By DOROTHY GRILLO
Oh no, thank you, sister, I already got one of your blankets. Someone else may need it.” It’s 25 degrees in Greenville when the homeless man, his face earnest, explains that he can’t be greedy when Catholic Charities and other agencies in the Piedmont work together to Blanket the Upstate.
There are new, young faces at the Neighborhood House soup kitchen in Charleston. These wide-eyed, often frightened faces are the children who know nothing of welfare reform, but are well acquainted with the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chocolate milk offered from the kitchen.
An elderly woman’s face folds into the wrinkles of a thousand smiles and untold tears when she talks about the choice between medicine for herself or food for her grandchildren. The grandchildren always win. Catholic Charities helped buy medication and served as a liaison between agencies to secure Medicaid and other benefits for this family.
Stress and anxiety pull at the face of a young mother, pregnant for the second time, as she narrates her desperation to the Catholic Charities counselor. Her drawn face belies her youth. Years of living in substandard housing with little income created a cycle of poverty that she cannot break alone.
A big grin and wild dark hair frame the chubby face of a baby recently placed with a loving couple through Catholic Charities adoption services. When you see this picture you can imagine the smiles on the other side of the camera.
A rainbow of faces assembled as parishioners upstate answered the call to help victims of Hurricane Mitch. Volunteers from Cuba, Mexico, Columbia, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Guatemala, worked beside their South Carolina neighbors loading a 48-foot trailer with needed supplies.
A mother, father and an 8-month-old baby moved to the Grand Strand looking for jobs. They are temporarily staying with relatives, as a house fire left them homeless. The only shelter in Myrtle Beach was full, and they found themselves out of gas and desperate in the parking lot of St. Michael’s Church in Garden City. Swallowing pride, they asked for baby food at the church office.
A phone call connected them with Catholic Charities of the Pee Dee, providing food certificates, gas vouchers, diapers, blankets, a tent, and two weeks camping at a nearby state park. Catholic Charities was able to connect the father with a job opportunity that afternoon. Two weeks later, they had enough money to rent a home. That was two years ago. The mother called last week to say, “We often think about all of you who helped without even knowing us, and gave us everything we needed to get by. We believe the Lord brought us to the church parking lot that day.” The family is now financially stable, expecting their second child, and in the process of buying their own home.
What does Catholic Charities do?
The people we help tell the story of Catholic Charities much more eloquently than the statistics, but the figures help us understand the need. Last year, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston served over 60,000 meals, provided direct emergency assistance (money, household goods, clothing, and help with utilities) to 6,500 men, women, and children, made over 1,700 referrals to other agencies, and provided social services (counseling, education, family and social support) to more than 40,000 people. Natural Family Planning served 250. The Poverella Ministry, a program of 31 mentoring teams helping families move from dependency to self-sufficiency, has more than doubled since last year. Catholic Charities is working to establish the first statewide hunger network, providing advocacy and public education on hunger issues affecting the poor in South Carolina, working to reunite families, and helping immigrants unravel INS red tape to gain citizenship. In short, Catholic Charities helps when no one else can or will.
Cooperation is key. No single group or agency can do it all. Catholic Charities works with other denominations, government agencies and private organizations to fulfill the social mission that is an essential element of our faith. In their recent pastoral letter, “Economic Justice for All,” the U.S. bishops remind us that, “Poverty is not merely the lack of adequate financial resources. It entails a more profound kind of deprivation, a denial of full participation in the economic, social and political life of society, and an inability to influence decisions that affect one’s life. It means being powerless in a way that assaults not only one’s pocketbook but also one’s fundamental human dignity. Therefore, we should seek solutions that enable the poor to help themselves.” Catholic Charities, with your help, seeks such solutions.
St. Paul issued the first Catholic Charities appeal, calling on all Christians to be cheerful givers. This Mother’s Day we make that same appeal and pray that you will be generous.
Donations of time and talent are also always needed and appreciated. Contact your area Catholic Charities office to see how you can be of service.
Dorothy Grillo is the director of the Office of Social Ministries for the Diocese of Charleston.