Catholic Charities Newsletter

March 2017 

From the Director’s Desk

This month, Catholic Charities has began the exciting process of organizational strategic planning. In order to help direct our future growth, a consultant from Catholic Charities USA is helping facilitate this process. Together, board members, staff, parishes and the clients we serve will have the opportunity to provide feedback and input to help guide our agency, identify priorities and a strategy to respond to the many needs in the Archdiocese. We look forward to sharing the final strategic plan that will ensure that employees and other stakeholders are working toward common goals so we can adjust to an ever changing environment. 
Also this month, Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services team are providing informational “Know Your Rights” workshops across the Archdiocese to help immigrant families prepare and be knowledgeable of how the Presidential executive orders’ impact themselves and their families. Please click here for the schedule of dates, times and locations. 
Please visit our website for current information and resources regarding changes in immigration and the executive orders. We remain in solidarity with immigrants and refugees around the world. 

God Bless,


Tracy Morrison, Executive Director

Who is a Refugee? What is the Screening Process for a Refugee?

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque is celebrating our 77th year of resettling refugees from around the globe in NE Iowa. We are frequently asked about the screening process for refugees and in response we have developed a brief 3 minute video to help explain this complex process. We hope you take a few minutes from your day to learn more.
This video was made possible thanks to a generous donation by Lauren Squires Ready of Forever Ready Productions.





Catholic Charities’ Annual Appeal..Woman shares how ministry helped her

DUBUQUE – Catholic Charities’ services are personal and confidential, and are provided to anyone in need regardless of faith, background or ability to pay. Serving 30 counties in northeast Iowa, the programs of Catholic Charities include Mental Health Counseling, Affordable Housing, Jail & Prison Ministry, Refugee Resettlement, Immigration Legal Services, Post Adoption Search and Disaster Services. To learn more about Catholic Charities’ services and to hear personal stories of their programs’ impact, please view the video on their website.
Catholic Charities Annual Appeal, which funds over one-third of their operating budget each year, will take place this weekend, Feb. 11. You may have received a mailer at home or you may see an insert in your church bulletin; please keep an eye out for it. You may also give online at www.CatholicCharities or mail a gift to P.O. Box 1309, Dubuque, IA 52004. Catholic Charities’ continued success is dependent on the financial support and prayers from each of you.
“We thank you for your past support; please join us in sharing Christ’s love with your prayers, gifts or service,” said Tracy Morrison, executive director of Catholic Charities.
Program Spotlight: Jail & Prison Ministry
Driven by Catholic Charities’ mission to reduce poverty, strengthen families and empower communities, the Jail & Prison Ministry program strives to prepare and support ex-offenders as they work toward positive re-entry into family and community life. Individuals released from jail or prison often return to their communities with no employment, home or support system. 
Through a vast network of volunteer mentors and support groups, the Jail & Prison Ministry program helps ex-offenders establish positive relationships, experience healthy social activities and connect with community resources that can aid in finding work, affordable housing and meeting basic needs. 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. Circles of Support are small groups of volunteers (both male and female) working with a single ex-offender to provide safe places for dialogue and support. 
Last year, clients involved with the Jail & Prison Ministry program were 49 percent less likely to re-offend and return to jail or prison, compared to the state average. 
Amy joined the Jail & Prison Ministry program through drug court and was matched with a mentor and a Circle of Support. Amy has a long history of abusive relationships and drug use.
Amy shared, “My mentor is always there when I need someone to talk to. She’s helped me maintain my sobriety and move into permanent housing.”
Without the program, Amy expresses that she wouldn’t have been given the guidance that she needed to set goals for herself and be able to recognize the progress that she has made in her life.
She stated, “The program gave me the tools to stay clean.” By reaching her goals, she now has confidence and has been promoted twice at her current job at a fast food restaurant and has career goals to become a vet technician. “Thank you to the Jail & Prison Ministry program. My Circle of Support is my family,” stated Amy.
Last year, Catholic Charities assisted over 16,600 people in all its ministries, including Amy. Please help them continue to offer services to so many and bring the love that Christ demands of us to the world, starting right here in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
Contact Catholic Charities at 1-800-772-2758.
PHOTO: Amy (center, seated), a woman assisted by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque through its Jail & Prison Ministry, is pictured with her Circle of Support and Accountability. Deacon Bill Hickson (far right, seated), director of Jail & Prison Ministry, is among the group. (Photo contributed by Catholic Charities)

take a moment to view our video and hear stories of how individuals and families have been impacted by Catholic Charities’ services.


Ecumenical Tower undergoes major building renovations 

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. Ecumenical Tower is an 88 unit senior/disabled adult apartment complex located in downtown Dubuque. According to Matthew Roddy, Housing Director, “Ecumenical Tower is in the final stages of a five year renovation project of all common areas. The vision for the building is based on our model of beauty and order. The residents are thrilled with the work that is being done.” 
Initial renovations were on the first floor and included creating a lounge area for residents, new flooring, new furniture and a beautiful seawater aquarium. New windows were added to add more light and the laundry room was updated with new equipment. The heating and cooling system was also replaced with assistance from the Grants to Green energy grant program. The current renovations focus on the lobby areas on each floor (pictured below).
Prior to renovations:
 After renovations:

Catholic Charities hosts Awareness Luncheon

Catholic Charities is hosting a complimentary community awareness lunch in Cedar Falls on April 26th at the Hilton Garden Inn for community members to learn more about our services. We welcome you to join us over your lunch hour. Space is limited, to RSVP and view details please click here.


Catholic Charities receives $15,000 POWR grant

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

POWR is a program organized by Migration and Refugee Services (MRS), the refugee reception and resettlement placement program of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). USCCB/MRS has always operated through strong relationships with parishes and local communities.

The POWR program strengthens the dioceses and parishes’ ability to welcome refugees from all over the world.  Its main focus is to encourage parishes to make an ongoing and organized commitment to working with refugees in partnership with the resettlement program of the diocese.

Stay tuned to learn more about opportunities you may have to become involved with supporting families resettled in Iowa communities through Catholic Charities’ “Families Strengthening Families” and your parish.

To learn more about “Families Strengthening Families” contact Carol O’Brien, Director of Immigration & Refugee Services, at or 319-364-7121.



Volunteer Spotlight

Wendy Bouslog shared her interest in volunteering to help refugees resettle in her commmunity with Catholic Charities in 2015. She was especially interested in helping refugees secure employment and how she could help. Pictured above left, Wendy, has been working with Terina Heidelberg (above right), Refugee Resettlement Employment Specialist.

Wendy’s background is in the education field and she has used her past connections to start conservations with area organizations, at which refugees could volunteer. This experience offers refugees the opportunity to learn skills that can transfer to future employment opportunities as they seek employment. 

Wendy’s professional experiences have provided a great understanding of the challenges individuals with disabilities face in securing employment. By understanding the barriers an individual may need to overcome because they are seen as different, has made her a great asset to Catholic Charities’ new job readiness volunteer work force.

In addition to all this great employment work Wendy is helping Terina with, she also brought in her ladies group to organize and clean Catholic Charities’ donation storage space. She has also recently started mentoring a refugee family in the Cedar Rapids area.

Thank you Wendy for your volunteer service! 

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. 

Refugees share stories, react to executive order, immigration debate

 By Dan Russo, Witness Editor

CEDAR RAPIDS –  His faith in Christ and music were essential for Chance Muhango as he, his parents and seven siblings dealt with the monotony and uncertainty of life in a refugee camp.

“I’m a Christian; I can’t stay without praying,” said the soft-spoken young man as he sat in his uncle’s home in Cedar Rapids. “Since we have nothing to do in the camp, after school I was singing in three choirs, which means from Monday to Sunday, I was at the church every day after school.”

In camps like the one Muhango came from refugees are not allowed to leave the confines of the camp. Some endure tough conditions for decades rather than going home to fates that could be worse.

“When you are in a refugee camp, since you are not getting all the basic needs, you are very stressed, so when I’m going to church, I’m trying to reduce my stress,” explained Muhango.
The 21-year-old native of the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrived Jan. 17 in Cedar Rapids and is receiving help from Catholic Charities’ Refugee Resettlement Program. His family fled violent ethnic and political conflict in the Congo, ending up in a camp in Malawi supported by the United Nations and Jesuit Relief Services, among other agencies. There he spent five years with 15,000-17,000 other refugees from around Africa. After interviews, security checks and health screenings, he finally got the opportunity for a fresh start.   

“We had everything ready,” said Caleb Gates, Muhango’s Catholic Charities case manager. “His parents and siblings are in the process to come here. He was the first one, but because he’s over 18, that’s why he’s on his own case.”
Chance Muhango (left), a refugee living in Cedar Rapids, with Caleb Gates, his Catholic Charities case manager.

Now, he doesn’t have to wake up at 3:30 a.m. in the cramped dwelling he shared with his family of 10 to wait in line at the water pump or worry about whether they’ll be enough food for a meal after school. He can just turn on a faucet or open a refrigerator. His uncle’s home in Cedar Rapids has electricity, space and other conveniences he never could have hoped for in the camp, but Muhango is not at ease. His body may be in America, but his heart is still far away.

“Of course, I was not happy because I left my parents, brothers and sisters,” he said. “I wished to come with them. Now I don’t know when they are going to come.”
Muhango’s tale of suffering, patience and separation are common among refugees, as Siwacu Gidioni can attest. She sat next to Muhango as he told his story, occasionally helping him clarify his statements with brief exchanges in Swahili, an African language they both speak. Gidioni, now a U.S. citizen, does translation work for Catholic Charities as an AmeriCorps intern. She came to America nine years ago at 14-years-old. Her parents and siblings fled conflict in Burundi and went to Tanzania. They first came to Texas, and in 2013 moved to Iowa.

“We were there (in the refugee camp) for 11 years,” she said. “We didn’t know if we were going to come to America. That dream you don’t have. You’re just like, ‘Ok, we’re going to stay here.’ My sister was 21. They took her out of our case. They said they were going to bring her but they never did. She’s in Mozambique now because they closed all those camps. It’s painful.”

After graduating from high school, Gidioni went to work immediately, supporting her younger siblings since her parents were ill. Both she and Muhango hope to become social workers some day. But for now, those goals are not their primary concern. In light of the divisive political debate over immigration and security going on in the United States, they are constantly thinking of their family members in Africa.
“I  want to concentrate with education but since my family is (in Malawi), it’s very difficult to say, ‘I can do this,'” said Muhango.
Reactions to the executive order

President Donald Trump’s executive order took effect after Muhango arrived in Cedar Rapids. The temporary 120-day halt to refugee resettlement that was part of the order has been stopped, at least until the matter makes its way through the U.S. court system. The order, if re-imposed, would also temporarily ban foreign travelers from seven mostly Muslim countries as the vetting process for people from those nations is reviewed, according to the order.

Although Muhango and Gidioni’s native countries and the ones where their loved ones now live are not part of the order, they both expressed concerns that the policy could be expanded to include other countries or that refugee resettlement into the United States could be blocked entirely.   
“You never know,” said Gidioni. “Next time it could be Congo and Tanzania. We are worried about that.”Aside from Gidioni’s sister, her husband is also still in Africa. She recently went to visit him there, and as a U.S. citizen was able to travel without incident.