Archive for February, 2012

A Muslim-Catholic Social Service Partnership

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Cross-cultural awareness and sensitivity is profoundly important in diverse communities such as New York – especially when it comes to issues of faith. Ensuring positive interfaith relations on institutional and interpersonal levels can result in a more positive, charitable community for all. In this series of blog posts, Catholic Charities explores the many dimensions of interfaith relations and the ways in which social services organizations can take a leadership role in this area.

By Richard Bertin

While we might traditionally associate February with Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, and the honoring of past presidents, religious traditions are also central to this time of year. On Feb 3, many Muslims celebrated Mawlid-al-Nabi, the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, while during the middle of the month Catholics began the Lenten season with Ash Wednesday.

Catholic Charities New York, presented 2,500 pounds of food to the Muslim Women’s Institute Community Food Pantry at Highbridge, in the Bronx earlier this month

We all know how important it is to learn about the past and celebrate the diverse cultural groups that contribute to our community – which of course includes religion. Never before have people worldwide been more connected to each other as they are today and yet there is still a pressing need for different cultures to understand each other, particularly in the politically polarizing realm of religion.

This past month, a partnership between Catholic Charities and the Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY) took action on this very issue.

After the success of the Archdiocesan-wide Feeding Our Neighbors campaign, which collected enough food and funds to supply 575,000 meals to replenish local food pantries, 2,500 lbs of that bounty were donated to the Muslim Women’s Institute Community Food Pantry at in the Bronx.

Thanks to the support of the GHR Foundation and ICNY, Catholic Charities has formed interfaith partnerships with Muslim food pantries that are also suffering from food shortages and decline in public funding. By joining together to reach a common goal of helping neighbors in need – despite cultural and religious differences – more food is available to all New Yorkers.

Did you know?

  • Only 20% of the world’s Muslim population lives in the Middle East. (60% are found in Asia)
  • Calling a person or group “Islamic” is inaccurate.  To describe someone who follows Islam, it is better to use the term “Muslim.” The word “Islamic” is an adjective used to describe objects or ideas that connect to ideals of Islam, such as “Islamic art.”
  • China has more Muslims than Syria. (One-fifth of the world’s Muslim population lives in countries where Islam is not the religious majority.
  • “Arab” is not a racial or religious classification; it’s an ethnic classification. (There are 22 Arab nations)
  • 63% of Arab Americans are Christian. (24% are Muslim)

Daily Lenten Challenge

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Lenten crossThroughout the Lenten season, check in with Catholic Charities New York for creative ways to engage more fully with the 40 days of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Check this post daily during the week for updated tips and inspiration for how to make the most of Lent. Leave comments below to share how you are doing with your Lenten commitments, and with these daily challenges.

For extra support, sign up to receive these daily messages via email here.

April 2 ~ Adopt a Family. Looking to make a difference in the world by the end of Lent? Adopt a family in need through the St. Nicholas Project. By supporting this project, you provide critical social services year-round to families in need in our community.

March 30 ~  Be frugal. Each dollar saved can help a child who is truly hungry. $5 can help us:

…feed one hungry child for 2 days

…provide a family with 3 days of fresh fruits and vegetables

…feed a mother and her child for one day

March 29 ~ Give to a thrift store today. Donate old housewares to a charity thrift store, like the Catholic Charities Community Services Thrift Store, and help support the homes of our neighbors in need.

March 28 ~ Help someone smile today. Integrate a few small — perhaps even anonymous — acts of kindness into your day. What will you do? Share your story in the comments field below this post.

March 27 ~ Remind yourself of your Lenten pledges today, and take some time to re-ignite your commitments. There are many ways to give back through Catholic Charities.

March 26 ~Pray for those who generously serve our neighbors in need within our 90 agencies throughout the Archdiocese of New York.

March 23 ~ Provide a meal for those suffering from hunger today. Donate food or volunteer at a food pantry near you. Last year, Catholic Charities provided 6.5 million meals for the hungry.

March 22 ~ Practice Patience. Take the time to answer questions with extra patience and thoughtfulness today. Be kind to strangers who stop you for directions. Be generous to a coworker in need of assistance.  Learn about the compassionate services Catholic Charities provides every day for those in our community with special needs.

March 21 ~ Pray for those who are homeless, for families in the shelter system, and for those who are searching for a home. Take action to help the homeless by volunteering with our Junior Board’s Midnight Runs.

March 20 ~ Welcome and Support Immigrants and Refugees. Know someone who has a question about immigration or refugee services in New York? Make a note to direct them to the Catholic Charities Immigration Hotline for free, professional consultation. Today, the immigration hotline answered 119 calls for help and advice in 18 different languages. The Catholic Charities Immigration Hotline: 212-419-3737 or 1-800-566-7636 (Toll-free in NYS)

March 19 ~ Pray for the unemployed in our community. Catholic Charities helped 7,900 people with job training and placement this past year.

March 16 ~ Take an active role in our political process. Learn about ways to advocate for a just society, and how Catholic Charities works to make this possible.

March 15 ~ Pray for families today. Each year, our agency network helps more than 3,300 families stay together.

March 14 ~ Learn about your Community

Today, put aside some time to learn more about your community. In what ways are your neighbors in need? In what ways can you help? Learn your state’s or your neighborhood’s hunger statistics — you might be surprised.  And check out the services that provided by our 90 agencies. There is one near you, working hard each day to help your neighbors.

March 13 ~ Join a Group

The best way to adopt a habit of generosity and selflessness is to surround yourself with like-minded people. Join a community of leaders dedicated to charity.

Cardinal’s Committee for Charity

The Catholic Charities Junior Board

March 12 ~ Make Your Commitments Mobile

Make the most of each day in Lent – even in the midst of a busy life. Check out this list of web-based and mobile resources to help you keep prayer, fasting and almsgiving central to this sacred season.

March 9 ~ Make a Small Sacrifice

On this Lenten Friday, sacrifice the cost of a small or large indulgence today to help feed a family in need. Instead of a latte and pastry, a $10 can provide fresh produce for a hungry family. Instead of dinner at a restaurant, a $50 gift can provide safe shelter for a mother and her children. 

March 8 ~ Support Fair Trade

While shopping for yourself or your family, buy fair trade products when possible. This ensures that workers are paid a fair wage and that sustainable production practices are being followed. Buying fair trade coffee is an excellent – and easy – place to start. Catholic Charities supports international social justice across the globe.

March 7 ~ Find Ways to Give Back

Use your talents to support a meaningful cause. The Catholic Charities Junior Board provides opportunities for leadership and service.

March 6 ~ Welcoming Newcomers

Be kind and generous to your New York neighbors. Learn about Catholic Charities’ heritage of welcoming immigrants and refugees.

March 5 ~ Resolving Crises

Give emotional support to someone in need today. Talk to a friend in need or write a letter – anything to show that you care.

Catholic Charities provides compassionate and professional therapy  to more than 3,000 individuals each year.

March 2 ~ Nurturing Children

Spend some time today talking to a child in your life. Pray that he or she has the opportunities necessary to succeed in life and reach their full potential.

Each year, Catholic Charities helps more than 4,000 children reach their potential through day care and Head Start programs.

March 1 ~ Catholic Social Teaching

Learn about Catholic Social Teaching, and how we are called to help others. Be a part of Catholic Charities’ advocacy for social justice and human dignity.

February 29 ~ Help your neighbors

Help a neighbor in danger of eviction preserve their home by directing them to help at Catholic Charities. The team at Catholic Charities prevents eviction for more than 4,800 families each year, and helps an additional 17,000 individuals in need find emergency shelter, transitional housing, or permanent affordable housing. Learn more.

February 28 ~ Pray for Others

Pray for those in our community who are struggling to live even the most modest lives. For a glimpse into the life of one of your neighbors in need, read about a man we are helping to support his family and achieve a better life.

Little to Show for Strong Work Ethic and a Degree

February 27 ~Building New Habits.

Today, adopt one small daily or weekly selfless habit that you will pledge to continue throughout Lent, and make good deeds part of your everyday life.

Follow us on Facebook to participate in the Catholic Charities community online, and share your voice with us.

February 23 ~ Where do you volunteer?

Make a Lenten goal to serve our community. If you already volunteer, try to increase your service hours this season. If you don’t volunteer, joining Catholic Charities’ diverse volunteer corps is a good way to start. You can explore a variety of our volunteer opportunities online.

February 22 ~ Ash Wednesday

Watch a special Ash Wednesday video message from Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan.

Inspired by Faith: An Ash Wednesday Reflection from Catholic Charities Executive Director Monsignor Kevin Sullivan

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

February 22, 2011 — Ash Wednesday began for me on the West Side of Manhattan across from Penn Station and Madison Square Garden.  For 80 years, St. Francis of Assisi parish has provided simple meals to hundreds of New Yorkers each day.

Cardinal Dolan at the St. Francis Food Line on Ash Wednesday 2012

Cardinal Dolan hands out food on Ash Wednesday morning at the St. Francis Food Line in Manhattan.

Today was much like others.  More than 300 hungry men (mostly) and women – known and called by name – received a simple meal to begin their day.  Today was also special because Cardinal Dolan, only back from Rome yesterday, helped to distribute meals this morning.  He pointed out that this is the right way to begin Lent.  He quoted from Ash Wednesday’s scripture readings: this is the type of fasting that the Lord desires – sharing your bread with the poor.

Lent provides us the opportunity to reflect on the all too present reality of suffering in the lives of those we help.  Day in and day out, the dedicated women and men of Catholic Charities work not merely alleviate this suffering, but to transform it.  This is done with limited resources and in an increasingly difficult environment that threatens not only those we serve, but also the organizations that provide this help.  Now more than ever we need each other’s support and prayers.

There are three traditional Lenten practices – prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  While sometimes seen as a burden, this season of Lent and these practices are also a gift.  Take the opportunity to pause and break the ordinary and necessarily hectic rhythm of your personal and professional lives to reflect and draw inspiration from the mysteries of our faith and tradition – and the relationships that provide strength.  In fasting, we touch our own self and focus on what we truly need.  In almsgiving – which takes so many different forms – we touch our human sisters and brothers with whom we share the same divine Father.  In prayer, we draw closer to the God whose love for us never ends.

A blessed and grace filled Lent.

Sincerely, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan

We invite you to watch this special Lenten message from our executive director, Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, and learn about how to approach the upcoming weeks as a time of renewal.

Congratulations to His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan

Friday, February 17th, 2012

On February 18, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI officially elevated New York’s Archbishop, Timothy Dolan, to Cardinal during a formal ceremony at the Vatican.

Archbishop Dolan joins staff members at the Catholic Charities Immigration Hotline in 2009.

Since he first came to New York, Cardinal Dolan has been actively involved in the work of the Catholic Charities federation — blessing agency facilities, meeting with program participants, volunteering alongside our Junior Board — even building gingerbread houses with children.

Here is a look back at some of his work with Catholic Charities.

April 17, 2009: Archbishop Dolan Visits a Catholic Charities Food Pantry

September 18, 2009: Archbishop Dolan Blesses New Affordable Housing

September 29, 2009: Archbishop Dolan Visits Busy Immigration Hotline

November 24, 2009: Archbishop Dolan Gives Thanksgiving Dinners to 400 Families

December 10, 2009: Archbishop Dolan’s First Christmas Luncheon Raises $800,000 for Women and Children in Need

February 23, 2010: Inaugural Gala Benefit Raises $1.7 Million

March 12, 2010: Catholic Charities and Archbishop Dolan Attend Public Policy Day in Albany

April 27, 2010: 2010 Convening Empowers Catholic Charities Agency Federation to “Spread the Good News”

July 13, 2010: Archbishop Dolan Visits MIV-Mount Loretto in Staten Island

August 23, 2010: Archbishop Dolan Blesses Covenant House New York

September 11, 2010: 700 Attend Annual Labor Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral

September 25, 2010: Msgr. Sullivan and Archbishop Dolan Celebrate Catholic Charities USA Centennial

November 9, 2010: Archbishop Dolan Visits Catholic Charities Agency CREATE, Inc.

November 25, 2010: Archbishop Dolan Joins CC at 2010 Turkey Distribution in Harlem

December 17, 2010: Archbishop Dolan Shops for the Needy at St. Nicholas Project Shopping Day

January 3, 20111: Archbishop Dolan Celebrates Christmas with the Community at St. Cecilia’s Parish

March 25, 2011: Archbishop Dolan and Msgr. Kevin Sullivan Commemorate 100th Anniversary of Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

May 9, 2011: 25th Annual Archbishop’s Open at Winged Foot Raises $700,000 for New Yorkers in Need

May 16, 2011: Archbishop Timothy Dolan Recognizes Courage and Dignity of Disabled at Annual Mass

May 31, 2011: Second Annual Catholic Charities Gala raises $1.8 million

July 6, 2011: Yankees General Manager Honored at 75th CYO Club of Champions Dinner

October 6, 2011: Archbishop Timothy Dolan Makes Special Visit to the Women and Children at the Mercy Center in Bronx

November 24, 2011: Archbishop Dolan and Christine Quinn Call on New Yorkers to Feed the Hungry

December 10, 2011: St. Nicholas Project Assists Nearly 3,000 New Yorkers in Need

December 28, 2011: Gingerbread Houses, Song and Prayer: Archbishop Dolan Visits for Christmas

January 6, 2012: Archbishop Timothy Dolan to be named Cardinal

January 11, 2012: Archbishop Dolan Blesses Bronx Food Pantry

January 20, 2012: New York Archdiocese Joins Forces to Feed Our Neighbors(Video)

January 22, 2012: (New York 1) Archbishop Dolan Launches New Program To Fight Hunger

February 13, 2012: Casita Maria Kick Starts Kids’ Reading Program

Casita Maria Kick Starts Kids’ Reading Program

Monday, February 13th, 2012

By Marianna Reilly

February 13, 2012 — Casita Maria Center for Arts and Education, a Catholic Charities agency that has been serving youth in the South Bronx since 1934, recently launched a new library and reading program for children in need.

The program, created with the help of Catholic Charities volunteers through the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund and NYC Service Volunteer Project, is enriching Casita’s services in the South Bronx and engaging local teenagers in volunteerism.

Casita Maria kids show off some of the books that have been donated to their new library.

“We can improve our reading skills by having more book choices in our library,” says tenth grade student Zoila Rodriquez who, along with 40 fellow teens donates her time as a volunteer reader.

The new library initially hoped to house 500 new books. But thanks to successful volunteer efforts, the library has more than doubled its goal. Catholic Charities donated more than 500 books through its annual Christmas toy drive, volunteer efforts triggered the donation of 500 more, and book donations continue piling in.

To help house this multitude of books, Catholic Charities donated funds to help transform a drab conference room into a library with wall-to-wall oak and pine shelving and glass shelf doors. Catholic Charities also funded the transportation of more than 50 Casita Maria children and staff members to a New York Times event to celebrate these new volunteer initiatives on February 2.

Foster Alcantara, a teenager who helped lead the book drive, drew huge applause when he accepted the award from the NYC Service Volunteer Project on behalf of Casita Maria.

“I dream of the day when I hear a famous person interviewed saying ‘I learned to read at Casita Maria,’” Alcantra told the crowd gathered at the Times Center in midtown Manhattan.

On February 8, Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan visited Casita Maria to bless the new library, meet with the children, and listen to a musical performance by some of the youth from Casita Maria music programs.

Casita Maria moved to the South Bronx from the agency’s original location in East Harlem in 1961. Their programs include homeless services, drug rehabilitation, violence prevention, gang intervention, teen pregnancy prevention, and much more.

Our (Invisibly) Homeless Neighbors

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

By Marianna Reilly

Photo from the New York Times

February 7, 2012 — Think you know who the homeless are? You might be surprised by the New York Times special feature on the “invisible homeless.” They don’t live on the streets, or in doorways – they are families enduring a day-to-day reality that often includes hours-long subway commutes, day care, food pantries and shelters.

In our community, there are a staggering 40,000 homeless children and adults currently living in shelters. This is an all-time high for New York, and—picture this—enough to fill the stands in Citi Field.

You probably see these individuals every day without even knowing they are homeless. They turn to shelters because of unemployment, loss of income, eviction or domestic violence. Some work multiple jobs and long hours but still remain entrenched below the poverty line.

The Times describes these families, which make up three quarters of New York’s homeless shelter population, as “cloaked in a deceptive, superficial normalcy”:

“They do not sleep outside or on cots on armory floors. By and large, their shoes are good; some have smartphones. Many get up each morning and leave the shelter to go to work or to school. Their hardships — poverty, unemployment, a marathon commute — exist out of sight.”

 In the past few years, local charities have seen the need for eviction prevention assistance and other housing related services increase dramatically. In the 2011 year, Catholic Charities prevented eviction for more than 4,800 families, and helped an additional 17,000 families find emergency shelter, transitional housing or permanent affordable housing.

Learn more about Catholic Charities services for those in danger of homelessness, and contact us for help.

What I Discovered in the Bronx During New York’s Homelessness Survey

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

By Richard Bertin

February 1, 2012 — On the night of Monday, January 30, I took part in NYC’s 10th annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (HOPE) — a citywide survey administered by the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) and dependent upon thousands of volunteers to count the homeless found in public spaces. I had mixed feelings in the days leading up to this volunteer project, but when I returned home, at around 4am, I brought back with me a profound sense of gratitude for everyday things that many take for granted.

This year, the volunteer team from Catholic Charities New York was dedicated to the Bronx. Along with hundreds of fellow volunteers, we gathered at one of two sites — Lehman College or PS/IS 194. I chose Lehman College since it was closest to my apartment and because of my familiarity with the area. After being rounded up into “teams” and receiving a detailed training session from DHS reps, we were given neighborhood walking maps and finally set off into the night at half past midnight.

My team was assigned the Riverdale section of the Bronx, an affluent enclave known more for its beauty than its homeless population. My teammates and I were a bit puzzled over this assignment but still took our orders seriously.

The eight of us resembled a civic-minded variation of “The Apprentice,” as we spent the first 30 minutes trying to determine who had the best strategy for canvassing the 10-block radius of sidewalks and alleys. My team was composed of very different and colorful characters, each passionate about the HOPE project. There was Willy B., a large, affable man who talked about how he “does this for a living” each night for a local homeless shelter named The Living Room; Allison, a young off-duty police officer who came all the way from upstate to take part in the survey; Netti, an older Turkish cab driver who was our best “wheel-man”, and many others I will not forget.

Our first area was the most difficult. A Google Map print out with arrows pointing us into different walking directions served as our guide. By the time we got to our location it was after 1am. In such a quiet, secluded area, we were the only souls moving around the stillness of the neighborhood. It was so quiet that someone opened their window and shouted at us “Shut up already! It’s almost two in the morning!” I shot back, “Sorry Sir; we are on official city business here!”  After an hour-long search of the area, we moved on to the second and third maps.

Truth be told, I learned more about homelessness from my team members than anything else. Willy B. explained to me the crucial importance of affordable housing, since many people often don’t realize they are only one pay check or illness away from homelessness. Allison shared stories of “code blue” nights, when police officers perform rescue missions to save those stranded on the streets during life-threatening frigid temperatures and snowstorms.

These stories and these people are what will stick with me most from the evening of HOPE.

As we roamed from sidewalk to sidewalk, alley to alley, and bench to bench, we didn’t find anyone. If we did, we were instructed by DHS to ask them the questions of the survey and ultimately direct them towards a nearby shelter. I didn’t think this was the most accurate method for determining the homeless population, but HOPE is designed to be more of a homeless program evaluation method than a census.

Similar to the infamous “mystery shoppers” that anyone who has ever worked retail is familiar with, the HOPE survey serves as a snapshot to determine how well New York Homeless Services is doing in keeping people off the street.

By 3:30am we were finished but hadn’t found any homeless in our assigned areas. With the exception of a stray alley cat, our tours indicated that Riverdale doesn’t seem to have any homeless problems.  When we returned to Lehman College we found out that most teams, 10 in total, had similar results.

I did wonder – what would these results look like on a warmer night?

As New Yorkers, we are familiar with homelessness. We see it as we bustle through the sidewalks on our way to work. We ignore it when we burry our heads into our tablets on the train while someone pleads with an entire subway car for help.  It’s just one of those harsh realities of living here that we come face to face with each day and yet manage to keep from intruding on our lives. As we roamed the streets, I couldn’t help but think about my warm bed waiting for me. When I finally got back home and dove head first into my mattress I thought how fortunate I was to have this luxury.