Catholic Charities Newsletter

November 2016

Tracy Morrison_Catholic CharitiesFrom the Director’s Desk


We recently released our 2015 Annual Report! These stories of celebration and success from our clients provide a glimpse at the profound impact and vibrancy Catholic Charities services brings to our neighborhoods as we work to reduce poverty, strengthen families, and empower communities. Furthermore, the outcomes from those that we serve in each of our ministries is astonishing:

  • Our mental health counseling provided $529,067 in “Charity Care” to clients with limited incomes or without insurance
  • Eighty six percent (86%) of individuals receiving counseling services reported feeling better or much better as a result of the services they received at Catholic Charities
  • 427 seniors, limited-income families and/or adults with disabilities found affordable housing at one of Catholic Charities’ homes
  • Those that were served through the Jail & Prison Ministry program were 49% less likely to re-offend, compared to the state average, affording the opportunity to better provide for their families
  • And while carrying out our scriptural mandate to “welcome the stranger”, we resettled 75 refugees from a total of 39 countries around the world
  • In addition, over 215 volunteers contributed 10,500 hours in service to support our programs by serving 16,600 people across our 30 counties in the Archdiocese of Dubuque

We have been truly blessed to assist each and every one of our clients as we continue to Provide Help and Create Hope for individuals in our society who are in the greatest need. From all of us at Catholic Charities, we express our gratitude to you, for your continued support, and hope that everyone had a joyous and Happy Thanksgiving.

Let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good: his love endures forever. Psalms 136:1

God Bless,


Tracy Morrison, Executive Director

Harvest of Blessings 2017 Applications Now Open

The online application for 2017 Harvest of Blessings grant is now open. Harvest of Blessings is a matching grant program designed to encourage small, parish and parochial school-based projects that address poverty reduction, create systemic change, and encourage relationships among those in need and supportive communities so that we may Share Jesus Love.

Through these grants we hope to:

  • Encourage Community Service – inspiring people to DO, putting faith into ACTION
  • Provide opportunity for parish communities to gather in fellowship and enrich their lives with the experience of helping others
  • Promote collaboration between the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, parishes, and parishioners
  • Create a venue for faith communities to gain a deeper awareness and understanding of the catholic social teachings

Examples of programs/projects that may be considered for funding: English as a second language program materials, service trips, parish nurse programs, social justice committee projects, stewardship committee programs, sister parish programs, food pantry educational programs, handicap access for a home, Kids Against Hunger or other similar food programs, start-up ministries materials such as books, DVDs, or program materials. Applications are due by February 28th, 2017 and can be found on our website by clicking here

Immigration Simulation held in Dubuque

Participants learn about U.S system of legal immigrationuntitled1

By Dan Russo , Witness Editor DUBUQUE – In this contentious election year, perhaps no issue has been more controversial than immigration. Should our nation “build a wall” to keep out “illegal immigrants” or provide “amnesty” for “undocumented migrants”? Should we increase the admission of the growing number of refugees fleeing war and oppression worldwide or does this pose too much risk to national security? Whatever positions you take in this debate and whatever words you decide to use to describe the nature of it, one thing is clear – average Americans have little to no knowledge about how our current immigration system actually works. Catholic Charities of the Dubuque Archdiocese partnered recently with the Franciscan Sisters of Dubuque to help remedy this lack of awareness about the immigration process by holding an “immigration simulation.”

About 75 volunteers, many of them Catholic Charities employees or community members from around the archdiocese who are working with immigration issues, gathered at Steeple Square in Dubuque Oct. 28 to participate. Over the course of several hours, part of the group pretended to be immigrants of different types attempting to enter the country and/or receive legal status. Others played the role of immigration officials, attorneys, judges, and even human smugglers and con artists that try to take advantage of immigrants. Participants were given a backstory of who they were to portray, some money, forms and other necessities. They were then asked to go through the immigration system. The stakes were high – somecould end up in jail, deported or defrauded, while others found the opportunities they needed. Each 15-minute increment counted as four years. By the end of the exhaustive exercise, a select subset of people became citizens, others were still working at other various points in the system, and some remained in foreign countries or without legal status domestically. In one word, the system is “complex.”

“If we do a simulation and people are not confused then we’ve failed,” said Sister Shirley Fineran, OSF, a social work professor at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City who led the simulation. “Many of (the immigration forms) change and they are 20 pages long. If you don’t speak the language, it is all the more complicated. “The process is challenging and difficult and long,” she added. “When people are undocumented, it’s not necessarily that they don’t want to start the process, it’s that it takes so long and some people have no hope.”

According to statistics from the Department of Homeland Security, the United States admits about one million legal permanent resident immigrants a year and another roughly four million on long term legal temporary status. This makes our nation the leading country in the world when it comes to accepting immigrants legally. These figures don’t include the myriad of people who enter the nation without legal permission each year. The Pew Research Center reports that the U.S. foreign born population in 2015 was 44.9 million, a record high.The system does work well for many, but many others suffer, including those who are victims of labor and sex trafficking and those families who are separated. Some have no hope at all of legal entry. The gathering prayed for comprehensive immigration reform. Some participants, like Father Paul Ouderkirk, had experience helping immigrants – in his case during the aftermath of the 2008 immigration raid in Postville. In the simulation, he portrayed a young adult refugee from Africa who, with the help of two brothers and a mother, was eventually able to navigate the system to citizenship. For him, the entire simulated process from refugee camp to citizenship ceremony took 12 years. “Doing this simulation, you realize how important it is that we have comprehensive immigration reform. A Band-Aid approach is going to fail,” said the priest.

Catholic Charities provides services to immigrants and has recently hired a full time immigration attorney after assessing the great need in the region. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said Tracy Morrison, executive di rec tor of Catholic Charities. “We want to provide quality affordable representation.”

Mike Mbanza, who provides legal services to immigrants as part of his position with Catholic Charities, played a government official during the simulation. “I hope that they (the participants) came to realize how frustrating and challenging the process is for immigrants to get lawful status,” he said. “I’m an immigrant myself and I went through the process,” he said. “The reason I became a U.S. citizen is because I didn’t give up. I think all people should have hope and know this is a land of opportunity and not give up.”

PHOTO: Mike Mbanza (left) portrays a government official during the immigration simulation as he assists Mary Ready, who is depicting an immigrant. Both are employees of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque. Sister Shirley Fineran, OSF, who organized the event, looks on. (Photo by Dan Russo/The Witness)

Catholic Charities provides Iowa Disaster Training

This past month Disaster Services Coordinator, Lori Williams, provided Disaster Case Management training, in conjunction with the Iowa Community Action Association and the Department of Human Services, for the new state-wide Iowa Disaster Case Management program. Training was provided to Disaster Case Managers and Supervisors in 25 counties impacted by flooding in September 2016. This training came as Governor Branstad activated the new disaster program provided by the state of Iowa. Signed into law Spring 2016, the Iowa Disaster Case Management program is intended to provide disaster affected individuals and families with a single point of contact following a disaster to help them through their recovery.

Lori Williams advocates for the benefits of Disaster Case Management because of her own experiences providing Disaster Case Management assistance locally following the flooding in Linn County in 2008 and through the Federal Immediate Disaster Case Management program in 2012 and 2013. As part of her role with Catholic Charities, Lori collaborates with local organizations across the state to prepare and respond to disasters as part of the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council, where Lori is a Board member and Chair of the Disaster Case Advocacy Committee.

Ecumenical Tower celebrates Cubs World Series Win! 

On Friday, November 18th, residents and staff at Ecumenical Tower, which has several residents native to Chicago, celebrated the Cubs World Series win with a baseball themed party. Many favorite Cubs fan stories were shared, but all attention became focused on Chester the goat, the special guest of the day! Catholic Charities Housing Director Matthew Roddy arrived with Chester in celebration of the release of the goat curse. This was the first World Series win for the Chicago Cubs since 1908 with the “Curse of the Billy Goat”that was born in the 1945 World Series!

Affordable housing is a basic life necessity that Catholic Charities is committed to supporting. Catholic Charities Housing offers safe and affordable accommodation for low-income families, elderly and adults with disabilities. Ecumenical Tower is an 88 unit senior/disabled adult apartment complex located in downtown Dubuque. Inspired by the Gospel message, and the Catholic Social Teaching of the Church, Catholic Charities Housing’s mission is to provide affordable, equal housing opportunities to qualified residents in developments that are beautiful, orderly, and sustainable.


Skype enables Circle of Support to go Nationwide

Catholic Charities’ Jail and Prison Ministry’s Circle of Support recently became an international enterprise, thanks to a dedicated volunteer and the miracle of technology. Aleksandr Pashinin is a Dubuque resident whose job requires him to commute, currently working in Mexico. Before he left Dubuque, Aleksandr was a volunteer member of a Circle of Support and Accountability and he attended Drug Court regularly as part of his ministry. When the opportunity for his new job came along, he talked with Deacon Bill Hickson,

img_4695Co ordinator of Jail and Prison Ministry and leader of the circle, about continuing his service in the group. The two agreed to give Skype a try, as a way for Aleksandr to keep in touch. Aleksandr stated, “The Lord brought me to Bill and I wanted to continue to serve and be a part of the Circle of Support.” On November 17th, Aleksandr was in Mexico but joined the rest of the Circle members gathered in the Catholic Charities conference room via Skype. Roger Maiers, Circle member, stated, “We are so fortunate that he can continue with us, he has life experiences that none of us have had, it would be so different without him here.” Roger Slattery, another member, added “This gave us all the opportunity to also learn how to use this technology that we probably never would have before.”

Through a vast network of volunteer mentors and support groups, Catholic Charities’ Jail & Prison Ministry program strives to prepare and support ex-offenders as they work toward positive re-entry into family and community life. Mentors meet with offenders in prison or jail as well as after their release to provide the needed support to resist relapse into old habits and lifestyles. The program helps exoffenders establish positive relationships, experience healthy social activities, and connect with community resources that can aid in finding work, affordable housing, and meeting basic needs. Circles of Support and Accountability are small groups of volunteers (both male and female) working with a single ex-offender. Circles provide a healthy and supportive relationship between the ex-offender and the community, opening an avenue for restoration and healing of all people impacted by crime.

AmeriCorps members join Refugee Resettlement program

In October, Catholic Charities welcomed two new team members to the Refugee Resettlement services team, through the AmeriCorps Refugee RISE grant program. In their roles as Workforce Development Coordinators, they assist refugees in finding employment and develop a refugee job readiness class in order to help facilitate the process.

Siwacu Gidioni, pictured on the left, is a former citizen of Burendi and she lived in a refugee camp in Tanzania for 11 years before coming to the United States. Siwacu speaks Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and English. She is a current student at Kirkwood Community College where she is working towards her Bachelor’s degree in social work. Stephanie Domingo, pictured on the right, will be graduating in December 2016 from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, and minors in English, Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. She is active in student human rights organizations and fundraising events surrounding refugee issues, including the Syrian refugee conflict.

Siwacu and Stephanie will be working with Catholic Charities for approximately a year as we continue to develop and implement a job readiness training and employment placement services for refugees.

Welcome to Stacy Martin

In October, Stacy Martin joined the Catholic Charities team as Grant Writer & Community Relations Director. She is responsible for grant research and writing, as well as community engagement activities. Stacy served for three years as the Executive Director of Project Concern, a non-profit social service agency and she also has experience as a marketing coordinator for a senior living community. Stacy is excited to be a part of creating impact for the clients we serve at Catholic Charities!