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Catholic Charities runs a campaign at this time every year called “Restock the Shelves.” I particularly like this campaign, because it keeps us in mind of the fact that need exists 365 days a year.

From Halloween all the way through Christmas, we have and give such abundance. Then January comes along. We hunker down for the rest of the winter and need settles in for people like rheumatism in the bones, but those of us in abundance forget some about the need to share. Hence, the call to restock the shelves.

This year, the “restock” concept feels a little different to me, though. It feels like a time to take stock, and then restock.

The horrible tragedy in Haiti drives part of that different feel. It seems hard to think about restocking when there aren’t even any shelves. Haiti -- a country I was blessed to visit this past November -- is experiencing what happens when a natural disaster piles on top of the human disaster of extreme poverty and disenfranchisement. Victims of the quake are victimized several times over, especially the children. One watching the tragedy unfold from home surely must take stock, and ask how we can tolerate such vulnerability among our brothers and sisters in this ever-smaller world? How will we restock an entire country and its infrastructure?

The rapid economic changes here at home also drive this different feel. Since the summer of 2008, each watershed financial moment has left us saying, “This must be as bad as it gets.” Somehow, though, the economy keeps coming up with ways to get “badder.” My column last month hit this subject hard. Several readers commented that if it had been any heavier, it would have drilled a hole in the floor. My apologies if I seemed heavy handed. Keep in mind, however, that last year’s state budget came with claims of “worst thing the state has had to do,” and we are going to have to gut another $3 billion this year just to stay even. If that doesn’t call us to take stock about the way we operate, and how we set our collective priorities, I’m not sure what will.

Finally, Lent is upon us. It is a time to take spiritual stock of ourselves, our lives and our choices. It is when we show gratitude and solidarity with those who sacrificed everything in another time so that we can experience the miracle of our faith today. We take stock, we reflect, and we sacrifice. Easter comes just as it might be too much, and we are spiritually restocked as a faith community.

That is the grace of the take stock/restock combination. Easter always follows Lent. In every tragedy is the opportunity for solidarity and making amends. Financial crisis drives innovation and efficiency, with the potential to leave us stronger and better focused in the long run. All this promise exists right now, if we are deliberate in taking stock of what is befalling us and why, and then diligent in restocking to stop today’s suffering and increase tomorrow’s hope.

I hope we all take stock and restock this Lenten season. If it’s right for you, you can restock for Catholic Charities, our work on Basic Needs, and our work with Boston’s Haitian community at And you can restock for Haiti itself through Catholic Relief Services at

Either way, I hope once we take stock this Lenten season, we will work together to restock ourselves and our communities for the road ahead.

Tiziana C. Dearing is president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.