Catholic Charities Newsletter

August 2016

Tracy Morrison_Catholic CharitiesFrom the Director’s Desk

We are in the homeward stretch of our annual campaign, the fourth quarter of our fiscal year, and we need your help! To date, Catholic Charities is just $64,000 shy of our fundraising goal. Today, I am asking you to help close the gap. Without the support of loyal partners, like you, we would not have heartening stories to share, like that of Amanda K., a client from our Jail & Prison Ministry program:


1608_Amanda Kearney_webAlthough 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. She reflected on that time: “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, and 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.

Please, I ask that you will prayerfully consider making a gift, which will ensure Catholic Charities’ programs may continue without falter and serve individuals in need of help, like Amanda, and thousands of others who are touched by Catholic Charities through Mental Health Counseling, Affordable Housing, Immigration Legal Services, Refugee Resettlement, and Jail & Prison Ministry each year.


God bless you for your continued support,


Tracy Morrison, Executive Director

As we draw to a close on the Summer, Catholic Charities will be taking a brief hiatus on our monthly newsletter during the months of September and October. Please pardon this short interval in news. We look forward to being in touch with you again in November.



Resized_20160830_102820Mason City Office Relocation

Catholic Charities has relocated our Mason City office from the Brick and Tile Building to co-locate with Epiphany Parish. The new office space is located at St. Joseph Church at 300 5th St. S.E., Mason City, 50401. The phone number for Catholic Charities in Mason City, 641-424-9683, will remain the same.

We are very grateful to the United Way of North Central Iowa for organizing Days of Caring volunteers to help with our move.

Mason City Counselor Vacancy:
Catholic Charities continues to recruit for a licensed mental health therapist in the Mason City area to fill the vacancy in this office. If you or someone you know may be interested in joining our team, please contact Lynn Osterhaus, Director of Human Resources at: or 563-556-2580.



Catholic Charities Awarded $5,000 Principal Financial Grant

We are deeply grateful for a generous grant from the Principal Financial Group, which will benefit Catholic Charities’ Counseling Services in the Mason City and the surrounding area, providing affordable mental health counseling for individuals, couples, and families in need of care.



FEMANPM2016_logo_vFinal_mediumSeptember is National Preparedness Month

September is recognized as National Preparedness Month which serves as a reminder that we all must take action to prepare, now and throughout the year, for the types of emergencies that could affect us where we live, work, and also where we visit. The theme, “Don’t Wait, Communicate. Make Your Emergency Plan Today,” will be returning for this September with a continuing emphasis on preparedness for youth, older adults, and people with disabilities and others with access and functional needs. 

Take this opportunity to be sure your family is disaster prepared.  Creating your Family Emergency Communication Plan starts with one simple question, “What if?” Find resources here.



Caleb Gates_Cedar Rapids Refugee ResettlementThe following two articles were written by Caleb Gates, Refugee Resettlement Case Manager, as we witnessed the world’s first “Team Refugee” take part in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Rooting for Refugees

By Caleb Gates, Refugee Resettlement Case Manager
This past weekend Rio de Janeiro took the world stage for the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Olympic Games. The Parade of Nations featured 207 teams. The last team to enter the stadium was Brazil, the host country. But as the team before Brazil entered the stadium, the crowd cheered and rose to its feet. This 10-person team was unique. They did not walk under the flag of their home countries. They were rejected by their countries of birth, forced to flee because of violence or war. This is Team Refugee. These 10 athletes come from South Sudan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria.

At that moment during the opening ceremony these Refugees were honored and celebrated. But millions of refugees around the world experience, not honor and celebration, but persecution and rejection. Walls and barriers — literal and rhetorical — are erected to keep refugees out. Under the guise of resurgent nationalism hatred toward refugees spills out at rallies and across social media. Thinly veiled xenophobia extols making our nation great, as if keeping out the other improves our standing in some cosmic contest. If one measures greatness by sports prowess, then we should be proud to welcome those 10 Olympic Athletes who make up Team Refugee.

Yet the greatness of those 10 individuals lies not in athletic ability but in their spirit and character. Take 23 year old, Rose Lokonyen, the flag bearer for Team Refugee in the opening ceremony. When she was 10 years old, Rose and her family fled what is now southern Sudan to Kenya. Today she trains with Tegla Loroupe — coach, marathon champion, and spokeswoman for peace education, and women’s rights. While Olympic athletes seek a medal, 21-yr old Anjelina Nadai Lohalith, also from southern Sudan, seeks something far more valuable, her parents. Anjelina was separated from her family when she was 6 years old, as they fled the war in Sudan. She hopes that by participating in the Olympics, she will find her parents again. Yonas Kinde, originally from Ethiopia, won multiple marathons in Europe, but was not allowed to compete before in the Olympics because no country claims him as a citizen.

Each of those 10 athletes in Team Refugee symbolizes the struggles and difficulties that refugees around the world overcome every day. For now we celebrate their accomplishments, but once the Olympics is done will we forget the over 60 million displaced people around the world? Will we return to seeing Refugees as a burden, rather than a blessing to our country? Let us resolve today to honor the spirit of Team Refugee by honoring refugees. How can you help? First, support refugees by standing #WithRefugees and #TeamRefugee. Second, meet local refugees and learn their stories. In the past 5 years thousands of refugees have moved into Cedar Rapids and the surrounding areas. Talk with them about the obstacles they overcame in their journey to the United States and you will see your life through new eyes. Third, stand against the anti-refugee/immigrant rhetoric that clamors for attention. Talk with your neighbors, your fellow church members, your social media network, and your family members to encourage welcome for refugees. Let Team Refugee spur us to accept and applaud refugees in our midst.

What Rio’s Team Refugee means for us all

By Caleb Gates, Refugee Resettlement Case Manager

Warfare language pervades sports. A quick listen to Olympic coverage yields numerous analogies. It was a fight to the finish. She conquered her opponent. The match went into sudden death. In a fighting sport like Judo, warfare metaphors would seem particularly apt. But for two Judoka members of Team Refugee at the Rio Olympics, war is more than metaphor describing their sport. War took their families and homes.

Popole Misenga and Yolanda Mabika were born in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Between 1998 and 2003, the deadliest war since World War Two claimed the lives of more than 5 million Africans. DRC was the epicenter of Africa’s Great War. When Popole was 9 years old, a rebel group attacked his village killing his mother. Popole ran away and was separated from his brothers. He stayed in the forest for eight days. Yolanda was so young when separated from her parents that she only remembers running alone and being picked up by a helicopter. Popole and Yolanda eventually made it to a center for displaced children in Kinshasa, the capital of DRC, a journey of over 1,500 miles by car. While there, they were introduced to Judo. Both excelled and eventually joined the DRC national Judo team.

But all was not well. When they would lose a competition their coach would lock them in a room for days with only coffee and bread. In 2013 Popole and Yolanda traveled with the DRC national team to the World Judo Championship in Brazil. Upon arrival their coach disappeared leaving them with no passports, no food, and no uniforms. Deprived of food and wearing a borrowed robe, Popole lost his first round. They decided to risk flight for a chance at asylum. Alone in a foreign country with a foreign language they fled their hotel and began asking in French “Where do the Africans live?” After two days they found a refugee center.

Popole and Yolanda like millions of refugees around the world faced war and lost family members. Yet unlike those millions of refugees, Popole and Yolanda along with eight other refugees from South Sudan, Syria, and Ethiopia competed as members of the first ever Refugee Team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. No medal would come for these two athletes. But their story speaks to realities far more important than gold, silver, or bronze.

Popole and Yolanda do not know if any of their immediate family still is alive. At a news conference in Rio, Popole shed tears as he explained: “I have two brothers and I haven’t seen them. I don’t know how they look anymore because we were separated since we were small. So I send hugs and kisses to my brothers.” Yolanda hopes that if her family still is alive, they will see her on TV and contact her so they can be reunited.

The sequence of events, which led Popole and Yolanda from DRC as children to athletes in Rio is unique to them, but their experience mirrors that of millions of refugees around the world. In the past year I have helped welcome numerous refugee families who fled from DRC not far from Popole and Yolanda’s original home. These individuals are not world-class athletes, but like Popole and Yolanda, they have seen war and lost loved ones.

When asked why they were competing in the Olympics, Popole said, “We’re fighting for all the refugees in the world.” Yolanda added, “I cannot fight for my country … I will fight for all refugees in the world, to defend all refugees in the world.” Refugees deserve honor and protection. Not just because it is right, but because in the words of Yolanda, “Everybody in the world talks about the refugees having no major importance. We are going to show that the refugee is capable of doing everything that other people around the world do.”



Young Family Having Fun In ParkNurtured Heart Parenting Classes

The Nurtured Heart Approach is a relationship-focused methodology founded strategically in the “3 Stands” for helping children (and adults) build their inner wealth, and use their intensity in successful ways.

Parents and professionals will learn how simple it is to improve their situation with a child who displays difficult or challenging behavior and how to transform any child through awareness that intensity is actually the source of their greatness!

Classes will be offered on September 29, and October 6, from 6 – 9 pm, at Growing Bear Daycare, 526 4th St. NW, Waukon, IA. Sessions are led by Catholic Charities Counselor, Lori Eastwood, LISW, and Nurtured Heart Approach Certified Trainer.

A free meal and childcare will be provided during the workshops. For more information or to register, please contact: Brittany,, or 563-380-6510.



ICC logoNews from Iowa Catholic Conference: Action Encouraged On Criminal Justice Reform Bills

In 2000, the Catholic Bishops of the United States in their statement, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice,” called for restorative justice and healing for everyone involved in crime – offender, victim, and community – with a special consideration for how crime and sentencing affects families.

In the past year, bipartisan leadership and hard work of the U.S. House’s Judiciary Committee led to committee passage of three important bills: The Sentencing Reform Act (H.R. 3713), the Corrections and Recidivism Reduction Act (H.R. 759) and the Second Chance Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3406). Together these bills would reduce harsh sentences, incentivize prison rehabilitation, ban shackling of pregnant women in federal custody and expand opportunities for Americans returning home after incarceration.

Over the past several months the bills have stalled, as they have yet to be introduced to the floor for debate and a vote. While Congress is on recess this month, urge your Representative to take action on criminal justice reform. Visit for the alert.



Volunteer Spotlight – Visiting Companions

“Visiting the sick or home-bound may sometimes sound or feel like a one-way street of giving time, presence, and the words of kindness and consolation expected, but my time with Mary over the last several months is nothing like a one way street. In fact, rarely do we talk about her illness or aches and pain. Rather, we share with one another stories, memories, pet peeves, embarrassing moments, and simply laugh with delight when discovering common food favorites, or scrunch up our faces in disgust considering how awful chili tomato jelly must taste! As Mary shares photos with me from her childhood and 20s, I see a woman who, although now in her old years, still makes the best out of life and finds delight in the smallest things like purple curtains and flowers. Whenever I go to visit with Mary or drop by to see how she’s doing, it doesn’t feel like I’m serving her, giving away my time, or volunteering. On the contrary, I think she’s the one who serves me because for that time, she fills me with delight, joy, and courage as she shares fond memories and the difficulties of her life with me. Now, Mary never says if she enjoys my visits or finds meaning in them. She doesn’t even ask me to come back! But, when I leave, she smiles and blows me a kiss.”

– Seabelo Montwedi, Visiting Companion Volunteer at Ecumenical Tower