Catholic Charities Newsletter

April 2017 

From the Director’s Desk

‘Last week Catholic Charities’ directors and advocates from across the country met with leaders in President Trump’s administration and staff in more than 130 congressional offices, to raise up the importance of programs that assist poor and vulnerable families.  These meetings demonstrated first-hand the amazing work Catholic Charities agencies do each and every day to bring hope and opportunity to those across the country. They also reiterated the vital solidarity needed between government and local communities in order to build a more just society. Joining those from Catholic Charities who traveled to D.C., more than 120 advocates from around the country stood in solidarity and contacted their legislators.  

Politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good. We need to be convinced that charity “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups) but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones)”. Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013 #205.’

This was a revitalizing and rewarding experience to be among colleagues from around the 
country collaborating to seek justice for those we serve. 
God bless,

Tracy Morrison, Executive Director

Disaster Services Coordinator administers state-wide case management training

In May 2016 Governor Branstad signed legislation to do something very few states have done – form a state-wide disaster case management program.  Our Catholic Charities Disaster Services Coordinator Lori Williams has been a part of this development from early on.  Helping to provide background information and educational materials about the significant benefits of having pre-trained disaster case managers before a disaster occurs, Lori provided clear data and experience from providing disaster case management herself locally in Iowa and nationally with the federal immediate disaster case management program. 

Lori has been providing consultation services during the development of the new Iowa Disaster Case Management program as both an experienced and trained disaster case manager herself as well as in her role as the chair of the Disaster Case Advocacy Committee with the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council.  Earlier this month Lori provided training to over 100 disaster case managers and supervisors from across the state on the principles of disaster case management.  Additionally, because of her role in the development of this state-wide disaster program, Lori and the agency who received the state contract to administer the Iowa Disaster Case Management program, Iowa Community Action Association, were invited to speak with the FEMA Region 7 Interagency Steering Committee about the steps for starting a state-wide disaster case management program.
“Having the opportunity to enact change that will provide support and resources state-wide in times of disaster is just one way to ensure all our brothers and sisters have a helping hand when they need it most.”  Lori Williams
Catholic Charities disaster services program offers a resource for parishes in times of preparedness as well as recovery.  While not considered a first responder, Catholic Charities assists communities to connect with state and community wide resources in times of disaster.  In preparation for disaster response, Catholic Charities assists parishes and volunteer Disaster Coordinators by providing training on community and county resources, and assisting with thedevelopment of Parish Disaster Plans.
(Lori Williams, Catholic Charities Disaster Services Coordinator, first row, right, pictured with FEMA Region 7 Interagency Steering Committee)


Divine Word College honors Deacons for Jail & Prison ministry efforts 

By Rob Kundert, Special to The Witness

EPWORTH – Hope is a powerful thing. Even a little bit can turn a person’s life around. Ask three deacons of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, who offer hope to those who lost it after bad decisions put them behind bars.

“That’s what we provide, a little glimmer of hope,” said Deacon Bill Hickson, coordinator of Jail & Prison Ministry for Catholic Charities. “We plant the seeds of compassion and provide a little bit of vision, leadership and guidance and the Holy Spirit fills in the gaps.”

For their dedication to this ministry, Divine Word College honored Hickson and his brother deacons, Bill Biver and Tom Lang, with the Matthew 25 Award for 2017, at a prayer service and banquet on Wednesday, March 22. Their work helping former prisoners avoid a return to prison or jail is significant.
Nationally, 76 percent of former prisoners return within five years. In Iowa, it’s approximately 32 percent. Among those who participate in the archdiocesan jail and prison ministry programs it is less than 18 percent.

“These men embody the spirit of Chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel,” said Len Uhal, vice president for vocations/admissions at DWC, who nominated them for the award. “All three have been effective in their ministries by helping others make changes in their lives.” Divine Word established the Matthew 25 Award in 2001 to honor those in or connected to the area, who minister in the spirit of Matthew 25:35-36. Deacon Biver first experienced prison ministry in the early 1980s through New Life Ministries. Since 1991, he has volunteered with Dubuque Area Congregations United (DACU), where he helps organize visits to the Dubuque County Jail. In 2001, after Deacon Tom Lang became director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate, Monsignor Russell Bleich asked that the broader deacon community get more involved in prison ministry.

A task force, which included Deacon Biver and Deacon Ed Weber of Waterloo, surveyed the 29 jails and seven residential facilities in the archdiocese and came up with a plan to support the more established ministries and strengthen those that needed growth. They soon found an area of need-after care. “We realized that when they returned to their communities, that’s where the real challenges were,” Deacon Lang said. “They get out of jail or prison, but they can’t find jobs and things don’t work out, so they reoffend just to go back because it’s safer for them.”

Working with parole officers and residential facility personnel, the deacons developed two successful programs. Mentoring matches a past offender with a volunteer that offers him or her support, guidance and most importantly, someone to talk to. They meet once per week, with maybe a phone call in between. A Circle of Support and Accountability is a group of four or five people, including the mentor, which meets with the person every two weeks. Based on the Native American concept of “Restorative Justice,” it calls upon the person to take responsibility for their crime and recognize the damage done to the victim and the community.

In turn, the circle surrounds the person with people who are dedicated to helping him or her develop a productive life.
“God usually is involved behind the scenes,” Deacon Hickson said. “We found so many times that the people in the circle are exactly the kinds of people that the individual needed in his or her life.” From getting a job, housing, or transportation to dealing with medical, family or spiritual needs, the circle connects the person to those that can help within the community. But fundamental to the success of these programs are the 200 volunteers who step forward to be mentors or join a circle of support. “Our volunteers are the greatest, so dedicated,” Deacon Lang said. “We couldn’t do this without them.” 
The deacons are also involved in Drug Court, which is found in some cities. Instead of going to prison or jail, the offender sets goals and, surrounded by his or her supporters, goes before a judge once per week to give an accounting of their progress. If they can stay out of trouble for a set period of time, their prison term is suspended.

“These three men feel a passion to bring a sense of hope and the light of Christ to those who have experienced the judicial system,” Uhal said. “It is appropriate to recognize them, honor them and thank them for their service to some of the least among us.”

PHOTO: (l to r) Deacons Bill Biver, Bill Hickson and Tom Lang pose with Father Tim Lenchak, SVD, president of Divine Word College, as they hold plaques they received to commemorate their reception of the Matthew 25 Award.


Welcome to Catholic Charities 

Welcome to Ashley Bluml who has started an internship with Catholic Charities Counseling department in the Dubuque office.  Ashley is in her last semester at Clarke University’s Master of Social Work program. Her placement with Catholic Charities will span the months of April to early August with an anticipated graduation date in August 2017. Her professional interests include adult mental health services and her previous field placement was at the Teresa Shelter in Dubuque. In Ashley’s spare time she likes to spend time with her fiancee, Dave, and friends/family, reading, attempting new recipes, and trying to keep her large group of house plants alive.  
Emmanuel Gafishi joined Catholic Charities as a Workforce Development Coordinator through the Refugee RISE AmeriCorps grant program.  While living in a refugee camp in Rwanda, Emmanuel was an English Teacher, helping to develop and coordinate curriculum. During this time, he also served as a youth representative for the camp, being an advocate and providing resources and activities for children in the community. He came to the United States as a refugee in 2015 and has worked in a variety of positions since that time, including as an interpreter in the Cedar Rapids community. Emmanuel is fluent in six languages and will serve as an AmeriCorps member at Catholic Charities until September. In his role, he will assist refugees in finding employment and develop a refugee job readiness class in order to help facilitate the process.


Immigration Legal Services complete several educational outreach activities  

In the month of March, Immigration Legal Services staff provided a total of seven free Know Your Rights workshops in communities across the Archdiocese, including Postville, Dubuque, Waterloo, Hampton, Marshalltown and Cedar Rapids. A total of over 450 people attended these presentations, which were provided in response to the Administration’s Executive Orders to help immigrant families prepare by creating a safety plan for their families in the event of a crisis. Thank you to all of the approximate 50 volunteers and parish staff that helped with providing spaces for these workshops and with assisting with interpretation services for participants. 
Pictured above: Mike Mbanza, Immigration Legal Representative, with volunteers at a Know Your Rights workshop at Queen of Peace in Waterloo.

On March 30th, Yer Vang and Mike Mbanza, facilitated a question and answer session at Loras College’s “Immigrant’s Under Fire” program, hosted by the Crossing Borders organization and in which Catholic Charities was an event co-sponsor.  At this event, award-winning journalist Margaret Regan shared the tragic stories of people caught in the chaos of the U.S. immigration system.
Pictured above, at the event (left to right): Yer Vang, Immigration Attorney, Sr. Mary McCauley, BVM, Mike Mbanza, Immigration Legal Representative, Sr. Carol Besch, OSF, Tracy Morrison, Executive Director, Sr. Helen Huewe, OSF.

Sr. Mary McCauley, BVM, shares, “The presence and service provided by Immigration Legal services is invaluable. The Crossing Borders group in Dubuque collaborates with Catholic Charities and we regularly seek out their advice and service. They suggest advocacy actions and they work diligently to help those in need who have immigration issues.” 


Catholic Charities recognized by Linn County Public Health as Community Partner

 On April 6th, The Linn County Board of Health and Linn County Public Health hosted a community reception in celebration of their 50th Anniversary and National Public Health Week. Included in the program was an opportunity for the agency to recognize community partners that have had significant impact in helping them acheive their vision to build a healthier Linn County. A community partner award was presented to Caleb Gates, Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Case Manager, in recognition of his role in supporting the mission of public health with the refugee population in the Cedar Rapids area.  
Linn County Public Health also recognized the community partnership that Catholic Charities has with the Catherine McCauley Center of Cedar Rapids. “These two organizations are working tirelessly to help the refugee community to thrive… It is our distinct privilege to partner in collaboration efforts to provide initial health exams and referrals for health and dental care. We value the linkages these organizations provide to help refugees obtain education, language skills, and mentoring.”
Caleb joined Catholic Charities in December 2014 as the Refugee Resettlement Case Manager. He received his B.A. in Biblical Studies/Spanish from Faith Baptist Bible College and an M.Div. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Caleb has studied abroad in Peru, Ecuador, and Japan. He began working with Refugees in 2011 through Catholic Charities in Louisville, KY. In Louisville he taught computer skills to refugees and worked with Cuban/Haitian clients. He is fluent in Spanish and enjoys learning languages, reading, and philosophy. Caleb helps new refugees transition to life here in the United States.
Pictured above is Caleb Gates receiving the award from Heather Meador from Linn County Public Health.

stands for Parishes Organized to Welcome Refugees, and that is just what the “Families Strengthening Families” volunteer program plans to accomplish.



Volunteer Appreciation Month

We are so grateful for the committed volunteers that help us create impact for those in need in all of our ministries. The number of people involved in our volunteer services program has increased by 47% in the past 2 years.Thank you to the over 200 volunteers that contributed over 10,000 hours to our agency last fiscal year. 

As a non-profit, social service organization, Catholic Charities is always looking for enthusiastic, service-oriented, and dedicated individuals to join our team as volunteers. Several of our programs and offices depend on volunteers to contribute to our success. If you would like to volunteer with Catholic Charities, please contact Agnes Kress, Volunteer Coordinator, at 319-272-2080 or or click here to see our current volunteer opportunities.