A Missionaries of Hope nun working with Cebu’s urban poor distinguishes between the “easy poor,” who comply with the criterion “for our assistance” and in general cooperate with those who want to help them and “the difficult poor,” who, in many cases, do not even dare to ask for help.

Among the latter are the mentally sick vagrants (especially the young women, who are made pregnant again and again by those who abuse the frailty of their minds) ; vagrant children/rugby boys, who have many organizations that deal with them in different ways with different levels of success; the elderly who belong to syndicates and are reduced to begging for their daily sustenance; the people/families who live on the sidewalk, which is normal for animals in the jungle but not for human beings who need to have shelter, food, clothing, education and work to function as a “normal” person; and people in prisons, “one of which I can say I begin to know well: the city jail with 2,000 men who have no resident doctor and who have a diet limited to P50 a day.

Many of these men are in prison for long periods of time without their cases being heard.

The good sister next argues for: a medical care for the poor, “who are denied treatment that is normal for you and me because they do not have the funds for it”; education of the children of the slums, as this “has always been the best way to get children out of the grips of poverty” though not in a “2nd or 3rd rate school” which “does not actually help them”; and spiritual care of the poorest. It is extremely hard to explain to the poorest that Christ cares for them through His Church when they meet in the established Church structure (the Parish) and find “indifference for the most part and bureaucratic gibberish for the rest.”

She next suggests: 1) a Center for the Poor “under the Archbishop of Cebu (since one of his titles is Father of the Poor)” running two programs initially, namely, legal assistance and social outreach in prisons, hospitals, rehab centers, slums, etc; and 2) a Catholic hospital, “which will uphold the dignity of the poor and treat them…as their medical status requires” and not as their empty pockets allow.

Finally, the sister’s challenge: “The urban poor as you call them are everywhere in our streets…they will not come to the Church…it is us who must go to them…” The Church should exert “pressure on the local government to take up its responsibility to care for these people” and/or, “in the interim…recognize in these people the Face of Christ” and give them “concrete help…instead of just talking about it.”

If you like the challenge as I do endorse it to your church officials as I am doing right now.