to help those in need. Each and every person was made in the image of God and deserves respect and care. Like Fr. Wresinski and the ATD Fourth World Movement, do not be silent. Come together and stand up for greater respect and care of humanity.

Mother Teresa Said…

"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."

No matter your state in life, there are always opportunities for charity. Lots of people can perform memorable acts of charity and contribute to the fight for justice, but not all people are prompted by genuine love in their hearts. To care for the most vulnerable and isolated, we must first care for those right in our own homes and communities, and try to do so out of love rather than guilt.

Acts of encouragement, justice, and charity do make a difference in the world, even if they seem small. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and because of that, having a positive impact on even just one person brings more light and joy to the world.

How will you play your part in the eradication of poverty?



“ATD Fourth World: Who We Are.” ATD Fourth World, 22 July 2021,

“International Day for the Eradication of Poverty | October 17.” United Nations,

“International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.” UNESCO, 14 Sept. 2021,

Rezolúcia OSN ku Dňu za odstránenie chudoby – Je dôležité, et al. “Encounter with Joseph Wresinski: Interview by Claudine Faure.” Joseph Wresinski , Joseph Wresinski Centre, 6 Apr. 2017,


About Catholic Charities:

Under the leadership of the Bishop of Cleveland and inspired by the Gospel, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, continues the mission of Jesus by responding to those in need through an integrated system of quality services designed to respect the dignity of every person and build a just and compassionate society. We envision a world touched by God’s love: where we alleviate poverty and need, and all people share justly in the blessings of creation.

Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Part of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

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