by Joseph F. Naumann
A 60th birthday is a significant milestone. On Oct. 23 this year, what is today Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas marked the 60th anniversary of its founding by Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler.
The Catholic Church had been doing charitable work in our part of Kansas long before 1956. Archbishop Hunkeler wanted, however, to establish an organization that would provide oversight and skilled management to the church’s efforts to make the love of Jesus tangible by addressing the human and material needs of many within the community.
Catholic Charities was initially focused on facilitating the adoption of children and serving the needs of both the birth and adoptive parents. However, in a very short amount of time, Catholic Charities was providing food, clothing and financial assistance to those in need.
Catholic Charities’ first Emergency Assistance Center was established in 1965. Today, Catholic Charities operates Emergency Assistance Centers in Kansas City, Atchison, Emporia, Leavenworth, Lawrence, Olathe, Overland Park and Topeka. We also have mobile resource buses that bring assistance to other areas of the Archdiocese. This past year, Catholic Charities responded to 248,480 requests for food assistance.
While Catholic Charities continues to assist with adoptions, the breadth of services provided today by Catholic Charities is astounding. Catholic Charities helps to resettle refugees, operates Shalom House — an emergency shelter for men — organizes a summer food program for children and provides in-home support for the elderly as well as hospice care to assist families with the care of a loved one during their final days of life in this world.
The Catholic Church has been providing assistance to refugees and immigrants for decades. Last year, Catholic Charities resettled 329 refugees, placed 322 in jobs and enrolled 226 in English language classes. Successful resettlement programs are time intensive, but positively change the lives of refugees, their families and successive generations of their descendants.
In recent years, Catholic Charities, while not neglecting its emergency services, has become more focused on providing opportunities to help individuals break free from the cycle of poverty in order to gain independence. One example of this is the Kansas Loan Pool Project, which, in its first year, assisted almost 100 individuals gain freedom from the astronomical payday loan interest rates. Partnering with local banks, Catholic Charities makes it possible for individuals to acquire conventional loans with reasonable interest rates. Individuals in this program participate in financial literacy programs that not only coach them into becoming debt-free, but also help in acquiring a favorable credit rating.
The most important ingredient in Catholic Charities’ success is not just in the impressive number of people served, nor the broad range of services provided, but the way in which each person is treated. Catholic Charities’ more than 200 employees and 1200 monthly volunteers are trained to strive to treat each individual the way they would care for Jesus.
When individuals come to our Emergency Centers for food, they are not just handed a bag of canned goods, but they are given a shopping cart and allowed to choose the items that their families need and want. This is just one small gesture that represents the efforts of Catholic Charities’ workers and volunteers to treat each person with respect and dignity.
Catholic Charities’ staff is available to meet with individuals to assist them discover a pathway to financial freedom and independence. Our goal at Catholic Charities is not just to provide help for immediate needs, but hope for a better future.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of our Catholic Charities’ volunteers. Their generosity in giving their time and talent allows us to maximize and actually multiply the impact of every dollar given to Catholic Charities. Last year, our volunteers donated more than 225,000 hours of service.
One of the great traditions of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas is the Christmas collection for Catholic Charities. Each year, every member of the Archdiocese, in addition to the support they provide to their parish at Christmas, is given the opportunity to make a donation to Catholic Charities. Making a donation to Catholic Charities is a beautiful way to honor and give thanks to Jesus, who was born in poverty and who, as an infant, became with Mary and Joseph a refugee, fleeing a tyrannical king.
If you want to show your gratitude to God for the gift of your faith, as well as all of the material blessings you enjoy, please make a generous gift to Catholic Charities. Your donation will make you part of the thousands of miracles of love and hope that happen every day of the year at our Catholic Charities centers and satellite programs. A donation to Catholic Charities is the perfect gift to give Jesus this Christmas.