As our economy continues to languish, as more Americans find themselves unemployed, and as we are all concerned with our own financial security, the poor need us more than ever. The truth is that Catholic Charities needs your help and support throughout the year.
However, it is a long-standing tradition in the Diocese of Charleston that we spotlight the work of Catholic Charities each year in the month of May and make a special appeal for financial support through the annual Mother’s Day second collection. Unfortunately, the 2002 collection represented the first decline in giving we have ever experienced, so we come to you with an even greater sense of urgency this year.
Catholic Charities across the diocese
Even a devastating fire that would have put most organizations out of business didn’t stop the Catholic Charities staff and volunteers at the Neighborhood House Soup Kitchen, located in the basement of Our Lady of Mercy Church in Charleston.
Thanks to the faithfulness and generosity of so many, we managed to continue serving meals, albeit brown bag instead of hot soup, to hundreds of homeless and needy residents of the center city of Charleston. To be exact, 72,133 meals were served to more than 14,000 people last year.
That doesn’t even begin to tell the story of the work done through the coastal office, located at St. John Church in North Charleston.
Alexander, a very responsible single father of four, can tell you what Catholic Charities has meant to his family. It very literally meant keeping the lights on and the heat going this winter. As is our way, working closely with St. Vincent de Paul and other faith based groups, Catholic Charities managed to coordinate efforts to help keep this family together and warm, and the father working.
Echo House, through the efforts of Franciscan Sister Colleen Waterman has been a welcoming center for seniors and other residents of a poor neighborhood for decades.
Meals, sewing classes, prison ministry, special programs and social outreach all provide help and nourish hope for so many.
Dominican Sister Pat Keating can tell you that working the phones, which ring constantly in all our offices, is just a small part of the average day that begins very early and often doesn’t end until well into the evening.
Speaking to parish groups about Catholic social teaching and peace and justice issues and helping to coordinate the statewide antihunger network are a few other important elements of Catholic Charities’ efforts.
One recent project has been the expansion of the Carter-May Home and the addition of the St. Joseph Residence for Retired Priests. The final construction drawings are complete, and we expect to start construction by the end of May. Staff and residents are very excited about the planned renovation and expansion of the home for the elderly.
The Midlands Office, led by Tracy Kroll, has been very busy expanding services into the particularly underserved area of Saluda County, where they work at St. William Church in Ward to provide financial assistance, clothing and food through an agreement with Harvest Hope Food Bank. Again, this direct assistance is only a small part of the work of Catholic Charities.
As we learn about the root causes of poverty in an area, we work to address the larger issues of language barriers, racial profiling, lack of health care, lack of transportation, prejudice and substandard housing. Catholic Charities services reach far beyond the cities in which our offices are located and include much more than direct financial assistance.
Pee Dee Office
Catholic Charities is on the move in many ways. The staff, volunteers, and clients, of the Pee Dee office are very excited about their new location in a small, but wonderfully renovated home on Blossom Street in Conway. The welcome mat is out. Our clientele, including the working poor, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled are all finding a truly loving and supportive environment that gives life to our motto: Providing Help. Creating Hope.
What Diane Bullard, her staff and dedicated volunteers have done to transform this assistance center, with their own hard-working hands, is just amazing. Now all they need are some extra resources to offer financial assistance to those in greatest need.
Last, but most certainly not least, Catholic Charities of the Piedmont, with the dedicated support of an outstanding committee, has transformed a wonderful vision into a growing reality. They have raised almost all the funds needed to build a Catholic Service Center on the campus of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Greenville.
The center will house Catholic Charities offices, including a satellite Catholic Charities legal immigration service office, St. Anthony Parish offices, Mercy Housing, and Bon Secours St. Francis Health System community ministries offices.
This project represents the best of collaboration and cooperation among Catholic organizations, with community organizations, and demonstrates the commitment of many lay volunteers to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Financial support for this project has come from the generous hearts of hundreds of private donors, parishes, small faith groups, Bon Secours Hospital and its foundations, the Sisters of St. Francis, the Sisters of Charity Foundation, and others too numerous to mention here.
Please don’t think that fund raising has become the new focus of Catholic Charities — far from it. The work continues and the numbers are astounding. Over the past year, this office alone served 1,577 adults, 1,379 children, provided 144 counseling sessions, and made more than 1,800 referrals. In addition, Sister Margie Hosch, director of the Midlands Office and a Sister of St. Francis, has developed a Parish Social Ministry Network offering education, planning, prayer and support to parish social ministry groups. As their newsletter, SEASONS for Justice/Advocacy/Charity/Education says, “the beat goes on . . .”
The big picture
We have had to do more with less: Last year’s Mother’s Day collection totaled $92,949, down from $105,000 the year before.
The total Catholic Charities budget for the current fiscal year is expected to be more than $1.3 million. While the Bishop’s Stewardship Appeal and various foundation grants can help to meet some of those costs, Catholic Charities is in need of your ongoing support and prayers.
Here are some highlights from our 2002 Catholic Charities USA Annual Survey:
l The total number of unduplicated clients served: 19,338
l l 563 people received counseling services
l 14,125 were served through the soup kitchen and an additional 8,222 received other food services
l 13,069 people received assistance with basic needs
l 292 pregnant women received services
l 226 people received legal immigration services
l 17 low-income elderly women received residential care
l 7,128 persons received clothing assistance
l 10,742 hours of service were provided by more than 700 volunteers
Other special projects included:
l A collaborative statewide effort with AARP to educate consumers about predatory lending practices and to advocate for strong consumer protection legislation.
l Environmental concerns committees were formed to look at ways individuals and parishes can work to care for God’s creation.
l Disaster response committees expanded their focus to include terrorist threats and potential man-made disasters.
l Elderly services were expanded to provide additional case management services, including in-home assessments.
l Collaboration with a variety of faith-based organizations to advocate for a stable source of funding for Medicaid.
Catholic Charities has embraced a bold vision that comes from the Gospel: “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4: 34, 35).
This Mother’s Day won’t you please make a special place at your table for our less fortunate brothers and sisters?