By DOROTHY GRILLO
When we witness, on a daily basis, the human suffering and need we can barely begin to address, it is easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged. Sensing frustration at a recent staff meeting, I asked our Catholic Charities staff, “What did you do in the past month that really made a difference?” The wonderful stories that followed were uplifting and heartwarming. Here are just a few answers to that question.
Sarah (not her real name) never dreamed she would find herself suddenly alone trying to raise two daughters, but when her husband was killed in a car accident, that’s exactly what she had to do. Sarah’s younger daughter was then diagnosed with severe Lupus, and her condition deteriorated to the point that Sarah had to quit her job to care for her. When her older daughter turned 18 and Social Security survivor benefits ended, the family was left to scrape by on one Social Security check and Medicaid. By the time Catholic Charities was asked to help, the younger daughter was in renal failure; the family car was sold, and the older girl had to give up a nursing school scholarship to work full time in support of the family. When they were on the verge of homelessness, Mary Carr, client advocate in the Piedmont office, learned of their plight and made a home visit to see Sarah and her daughters. With Mary’s help, the family was placed on a priority list for Section 8 housing. Funds gathered from several area churches and agencies through the Homeless Coalition paid their rent until they could relocate to a new apartment. Generous parishioners donated a car, and Catholic Charities helped with insurance and getting the family moved. The youth group at St. Mary’s in Greenville sponsored the family for Christmas, and working with another agency, a sitter was provided through Medicaid so that Sarah could get a part-time job. Today the family has a safe, affordable place to live; Sarah has a job and a car to get there, and the older daughter is working toward going back to school is and preparing to donate one of her kidneys to her younger sister. Mary Carr still keeps in touch.
This is the difference between offering $50 toward a rent bill and providing continuing advocacy and case management. That is the difference between a Band-Aid and a long-term solution. It’s the difference between a handout and a hand-up. That’s collaboration!
A whole new attitude
The addition of part-time client advocates in the regional offices prompted Diane Bullard, regional coordinator in the Pee Dee, to exclaim, “It really is such a thrill to see us making actual differences in people’s lives! Being able to do real case management has left the office with a whole new attitude. Staff and volunteers are energized by closing more and more cases that join the list of success stories getting people the services they need, watching as people get their lives back on track, working, and settled in new homes, and being able to take the time to listen and provide encouragement along the way.”
A new outreach center
Kathy Hunter from our Midlands office is now providing direct assistance one day a week at a new outreach center in Saluda County. The Saluda County Outreach Center was made possible by a grant from the Sisters of Charity Foundation and the joint efforts of Catholic Charities and Lexington Interfaith Community Services (LICS). The center is housed at St. William Parish in Ward and offers food, clothing and emergency financial assistance. Most of the clients seeking assistance at the center speak only Spanish, and Kathy attests to what you can accomplish with an open heart, a handy English-Spanish dictionary and sign language. That’s collaboration!
A new after-school program
Recognizing that education is the most important element of a hopeful future for our children, Dominican Sister Pat Keating has started a new after-school tutoring program at Neighborhood House in Charleston. Starting with two children the first day, the program now serves close to 20 children, three days per week. Women from Our Lady of Mercy Parish, several of them retired teachers, immediately stepped forward to offer their services. As the enrollment has grown, so has the core of volunteer tutors who come from parishes in Charleston, James Island and Folly Beach. When she reflects on the many needs and challenges faced by the poor, Sister Pat says, “I am often overwhelmed by the generous response of parishioners when some need is brought to their attention.”
A collaborative effort
Every year on Mother’s Day, Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston reaches out to Catholic parishioners and asks for your support support that is essential to those in need, support that enables us to fulfill our mission to “… work collaboratively to extend the social mission of the church in South Carolina and continue the ministry of Jesus by providing quality service for people in need, advocating for justice, and calling the entire church and all people to do the same.” Collaboration is a key element of our work: collaboration with our clients, parishes, volunteers, and other agencies and churches. This commitment to providing quality service and advocating for justice can only be accomplished by working with many other people of faith. We often function as the facilitator, or link, between people in need and people willing to give from their hearts and hands, in addition to their resources. We are calling on you, as we do every Mother’s Day, to join with us and lend your support. TO GET INVOLVED CONTACT YOUR REGIONAL REPRESENTATIVE.
The prayer, “Prophets of a Future Not Our Own” by martyred Archbishop Oscar Romero provides an expressive voice to the work of Catholic Charities here in South Carolina:
“It helps, now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is beyond our Vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. ….
“This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities. …”
Did you know?
Catholic Charities regional coordinators have been working on state and local Homeless Coalitions, Migrant Task Forces, and Respect Life Committees. They have been establishing new programs and outreach centers, have coordinated countless donation campaigns for school supplies, toiletries and many other items. They are assisting parishes in establishing St. Vincent dePaul Societies and Poverella and bereavement teams. Other advocacy efforts include serving on the Governor’s Hispanic/Latino Ad Hoc Committee and chairing the Education Subcommittee; coordinating a statewide educational workshop with the Office of Civil Rights; chairing the South Carolina Hispanic Health Issues Conference; and helping organize SCAN, the statewide Hunger Network. Education efforts include speaking on the Principles of Catholic Social Teaching at RCIA and other parish groups and committees, guiding parishioners through a “Year of Formation in Social Justice,” facilitating local community associations to ease racial tensions, leading retreats and serving as a resource to parishes seeking to live more fully the Gospel message of service to the poor. In short, working with the wonderful spirit of our many volunteers, our regional coordinators are fulfilling the mission of Catholic Charities.
“…We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest. …”
We must never become comfortable with Christ hungry, homeless, sick, naked and poor. There are vital Gospel values, human life, poverty, hunger, debt, stewardship, families, prejudice, justice, peace and solidarity, at stake for us to ever become content with the status quo. Catholic Charities is taking some big steps forward as we work hard toward ending the effects of poverty in South Carolina. With your support, encouragement and collaboration, Catholic Charities will continue to humbly walk toward that goal, on the two sturdy feet of Christian service: charity and justice.
This Mother’s Day, ask yourself the question, “How can I make a difference?”
“… We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.”
Dorothy Grillo is director of Social Ministries for the Diocese of Charleston.