Dear Friends of Catholic Charities,
Throughout this 2016 Jubilee Year of Mercy, our Catholic community has focused intently on the most foundational, corporal works of mercy for which we are called to offer in reverence for the mercy Our Father has shown for us.
Each day, over the course of our 85 year history, we witness Catholic Charities warmly and effectively “welcoming the stranger” in the name of Jesus. We experience our staff “caring for the sick,” and our volunteers “visiting the imprisoned.”
As a supporter and advocate for Catholic Charities, you are at the core of these Works of Mercy, whether in the capacity of a merciful volunteer, as a financial contributor, or through your steadfast prayer for those who are less fortunate.
We are privileged to see first-hand the enormous scope of the services provided by Catholic Charities throughout the year: for couples like Gary and Nancy, overcoming struggles in a their marriage, or individuals experiencing severe addiction, like Amanda, or such as senior citizens like Jim who have found an affordable place to call home and give of themselves to make it a better place for others. We hope that this Annual Report will give you a glimpse at the profound impact and vibrancy Catholic Charities brings to our neighborhoods as we work to reduce poverty, strengthen families, and empower communities.
Your fellow servants of Christ,
Michael Jackels Tracy Morrison
Archbishop of Dubuque Executive Director
Enjoy these stories of celebration and success from Catholic Charities clients:
Jail & Prison Ministry
Although she came from a good home, and was an exceptional student, Amanda began experimenting with drugs and alcohol early in her teenage years. As she reached college, the using became worse. She continued to maintain good grades, and a stable outward appearance until she had nearly completed graduate school, when she first tried heroin. Before long the drug had hijacked her life. Amanda dropped out of school one semester prior to graduation. “Heroin was my best friend. It is what I said good morning to, spent the entire day seeking, and said goodnight to.”
One morning in 2012, Amanda awoke to her boyfriend lying dead from an overdose. The event triggered a string of arrests until Amanda was given the chance to enroll in drug court, or go to prison. She surrendered, and accepted help from Catholic Charities’ Jail & Prison Ministry program. With no other support system, Amanda’s mentors became her advocates. “The Jail & Prison Ministry program lifted me up when I needed it the most and cheered me on when I succeeded. The program made it possible for me to get through drug court without fail. I will be forever grateful for an amazing mentor and circle of support. They have influenced my life in the most astonishing ways.”
Inspired by the kindness so freely given to her, Amanda is now working to establish a non-profit, sober living facility in Dubuque, IA.
Mental Health Counseling – Marriage Counseling
After 35 years of marriage Gary and Nancy found themselves on the verge of divorce. Nancy felt ignored by her husband and Gary didn’t feel connected in the marriage. Nancy viewed her husband as slipping away and not wanting to be married. Gary viewed Nancy as closed off and not the same woman he married years before. Both Gary and Nancy had problems communicating their needs towards one another.
With support and guidance from their counselor at Catholic Charities, Gary and Nancy put in the work to repair their relationship and restore the lines of communication with each other. In the end it was many little things that made all the difference. They began noticing each other more, and making extra efforts to be thoughtful of one another. They remembered to put each other first, before work, friends, and the many other distractions of life that had so easily gotten in the way.
Gary and Nancy began dating again. They took up new hobbies together, and showed more appreciation for one another. With each of these little changes, Gary and Nancy were reigniting the spark that made them fall in love in the first place. Once again, this life-long couple have become partners in life once again.
Jim is one of many wonderful Residents at Ecumenical Tower, a Catholic Charities affordable housing property for seniors and adults with disabilities in Dubuque, Iowa. He has been a resident at Ecumenical Tower for six years. Jim was initially drawn to our location, and affordability. However, since living here, he has gained much more. Jim has found stability and friendships throughout the Ecumenical Tower community. He has found himself volunteering in many ways. Jim continues to come up with fantastic activities in the building, such as bingo, wheel of fortune, a monthly sponsored breakfast, and we can’t forget his continued work in the garden. Jim recently wrote about a day he had, quoting: “I feel alive, part of something that I have not felt part of for a long time”. Jim’s wiliness to see the positive side of things and his ability to pass that on to others is just one of the many things he contributes to our community.
Immigration Legal Services
Gaspar was sixteen years old when Catholic Charities’ Immigration Attorney first met him. He was a thin child, eyes full of sadness and desperation. He had been forced to make the dangerous journey alone from Guatemala to the United States. Gaspar chose this dangerous journey because the only thing left for him in Guatemala was physical abuse, poverty, and gang violence. If Gaspar was lucky, he was fed one meal per day, and not beaten by his parents for expressing his hunger and desire to go to school. He knew that his only chance to survive and get an education was to make the journey to the U.S. alone Catholic Charities provides legal services for children like Gaspar, giving them hope. After successfully obtaining lawful status for Gaspar, he is now a different child. He walks with pride and courage. He is enrolled in high school and learning English and now living in a safe environment with his legal guardian. Gaspar is finally allowed to be a child and enjoy the possibility of dreaming big dreams.
Immigration Legal Services and Mental Health Counseling
Islah experienced war, and severe forms of abuse before making her escape to the United States and finding support with Catholic Charities.
Islah was introduced to her counselor at Catholic Charities by our Immigration Legal Representative. She has been working through ways to cope with her tramatic life experiences with the help of a licensed mental health professional. Islah is a 41-year-old African woman from Liberia. She is the mother and sole provider for two children ages 7 and 10 years.
During times of war, Islah and her family were kidnapped by rebels, who subjected her to physical and sexual abuse. When her brother refused to join the rebels he was used as an example for his disobedience and was killed in front of their family. Islah was trafficked as a sex slave and raped, repeatedly.
Islah’s family did manage to flee their war torn Liberia for Guinea where they took refuge in a camp for four years. When the war ended, the family returned to Liberia, only to find their home destroyed. Islah was soon married, but was required to endure female mutilation, a tradition of their tribe. Her controlling husband abused her both physically and emotionally. In 2015, he took their oldest daughter on a trip to the United States, where he left her with a friend.
Returning home to Liberia without their daughter, Islah’s husband explained that he didn’t want to bring her back during the ongoing Ebola crisis. It was at that point, when Islah suffered a mental breakdown; her sister arranged for travel visa’s for Islah and her son to visit her in the United States, where Islah would find her daughter.
Islah prays now that she will not be turned back to her home country of Liberia. She seeks asylum in the United States, while she stays with her sister in Iowa.
Alex arrived in Iowa as a refugee from Nairobi, Kenya, originally fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2013. The resettlement process had separated Alex from his family, a wife and four children. After a year living in the United States, Alex was eligible to apply for his legal permanent residency. He sought out the help of Mike Mbanza, Immigration Legal Representative for Catholic Charities to navigate the legal process of becoming a green card holder.
Immediately, Alex’s eye was on the next step of being reunited with his family. Mike continued to pursue this goal through the Refugee Petition for Relatives Act, a process that would take another 8 months to a year to complete. Upon the approval of the United Nations, Alex’s wife, Nyatuza, and their children were reassigned to “current refugee status” within the Nairobi refugee camp they resided in.
Now the reigns were turned over to Mike’s colleague, Caleb Gates in Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement office, who would assist the family resettle in the Archdiocese of Dubuque through an agreement with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Catholic Charities’ team celebrated along with Alex and his family when finally in February 2016 they experienced the joy of being reunited again. The family is settling into their new home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The children have enrolled in school, and the 15-year-old is playing soccer for the middle school and has just passed his drivers permit test!