By DIANE BULLARD
On Oct. 16-18 thousands of churches nationwide celebrated the seventh annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbath. This observance was sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund in cooperation with 200 religious organizations nationwide — including Catholic Charities USA, National Black Catholic Congress, NETWORK and the SC Christian Action Council. Special events were planned at faith communities across the nation to focus on the needs of children and how people of faith can respond through prayer, education, community outreach service and advocacy.
There is no doubt that our children in South Carolina are in trouble. Kids Count, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, has ranked South Carolina 48 in the nation in regards to child wellness. This number stems from our low national ranking in the strongest indicators of the well being of children. South Carolina ranks 47 in regards to infant mortality, 44 in regards to the percentage of children in families that are headed by a single parent, and 43 in regards to child death rates. SC ranks 45 in regards to children who live in poverty. The Children Defense Fund reports the 13 million of preschool children today, including 6 million infants and toddlers, are cared for by someone other than their parents who work outside of the home. The Census Bureau estimates that 5 million children are left unsupervised after school.
Children’s Sabbath offers a wonderful opportunity for churches to come together to examine ways to work together to make sure that our young ones and families who are struggling to survive are not left behind in the shuffle of political games and hurried lives. All four regional offices of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Charleston have information available to help parishes to plan a Children’s Sabbath, including a sample liturgy, lesson plans for religious educators and activity guides. Although nationally a Children’s Sabbath took place this month, this special event with such an important focus can be planned for any weekend of the year.
Of course, we all play a role in the lives of our country’s children. It is evident that peace will only come for South Carolina’s children when we support them in their educational efforts, ensure proper healthcare, offer support to struggling families and provide the love and prayers that are necessary to succeed.
Diane Bullard is regional coordinator of Catholic Charities in the Pee Dee Deanery of the Diocese of Charleston.