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October 5, 2020, Venice, Florida – In a time of great need, staff members and supporters of Catholic Charities USA gathered at Epiphany Cathedral in Venice and virtually to celebrate 110 years of service to God’s people by Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA).
“This is a great time for us to take stock of what we’re doing as a ministry of the Church, especially in these difficult days with the pandemic and natural disasters,” said Adrian Dominican Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of CCUSA, in her opening talk for the September 25, 2020, event.
Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, CCUSA is a network of agencies nationwide that serve in such areas as affordable housing, food and nutrition, immigration and refugee services, leadership development and Catholic identity, and integrated healthcare. In addition, CCUSA advocates for social justice and offers disaster relief. In turn, CCUSA is a member of Caritas Internationalis, which has 165 national members throughout the world.
In her welcome, Sister Donna spoke of the “millions of prayers that collect in our hearts and permeate our collective being as Catholic Charities workers in this country,” from intercessions for the nation’s many needs to lamentations over the loss of life and livelihood during the pandemic, to the African proverb calling on all to pray with their feet.
But Sister Donna offered a special type of prayer: a prayer of gratitude. “We have so much to thank God for these days,” she said. “We’ve been entrusted with accompanying so many people who reflect back to us the face of Christ. This is such sacred, sacred work.”
Cardinal Luis Tagle, President of Caritas Internationalis, addressed the CCUSA workers from Rome via video, thanking them for their heroic work, especially during the pandemic. “You are reminding the whole world that the pandemic does not produce only cases of sickness and unfortunately death, of loss of jobs and loss even of dreams,” he said. “They are not just cases. They are human beings.”
“Thank you for defending the dignity of every human person,” Cardinal Tagle said. “You are a sign of hope. You are the seeds of hope of God’s Word of love, being sown by the Word of God wherever you are, so that in the arid ground created by the pandemic, love will bloom.”
Bishop Frank J. Dewane, Bishop of the Diocese of Venice, Florida, and Episcopal Liaison to CCUSA, presided over Mass for the 110th anniversary celebration. In his homily, he spoke on the surprising identity of Jesus as servant. “Those of you who work in Catholic Charities, you know that is what we are called to be – the servants of those who are in need.”
He recalled those who had served people in need throughout the 110 years of Catholic Charities, and the continued call to service of Catholic Charities workers today. “In giving that response to serving, we become always more the man or woman we are called to be.”
Watch the entire CCUSA 110th anniversary celebration.
Feature photo: Venice, Florida, Bishop Frank J. Dewane celebrates Mass at Epiphany Cathedral to recognize the 110th anniversary of Catholic Charities USA.
By Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP
Outreach Program Director, Gianna House
September 15, 2020, Detroit – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, struggles with job loss and worries about obtaining vital necessities were real and far-reaching. Gianna House Pregnancy and Parenting Center in Eastpointe, whose mission is to provide support and resources to mothers in need, looked at creative ways to continue to serve these women during this unprecedented time.
Gianna House opened a residence for pregnant teens ages 13 through 17 just over a year ago. While we did not accept new residents during the first, uncertain months of the pandemic, we continued to provide loving support to our resident teen and celebrated the August birth of her beautiful, healthy son. Teens may come any time during their pregnancy and remain up to a year after birthing to continue their academic education and gain parenting and life skills.
In addition, for the past five years, Gianna House has been a resource for underserved mothers of any age through a vibrant Outreach Program. In looking for ways to continue to help while our center was quarantining, our Outreach Program was expanded to include online learning opportunities for community mothers to continue to attend our classes. Mothers who take classes receive “baby bucks,” which they can use to purchase items from our closets, such as diapers, wipes, and clothing – all donated to Gianna House throughout the year.
Starting in May, modified classes were led virtually by our volunteer facilitators. As each class is completed, mothers email reflections on what they learned in class and what they need to purchase for their babies. Each Monday they pick up their items at designated times from the Gianna House porch.
“I found Gianna House very soon after COVID hit my community,” said Carmen, a mother from Macomb County, Michigan. “I was newly pregnant and very nervous. I had recently lost my stable job and money has been very tight with the conditions of the world shutdown. I was home, which made it very easy to conduct classes online and to earn diapers and other baby supplies for my son. I’m very happy GH is here to help women and families like me. They are a true blessing.”
Myleka, the single mom of five children, ages 2 to 12, from Wayne County, Michigan, also describes Gianna House as a blessing because of its online courses. “Not only did Gianna House bless us mentally but they have also helped by blessing us with the necessities that we need for our little ones,” she said. “Being able to reach out for help at a time like this and receive it was a real blessing. I would like to thank Gianna House and all of their sponsors for helping me and my family. Thank you for thinking about moms and families like mine during this pandemic!”
Finding teachers with the capability to conduct online classes was a bit challenging, but networking with established groups such as CARE of Southeast Michigan, Ascension Health System’s Southeast Michigan Community Health, and Community Housing Network, Inc., has been a great help. It works both ways – they provide great classes and we refer moms to their programs.
“As part of our national mission at Ascension, our goal is to serve the most vulnerable populations,” said Neefesha Marion, LLMSW, of Ascension Infant Mortality Program’s Jubilee Parenting Support Group. “It has been a great experience working with Gianna House, providing women and families parenting education.”
CARE’s Early Learning and Parent Education Director, Tonia Pauli, thanked Gianna House for its “unwavering support of the moms in our community. Through our state’s COVID-19 closures, Gianna House has collaborated with us to continue to provide workshops and education.”
Gianna House is now accepting applications for new residents, using safety procedures to ensure the continued health of all staff and residents. For more information please call 586-445-0440 or visit www.giannahouse.org.