Strengthening Families. Building Communities. Reducing Poverty.

Kathleen Durkin

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The first Sunday in October is Respect Life Sunday, and this kicks off the Respect Life Month of October each year, which also begins a new Respect Life Program for the year. The USCCB Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities publishes new Respect Life Program materials each year to highlight various Respect Life issues. These Respect Life Program materials respond to the needs of parishes, schools and other ministries for basic presentations of life issues. This year’s theme is Every Life is Worth Living, which not only sheds light on the sanctity of life at all stages (in response to the renewed push for legalizing assisted suicide in many states), but it is also applicable to the wide spectrum of life issues. The program is emphasized in liturgies and featured through numerous programs and events that take place not only during Respect Life Month, but also throughout the whole year. The events occur at various locations-including parish, local, diocesan, state, and national levels. Just a few of these events include: Life Chain: This is an international, peaceful, prayerful, pro-life, public witness where Respect Life advocates join together and stand outside along streets, hold signs, and pray in silence for the unborn, for those

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September is a wonderful time of the year when we get to leave the summer heat behind as the air gets crisp and the leaves begin to change. We look forward to the Major League Baseball playoffs that will soon be taking place and to the football season ahead. This time of year often brings families and friends together to share their love of sports and outdoors. It is a time that grandparents pass down their love and knowledge of the game but most importantly a time where memories are made and relationships are strengthened.          Be sure to mark your calendar! September 13th is National Grandparents Day. Take this opportunity to send a card, make a phone call or plan a visit or outing with your grandparents. Don’t forget to let your grandparents know how important and special they are to you! The first day of fall, September 23rd is National Falls Prevention Awareness Day. This day sponsored by the National Council on Aging is designed to raise awareness about preventing fall-related injuries among older adults. The theme for 2015 is “Take a Stand to Prevent Falls”. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one

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Sometimes it’s hard to hear the truth, whether it’s about yourself or someone you care about. It’s hard to keep an open mind and to not feel judged. It’s even harder when you experience an unplanned pregnancy. All kinds of thoughts run through your head: “Who should I tell? Should I tell anyone? Can I do this alone? What if I need help? Where will I go?” Oftentimes, these questions go unanswered for months-maybe because you’re in denial, or angry, or even scared. Maybe you’re struggling financially or experiencing homelessness. How can you care for a child when it seems you don’t have the resources to care for yourself? A lot of our clients face this very same situation. They can be any age, from any economic background, and of any ethnicity. Our clients are from all walks of life. But they all have the same goal. To have a healthy pregnancy and to provide the best life they can for their unborn child. Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte is here to help. We provide pregnancy support services to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Services can include community referrals, case management support, assistance securing baby items, and emotional support. We can

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“Let’s go.”They wanted to climb the waterfall.“We only have 40 minutes before we need to head home. How about we just hang out by the stream until we go?”There was no conversation to be had. In spite of the fact that the Refugee Youth High School Program participants (14 teenagers) and three brave staff had just climbed up and down a 2,000+ foot mountain on a humid summer afternoon, many of the youth were ready for a new challenge.So they climbed and I climbed slowly behind…up several hundred feet of stairs in just 20 minutes! But it was worth the struggle. By the time “Mr. Patrick” finally reached the observation deck, the kiddos were already happily snapping selfies/group photos and generally enjoying the grandeur of the roaring water pouring over the rocks below. When the Waterfall Expedition finally returned from their sprint up and down the falls, we found the rest of the group relaxing by the stream and enjoying a hard-earned rest.Everyone was a little exhausted (staff mostly, if we are being honest…) but also content. It was Summer Break and the teenagers got to take a moment to relax from the grind of adjusting to a new life. Not
"Consider this, over the past couple of weeks we have had extremely hot weather. Catholic Charities food pantry doors continues to open each Tuesday and Thursday. Families who live under the poverty line have depended on us to help meet their need and feed their families.  Each Tuesday and Thursday, we offer a light snack to food pantry clients to help with healthy nutrition and we also provide nutritional educational materials. Families have increased their interaction and have responded positively to our snack offer. One client stated "I haven't eaten all morning, I am so thankful you guys provided this to me!" and another client said "Do you mind if I have another snack, I am so hungry and thankful that you all gave this to us. I am grateful for Catholic Charities." Throughout the daily interaction with food pantry each Tuesday and Thursday, families are tired, this summer is hotter, school is out, and more and more children come through our doors hungry. According to Feeding America, the overall food insecurity rate for children in Mecklenburg County rates at 17.5 % which is an estimated total of 165,780 children who are food insecure. Food insecurity can lead to poor diet quality, which is linked to numerous health

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World Refugee Day will be celebrated in Charlotte, NC on June 20, 2015, in conjunction with celebrations of refugees around the world. The event will be held from 10 AM-1 PM at The Green in Uptown Charlotte. The event seeks to accomplish the following mission: To increase awareness of refugees living internationally and within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area. To celebrate the cultures and contributions of refugees living within the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area.  In order to accomplish this objective, the World Refugee Day Committee has been meeting regularly to plan, advertise and fundraise for the celebration of this event. The Committee is comprised of representatives from various local agencies that work in collaboration to address the various, and often complex needs, of the refugee community in Charlotte. The program will include musical/dance performances from various ethnic groups and tables surrounding the park where you can learn more about refugees living in Charlotte as well as the organizations that work to connect them to services and resources. The WRD Committee has also received authorization from Charlotte-Mecklenburg County officials to officially proclaim June 20th as World Refugee Day for city and county jurisdictions. If you would like to donate to the event or simply learn more

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As the new Respect Life Program Director for Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte, joining the agency about five months ago, I have already encountered many “firsts” in my new role, and I look forward to many more to come! When I was asked to write something for the CCDOC Blog, I knew this would go on my list of another first. As I pondered and prayed about what to write, various topics came to mind. With the recent celebration of Mother’s Day, I knew I could write something about mothers—thanking and lifting up current mothers, comforting and consoling mothers who have lost a child, and teaching and inspiring mothers-to-be. Then I realized that Father’s Day is approaching soon, so I thought perhaps I could write something integrating mothers and fathers. Both are essential in the creation of life and in the Respect Life mission, and I had just recently been learning more about research indicating the need to focus more on the man’s role and responsibilities within society and how this impacts women and their choices regarding their children. I also considered writing about individuals with special needs, as these individuals are near and dear to my heart. Well, the Lord

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Refugees come to the United States with nothing but the hope of a better future for them and their families. As we welcome them to Charlotte, the first and the major challenge for them is to find a job and to be able to take care of themselves and their families. The employment staff at Catholic Charities Refugee Office assists and guides them in finding employment to become self-sufficient.The first two years for most refugees can be very difficult. Everything is new for them. The lack of transportation and English skills are big hindrances for becoming employed. They go to English language class to improve their language skills. We also train them how to access public transportation to empower them to become more independent.Within two weeks of their arrival, we meet and talk with them about getting jobs. Their faces light up with hope and happiness when they hear that we will help them find jobs. We also provide them orientation about the job application process, the world of work, keeping jobs, and interview skills to make them ready to compete in the job market.We have clients from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Cuba, Somalia and other parts of Africa, and some Eastern
Each day Catholic Charities touches the lives of our community.  From time to time, the people we serve want to share how their lives were changed because of our work.  This story comes from the heart of a Mom who just before Mother’s day had to face the death of her unborn child.  Catholic Charities was there for her to walk with her on this difficult journey. “My life has not always been easy, I came to the area for a better life for my children and myself.  I am a young mother of three children and I was expecting. When I went to make my visit with the Doctor, the doctor expressed to me that I was going to have a baby girl. I was so filled with joy, this was going to be my very first princess.  After 24 weeks, the doctors told me they couldn’t hear a heartbeat and that my princess was gone. My heart dropped, I was in such shock I did not understand it and I became very sad. I did not know where to turn or how to cope with this.  The hospital told me about Catholic Charities and I reached out to them for

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"You believe the law of the heart!" Answering a call from a co-worker at Catholic Charities after 10:00 PM always means one thing -- there is a teen in crisis and s/he called the crisis hotline for help.  After an argument, Tiffany's aunt said that she had to find another place to live.  Not having anywhere else to turn, Tiffany walked into the restaurant with the big yellow Safe Place sign and asked for help.  Tiffany knew that a big yellow sign on the outside of a business meant that the business had promised to help youth in trouble.  She had learned about it at school.  Catholic Charities hosts the hotline that connects 191 Safe Place sites in Forsyth County with resources that help youth in trouble --- 24/7. Tiffany's Mom has been incarcerated for most of her life.  Her father wont have anything to do with her so she has spent most of her life being raised by a grandmother and an aunt.  When we reached Tiffany's grandmother, it was after 11:00 PM and she was just getting off the late shift at work, but she agreed to meet with Tiffany and the Catholic Charities' social worker. The grandmother shared
Modern technologies allow us to shift our attention quickly. We are confident that we can pay attention to multiple things and people at any given time and we value dearly our devices that allow us to stay so accessible, and so flexible to choose what or whom gets our attention at any given moment. Few gatherings (in theaters, churches, classes, meetings) begin these days without the announcement to turn off, or at least silence our cell phones (with the latter option still enabling one to text and email). From religious journals to financial magazines to daily newspapers, there seems to be a growing interest in the value of being attentive to the task at hand or to the person in our presence. The underlying message in these varied media is the same - modern distractions and technological advances draw our attention away. Away from what? Depending on the particular concern of the writer, it might be our work, our driving, our learning, our family, our friends, and yes, even God. What all these articles seem to be recognizing is that we – humanity – are losing something very important when we do not give (pardon the use of an overused phrase),

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“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matthew 6:25-27).Considering this scripture verse it is clear that worry is not what you are called on to do however have you ever noticed times when you avoided something or denied yourself something because you were worried only to realize later that you never really had anything worth fearing? Anxiety often times works like that. Anxiety is based on an estimation of risk or danger that not only is not truly present but unlikely to happen or harm you in the way you fear it will. This then only serves to tax you emotionally and leave you no more secure than you were before you started about the business of worrying. Maybe

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Not long after I began my position in Asheville I had an encounter with a food pantry client that served as a poignant reminder of how crucial and hopeful our services are. This gentleman had been coming to our Wednesday food pantry for quite some time. He is friendly, gregarious and always has on a smile. On this particularly frigid afternoon he explained that he did not have any way to transport the food home to his family. He asked if someone at the office might be willing to give him a ride. A few volunteers cheerfully offered. But because it was a busy day for the food pantry, I chimed in and said I could do it. “Thank you so much for the ride, sir.” “It’s no problem. Happy to help. Are you from Asheville originally?” “Born and raised. But most of my family have moved. Thanks for the food. We don’t know what we would do without it. We don’t have the money to go to the store. And we’re behind on rent. I wish there was some way I could give back.” “Turn left here?” “Yeah.” “We would be happy to have you as a volunteer at the

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We received a call from a young mother of a two-year-old, who just learned she is pregnant.  She was so overwhelmed with her situation that she didn't know what type of help to ask for.  The home where she was living was condemned due to a bad leak. She and her son were suddenly homeless.  After talking for a while, I realized one of the reasons she was so overwhelmed was that she only had one day left before the phone company planned to shut off her phone due to lack of payment.  "My whole world is on that phone.  Its the only way I can reach any one left who might be able to help me.  My worst fear is that something will happen and I won't be able to call in an emergency call for my son.  What if he gets sick?"  When I told her that Catholic Charities would pay the $40 to keep her phone on another month, the young woman broke down in tears.  I knew that it was important that staff have a way to reach this mother and child.  I knew that it would take several calls to convince relatives to provide temporary shelter.

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The police office on duty last week asked me to speak with the person who was first on the food pantry line to convince him not to come so early the next time he visited us for help.  She gave me his name and I proceeded to the front of the line to catch him as people were guided into our offices at 7:00 a.m.  Mr. Harper wasn't on the front of the line as I expected.  He was in a motorized wheel chair being led into the office through a more handicapped accessible door.  I made an excuse for the shocked gasp that flew unexpectedly from my mouth when I met him.  It was a silly excuse - I was trying to catch my breath in the cold.  In 19 years of working for Catholic Charities agencies, I had never seen a frozen person before.  Mr. Harper, in his wheelchair, was covered in frost.  He had waited on our line so long that frost had formed on his hat, his hair, his face, his legs, his wheelchair.  Mr. Harper had waited in our line since 4:00 am to make sure that he received one of our food boxes.  Apparently, he
         Imagine you are dropped off in an unknown city with $25.00 of pocket money and without an iPhone, car, friends/relatives or knowledge of the local language. This is the initial reality for thousands of refugee families that are resettled in America each year. Refugees, many of whom have lived in refugee camps for years, can feel isolated and stranded because they cannot communicate or get around their new city after their arrival in the United States. This can be a frustrating experience for them since they are eager to explore their new home, but lack the necessary skills to do so.          At Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Office we offer an extensive bus-training program for our newly arrived refugees during the first month after their arrival. The training includes using the CATS calling system to get directions, reading bus maps, understanding payment options, entering and exiting the bus safely, signaling the designated bus to stop and respecting other passengers. Once they have participated in the bus training they also receive two weeks of bus passes to get them started. We prioritize visiting the Department of Social Services, the Health Department on Billingsley and the CCDOC Office, because these are typically
This year’s World Day of Peace Message of Pope Francis puts a spotlight on the modern day scourge of trafficking human beings for economic and sexual exploitation. The title of the Holy Father’s message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, celebrated on January 1, is Slaves no More, But Brothers and Sisters. (Read the message). Pope Francis wants the world to react with swiftness and intensity to the current situation of forced economic exploitation (of girls, boys, men and women) and the sexual exploitation of children and adults (overwhelmingly girls and women). With millions of people currently being treated as tradable commodities to be used and abused in horrific conditions of slavery, such a situation should shock the world community to act to end this evil. Sadly, according to a June 19, 2014 article in The Washington Post, perhaps only one percent of those trapped in this “modern day slavery” have been freed from their suffering. Pope Francis has chosen this social concern in his second World Day of Peace message because he is passionate about this issue. He has called human trafficking “an open wound on the body of contemporary society, a scourge on the body of Christ.” This
This year’s food pantry has been a quite busy and successful one! Catholic Charities serves 55 families per week on each Tuesday and Thursday to help those in need. Our food pantry has received numerous donations from different parishes and members of the community. We constantly see a great need for toiletries, personal items, and also microwavable foods for those who do not have access to a stove to prepare certain foods. This month our food pantry has a great need for toiletries, pasta sauce, and white rice. William Kent Lewis was recognized at our 2014 Vineyard of Hope this year for the Fruit of the Vine Award. Kent has been volunteering and serving our food pantry for over 3 years and has also completed over 1000 hours within our food pantry. Kent has shown much dedication and commitment to helping out at the food pantry. We thank him for his time and commitment to serve those in need. By Dejerica HeathDirect Assistance Social Worker

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"She showed me I wasn't alone."   Andrew was a teenager met in the parking lot one afternoon.  He was quick to smile as he encountered people in the Catholic Charities parking lot. When I spoke with him about why he was waiting he was surprisingly open and shared his story.   He explained that he started hanging out with people at school who got into trouble a lot and who didn't care about their schoolwork or grades.  "It got easy for me not to care about what I did.  I didn't care about my grades and I didn't care about getting into trouble.  My mom finally got sick of it and we started coming for counseling.  We get along pretty good now."   Andrew and his family took advantage of the FREE counseling services that is offered to young people and their families at Catholic Charities.  The services are offered by masters level mental health counselors who are licensed by the state of North Carolina.  Because the service is offered as part of a federal grant program focused on preventing teen runaways, Catholic Charities provides the service in Winston-Salem free of charge.  There are no income guidelines to receive free counseling, however,

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A tearful woman explained that the screams and loud noise heard by her neighbors last week was the sound of her adorable two-year-old grandson being beaten and thrown into an empty bathtub to die.  The four-year-old autistic brother who watched the scene could only scream, but not form words to express his grief.  The boyfriend of a relative who is wanted for the crime cannot be found, however, the police are looking.  Catholic Charities made the arrangements with the funeral home and the beautiful, sweet angel was laid to rest last week.  The distraught grandmother will continue to come to Catholic Charities to meet with a counselor who will help her find the strength to cope with such a tragedy. A little later in the day I learned of another horrible tragedy.  The little two-month baby girl who was born to a crack-addicted mother didn't stand a chance in life.  I was told that her mother sold WIC vouchers to purchase items other than baby formula.  Instead, she fed the newborn whole milk.  The baby did not thrive and after a couple of weeks choked on the milk and passed away. Again, Catholic Charities stood side by side with family members
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