THE WORLD MEETING of Families' Hunger and Homelessness Committee is using the pope's visit to Philadelphia as a catalyst to spark dialogue and action to combat homelessness and hunger here and nationwide.

The committee, chaired by Project HOME's Sister Mary Scullion and vice-chaired by Anne Healy Ayella, associate director of nutritional development services for the Archdiocese, is focusing on three projects that exemplify the pope's priorities and are designed to have lasting effects after he leaves.

"It's not really about Pope Francis, it's about us," Scullion said. "Pope Francis' message is only as good as we make it be. He's not going to end hunger and homelessness - we are."

The three branches that make up what the Hunger and Homelessness Committee is calling its Mercy and Justice Initiative are:

The Francis Fund. Committee organizers reached out to 49 social service providers in the Philadelphia and Camden areas and asked what they needed to better help those they serve. The providers, which represent a wide range of services and religions, came up with ideas ranging from showers to medical supplies.

The committee then tallied the cost, which set their fundraising goal at just under $1.5 million. By last week, a little more than $700,000 had been raised.

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Campaign for Justice. The campaign encourages citizens to contact their elected officials in Washington, D.C., and urge them to take bipartisan legislative action to end hunger and homelessness. Those interested in doing so are able to directly contact their legislators via email on the website.

"We're asking politicians to work together in a bipartisan way with courage and leadership," Scullion said.

Mary, Undoer of Knots. An interactive art project named after Pope Francis' favorite painting, which encourages people to write down their own struggles, tie them in a knot and then untie someone else's knot and read another's struggle. The project will be erected in August outside of the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul.

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