By Christina Galeone
WORCESTER – In John 13:34-35, Jesus told his disciples: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Despite the uncertainty the world faces every day, Jesus’ commandment endures. It’s unshakable, revitalizing and lifesaving.
It’s also something that Catholic Charities Worcester County, a non-profit human services agency in the Diocese of Worcester, is rooted in. The agency is committed to “strengthening families and to serving individuals in need.” And while most of the people whom Catholic Charities serves face uncertainty, it has become a way of life for some of them. Among those people are the refugees who find homes and hope through the agency’s Refugee Resettlement program.
In addition to refugee families, Catholic Charities serves people throughout Central Massachusetts. It does so through what it calls “a network of care” that provides food, shelter, clothing, school supplies, education, budgeting skills, employment assistance for people age 55 and older, addiction recovery for men and more. Catherine Loeffler, the executive director of Catholic Charities said, “Catholic Charities serves people of all faiths and provides services throughout Worcester County for elders, families and children and people with developmental disabilities. Catholic Charities also provides outreach to communities and parishes.”
But with all the vital services the agency offers neighbors, it serves the global community with the same respect and care. The Refugee Resettlement program helps refugees and asylum seekers – who have been in refugee camps for years – to finally move forward from the turmoil of their native lands. To help these people who have lost so much, Catholic Charities finds them affordable housing, provides them with funds to get them through the initial months, and it assists them with documentation, translation, English language tutoring, city transportation navigation, training and job searches. It welcomes them to Worcester upon their arrival and supports them with its services for six months.
While the Central Massachusetts journey they embark upon to build new lives for their families isn’t as treacherous as their escape from their war-torn homelands, it’s still an arduous one. It’s also one that Sister Theresa Khen Doan, MPV, administrator of the Refugee Resettlement program, knows all too well. A refugee from Vietnam in 1977, she knows how difficult it is to start over.
“I went through it,” said Sister Theresa, who added that she’s thankful she could speak English before she fled Vietnam. “We try our best to help them get through difficulties from the beginning.”
When she sees the families succeed, Sister Theresa said it makes her “feel good” that she and her staff were able to help them. She recalled a recent success story. In 2012, a mother, father and their two teenage daughters arrived from Syria. Even though only the older teenage daughter could speak English well, the dad was able to get a job six months later, and the elder of the two girls was able to get a scholarship to Clark University. Now, all four members of the family are working. The older daughter is also going to college and hopes to eventually get a master’s degree. They were also able to buy a home.
Sister Theresa said, “They are working and studying hard!”
And that’s exactly what Sister Theresa and her staff inspire them to do. A Venerini Sister who has run the Refugee Resettlement program since 1978, Sister Theresa happily shares her strong work ethic with her clients. The program helps them to have hope for a brighter future. “We start to encourage them,” said Sister Theresa. “I told them it’s better to work than to receive welfare.”
But without funds from Partners in Charity, the program couldn’t continue to help refugees to build that brighter future.
“Catholic Charities uses its discretionary dollars, which includes our Partners in Charity funds, to supplement many of our services throughout Worcester County,” said Ms. Loeffler. “If we did not have funding through Partners in Charity, we face the possibility of having to close offices, lay off employees and end some of our programs, including Refugee Resettlement, Citizenship Education, Immigration and our food pantries.” Partners in Charity gives $350,000 annually to Catholic Charities.
With the support of Partners in Charity, Catholic Charities continues to serve its neighbors. Whether they’re local neighbors or soon-to-be local neighbors, it helps them to maintain their dignity. Even in these uncertain times, it helps them to thrive in Christ’s love.
Partners in Charity
By the Numbers
$5 million goal