Catholic Charities Newsletter

March 2018

From the Director’s Desk

Paschal Greetings!
As we come to the close of the Lenten season and prepare for the miracle of Easter, I reflect on the significance of Easter as the central celebration of the Christian faith. Easter is a sign of hope and a sign of new life, which is central to the work of Catholic Charities, as we strive to bring hope for new beginnings to those in our community who are suffering.  We see people every day that have experienced a great deal of pain and unrest, and Easter reminds us that we, as a global church, have the opportunity and the privilege of offering help and hope to so many.   
Easter offers us the opportunity to recommit ourselves to serving others, to making the lives of others more joyful and peaceful.  We are so pleased to be able to share with you some of our latest initiatives and partnerships that expand our reach to those who are suffering.
Blessings to you during this season of rebirth and joy,

Tracy Morrison, Executive Director


Immigration Legal Services expands program to meet community needs 

Pictured above: Emily Rebelskey, Immigration Attorney, assists clients with immigration legal services in Catholic Charities’ Cedar Rapids office

For the past 15 years, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque has provided legal services to immigrants and their families across the 30 counties of Northeast Iowa. Catholic Charities’ immigration attorneys provide free consultations to immigrant families to help them understand their legal options. Catholic Charities’ immigration attorneys also provide assistance to clients with immigration legal issues by providing low-cost, fee-for-services legal representation with family-based immigration and
naturalization proceedings, including representation in immigration court.

Due to the overwhelming need for legal services across the Archdiocese, Catholic Charities’ two immigration attorneys are currently assisting over 300 low-to-moderate income immigrant families. The program is at capacity and has suspended accepting new cases for the interim. Exceptions are currently being made for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals and representation of unaccompanied minors. “We are turning clients away every day”, stated Tracy Morrison, Executive Director, “and we must respond immediately.”

Catholic Charities remains committed to helping communities meet unfulfilled needs, and is therefore seeking to hire two additional immigration attorneys to join their team immediately. Once these new attorneys are in place, Catholic Charities can begin
accepting new clients and will have the ability to serve more immigrants and their families.

Ariel Isaac Barrios, 19, of Cedar Rapids, used Catholic Charities to file his DACA status renewal. His parents came to the United States from Mexico when he was only a few months old. His parents also used Catholic Charities services – among other legal aid – to fight their yearslong deportation cases. Though his mother now has her green card, his father was deported to Mexico in February 2017. Because of the uncertainty over DACA policy, Barrios is not able to leave the country to visit his father in Mexico. Barrios said his family is hesitant to share their legal status because they feel there is a stigma.

“I was not even a year old when my parents brought me. I really couldn’t be like, ‘hey turn around.’ People still look at me like I’m this immigrant. I don’t like to surround myself with those kind of people,” Barrios said. “I was brought up here – it’s all I know. To send me back to a place I don’t even know … this is my home to me. It’s just a bad feeling to have your home reject you, you know?”
To view article from The Gazette (March 28, 2018 edition) please follow this link


Circles of Support and Accountability aid people struggling with addiction  

Preston Mai, center, with his Circle of Support

Preston Mai smoked weed for the first time at 16. By his senior year of high school, he became a regular user of marijuana and alcohol. At age 18, he tried methamphetamines.
“Once you did it (meth), you wanted more and more and more,” recalled Mai. “It ruins your whole connection with your families, your brothers, your sisters, your old friends you didn’t use with in the past. Once you lose all that, you’re like screw it. You don’t think you’re ever going to get it back, and you keep going.” Despite several attempts to get sober in treatment programs and several arrests for crimes related to his habit, the Zwingle native, 22, kept slipping. Then, he received a blessing in disguise.

“At Flora park (in Dubuque) I found a truck sitting with the keys in it,” he said. “I was going 105 miles an hour down the highway.” After being stopped and charged with numerous crimes, Mai was incarcerated for five months straight, the longest single period he had spent in prison.” I couldn’t even remember my own name when I was (brought to the) county jail,” said Mai. “I sat in there, and I thank God for bringing me to where I am right now. I believe that he was trying to get me to go to jail for the amount of time that I was in there. For detox from the medication they had me on, and the drugs I was coming off. Five months in jail, it was hell, but I found God.”
A fateful encounter occurred when Mai was in a segregated cell and got a visit from Deacon Bill Hickson, coordinator of Jail and Prison Ministry for Catholic Charities of the archdiocese. Hickson suggested Mai look into drug court, a program which allows nonviolent offenders charged with drug related crimes to be released if they agree to plead guilty and engage in an intense court supervised treatment program. The initiative requires participants to get drug tests, hold a job, attend group treatment meetings and report to a judge once a week.  With the help of the prison ministry, many, like Mai, also get involved with Circles of Support and Accountability.
 by Dan Russo Witness Editor, for full article, please follow this link
Nothing to Fear but Anxiety itself 
By Lisa Turner, Catholic Charities Counselor

“I should exercise more.” 
“I didn’t make it to Bible study last night and now they probably think I’m a horrible person.” 
“I said something embarrassing and I’m afraid my friends won’t like me anymore.” 
“That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done! I’m so stupid!” 
“I never get anything right.” 

At some point in our lives, we have said one or more of these things to ourselves, or something like it. On the surface, these sentences sound innocuous, right? I mean, they don’t really mean anything, do they? The above statements are examples of negative self-talk, which can fuel negative feelings like anxiety.

Anxiety indicates a level of fear in our lives, or feeling afraid or scared. Other words that we use to describe anxiety include worry, nervousness, and stress. Sometimes this feels like butterflies in our stomach, tense shoulders and neck, headaches, tightness in the chest, a racing heartbeat, racing thoughts, dizziness, nausea, and sweaty hands – the list of symptoms of anxiety can go on and on.

Negative thoughts that lead to unhealthy emotions such as depression, anxiety, and anger are nearly always illogical and distorted even though they seem realistic – often times the lies sound very true. Reality does not produce clinical depression or anxiety, but wrong thoughts about reality does. Therefore, if you can replace distorted negative thoughts with thoughts that are positive and realistic, you can change the way you feel. 

You can decrease the anxiety, or better yet, make it go away. How can I do this, you might ask? Some will experience a decrease in symptoms by making lifestyle changes, such as: 
* Getting sufficient rest and sleep. 
* If you smoke, quit 
* Reducing or eliminating caffeinated beverages 
* Reducing exposure to stressful environments 
* Exercising regularly 

Some people report that relaxation techniques help reduce their anxiety significantly, when used regularly as part of a daily selfcare routine. Relaxation can include, but is not limited to: 
* Practicing deep breathing and meditation. 
* Choosing a positive mantra (“I can overcome!” or meditate on your favorite Bible verse.) 
* Learning how to do progressive muscle relaxation.  
* Engaging in pleasurable activities. This is could absolutely anything you enjoy doing – take an art class, play with your cat, drink a cup of hot tea. 

Having a strong support system of family and friends is key to coping with any mental health issue. Also consider seeking therapy to improve your coping skills, and/or join a support group. You might find that talking to a counselor can help you to address thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that play a role in anxiety.

For full article, please follow this link


Catholic Charities NOW HIRING 

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque has immediate openings for a full-time Mental Health Counselor in our Cedar Rapids office. Successful candidate should be licensed in Iowa as a Mental Health Counselor or Marriage and Family Counselor or Independent Social Worker and preferably of Catholic faith.  
Catholic Charities also has an immediate opening for a full-time Immigration Attorney to provide legal services and representation to immigrants and refugees. This position requires a J.D. degree from an ABA accredited law school and licensed to practice law.  Prefer 1-3 years, fluency in Spanish/English and of Catholic faith
Competitive salary and benefits included for both positions. Email resume and cover letter to Human Resources at
If you have questions about employment, contact Lynn Osterhaus, Human Resources Director at, or 800.876.3546.

Parish Social Ministry

Steve Schmitz, Parish Social Ministry Director

We are all responsible for acts of charity to help our neighbors, especially our most vulnerable neighbors. Catholic Charities was established in 1931 to provide structure and organization to these acts of charity, but by no means can non-profits alone, like Catholic Charities, meet the many social needs of the poor and vulnerable in our communities. We rely on partnerships with our parishes, other faith groups and non-profit organizations to collaborate and multiply these charitable acts.
In the words of USCCB’s Communities of Salt and Light – “until now, we have not specifically addressed the crucial role of parishes in the Church’s social ministry….we are convinced that the local parish is the most important ecclesial setting for sharing and acting on our Catholic social heritage.”

Catholic Charities’s Parish Social Ministry can help provide organization and guidance to parishes interested in increasing their outreach to the poor. 

-Consult:  We are available to provide Individual parish consultation for the initiation and/or growth of a program or initiative of the parish

-Convene:  We are committed to actively reaching out, convening and engaging other community organizations and groups to respond to local issues of concern

-Mobilize: We encourage participation in Archdiocesan events that promote social justice and are the local representative for Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD)

-Educate: We are available to provide or coordinate parish trainings on a variety of topics that assist parishes build capacity

If you are interested in exploring and learning more about what this can mean for your parish, please contact Stephen Schmitz at or 319-364-7121.


Volunteer Spotlight – Housing Volunteer Judy Perry

Pictured above is Judy Perry, right, with Kayci Schumacher, Ecumenical Tower Site Manager

One of Catholic Charities’ affordable housing sites, Ecumenical Towers, has been home to a senior meal site through Northeast Iowa Area Agency on Aging (NEI3A) for several years. However, last year, due to budget cuts at this partner agency, the meal program was in jeopardy of closing. With the help of Judy Perry and other dedicated volunteers stepping up, Catholic Charities was able to remain a meal site and continue serving our residents. 
Even prior to this event, Judy played an important role at Ecumenical Tower. She has volunteered with this program for over 3 years and has been key to keeping things organized in the dining room and serves as a liaison with NEI3A, ensuring supplies and paperwork are in order. 
Judy is also the ETTA President at Ecumenical Tower and is on several boards in our community for those with disabilities.  
If you would like to volunteer with Catholic Charities, please contact Mary Ready, Community Outreach Coordinator, at 319-272-2080 or or click here to see our current volunteer opportunities.