Pregnant and Sleeping in Parks

July 23rd, 2014

mocha-goodcounselBy Alice Kenny

Worn out, desperate and five months pregnant, Mocha slept in parks, shelters, subways – any place she could find — before she found her way to Good Counsel Homes, an affiliate of Catholic Charities.

“I felt like I was the lowest of the lows,” she says, her brown eyes batting back tears.

Her experience is typical of women served by Good Counsel Homes, says its co-founder and Executive Director Christopher Bell as he steers a 2008 blue KIA minivan, dropping off donations of diapers, baby food and changing tables at Good Counsel Homes in Spring Valley, Harrison, Hoboken and the South Bronx.

“Women who come to us are all in crisis,” he says. “Their boyfriends told them to have an abortion.  Their moms threw them out when their babies were born.  Fewer than half have high school degrees.  Our job is to help them rebuild their lives.”

Counting Mocha, Good Counsel Homes has rebuilt nearly 6,000 lives since it began in 1984.  Similar to most, Mocha stayed there for nearly a year and a half.  She gave birth to her baby, worked two jobs, studied to become an electrocardiogram technician and learned how to be a mom.

“As soon as I stepped through the door I felt I had a home where I could get back on my feet,” she says.

Begun in a converted convent with a lot of help and little money, Good Counsel Homes now networks with maternity homes throughout the nation.

But, Mr. Bell says, it is caring for a single lonely mom and a single helpless baby that matters  most.  For Mocha, Good Counsel Homes gave her and the little boy she bore a chance for rebirth.

Today she and her now three-year-old son have a home of their own.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them,” Mocha says.

Meet Mocha in this video.

Do you know someone facing a crisis pregnancy?

“Anyone from anywhere for any reason at any age can call our crisis help line,” Mr. Bells says.

Call 1- 800-723 8331.  Call now.

Why I’m Running the NYC Marathon with Team Catholic Charities

July 22nd, 2014

By James Bowe

I chose to run for Catholic Charities because it addresses such a wide array of human needs regardless of religious background.  Catholic Charities feeds the hungry, provides job training and resources to help people get back on their feet, and offers children and youth better opportunities to learn and grow, among many others.

After graduating from college and hanging up the sprinting spikes, I started to run longer distances and eventually found that running became a sort of escape while simultaneously allowing me to push myself and to continuously challenge myself to run farther and faster.  I made it a goal to run a marathon so now I am running the 2014 NYC marathon for Catholic Charities.  I’m looking forward to challenging myself through training and adding another reason to why I am running:  I am doing it to help raise money for individuals served by Catholic Charities.

While I have not yet run a marathon, I ran four years of varsity indoor and outdoor track and field at Colby College, primarily competing in the 400m dash and 1600m relay.  I also participated in a sprint triathlon in college.  After college I focused on longer distance running and competed in a 5k for WCS in the Bronx Zoo in 2011, the Chicago Rock and Roll half marathon in July 2013 and the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge (3.3 miles) in June 2014.

I am training specifically for the marathon for 18 weeks running five to six days per week.  I will be racing in the Bronx 10 mile at the end of September and participating in NYRR long runs in August and September.  Additionally, I will be doing runs with the midtown Nike store running club two to three days per week.

My family and I have been involved with Catholic Charities for some time (primarily in DC where I grew up) so I was able to first hand witness the difference Catholic Charities makes in so many ways for so many individuals.

It is really inspiring to know that I am running for an organization that touches so many lives, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, with a high level of dignity and compassion across an array of human needs.  I am especially inspired by the many programs and services that are designed to set individuals up to lead a better life, whether it is a child who now has a nurturing after school environment or an out-of-work mother who is given training to get her back in the workforce and enabling her to support herself and her children.

Here is a link to my fundraising for Catholic Charities page:  https://www.crowdrise.com/TeamCatholicCharities2014/fundraiser/jamesbowe

 

A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis

July 21st, 2014

CRISTIAN OMAR REYES, an 11-year-old sixth grader in the neighborhood of Nueva Suyapa, on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, tells me he has to get out of Honduras soon — “no matter what,”  writes The New York Times Reporter Sonia Nazario in her in-depth analysis of the recent increase of unaccompanied minor children fleeing their homelands for safety in the United States.

In March, his father was robbed and murdered by gangs while working as a security guard protecting a pastry truck. His mother used the life insurance payout to hire a smuggler to take her to Florida. She promised to send for him quickly, but she has not.

Three people he knows were murdered this year. Four others were gunned down on a nearby corner in the span of two weeks at the beginning of this year. A girl his age resisted being robbed of $5. She was clubbed over the head and dragged off by two men who cut a hole in her throat, stuffed her panties in it, and left her body in a ravine across the street from Cristian’s house.

“I’m going this year,” he tells me.

Catholic Charities has first-hand knowledge of the trauma these vulnerable children face.  We provide legal, educational and social services to integrate newcomers of all religions from more than 100 countries.

In addition to families and adults, Catholic Charities team of lawyers and paralegals have provided basic legal orientations to almost 2,000 unaccompanied children in custodial shelters in the New York area in the past year alone, work with more than 70 sponsors of released children each month and provide individual legal representation to these children released from New York area shelters, a central step in their integration into their communities.

Link to the full New York Times story here.

Call the New Americans Hotline run by Catholic Charities at 800-566-7636 for immigration assistance.

Isolated by Speaking only an Indigenous Language

July 18th, 2014

Today marks another in our Summer Agency Series.  The series spotlights some of the 90 agencies in our Catholic Charities federation that, day in and day out, provide help and create hope for New Yorkers in need.

Today, let’s take a look at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service and a recent story written about this Catholic Charities affiliate in The New York Times.

Laura is a Mexican immigrant who lives in East Harlem, a neighborhood with one of the largest Latino populations in New York City, reports Kirk Semple in this recent New York Times article. Yet she understands so little of what others are saying around her that she might just as well be living in Siberia.

Laura, 27, speaks Mixtec, a language indigenous to Mexico. But she knows little Spanish and no English. She is so scared of getting lost on the subway and not being able to find her way home that she tends to spend her days within walking distance of her apartment.

After arriving in New York, most indigenous Latin Americans will learn Spanish before they learn English — if they ever learn English at all. The need has driven demand for Spanish language classes around the city. About a decade ago, the staff at Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, an organization in East Harlem that provides services to the poor, noticed that an increasing number of the students enrolling in its English as a second language classes were not only indigenous language speakers from Latin America but were also illiterate.

Reasoning that it would be easier to teach the newcomers Spanish, which they were beginning to pick up at home and on the street, the organization turned the English classes into Spanish classes.

Beyond the critical language and literacy instruction the classes provided, they also helped the newcomers build “a much-needed social support network,” said Rosemary Siciliano, head of communications for Little Sisters of the Assumption. In 2012, however, the organization had to cut the program because of budget shortfalls.

Little Sisters of the Assumption nurses, social workers and aides began working intensively in East Harlem in 1958 and incorporated Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service, Inc. ten years later.  This neighborhood-based nonprofit organization delivers a holistic model of human services to the underserved, marginalized and poorest families in East Harlem through a variety of means.  These include home visits, onsite services and support groups to help people achieve the wellness and strength they need to thrive.

 

Find out more about Little Sisters of the Assumption Family Health Service

Read the full story in The New York Times.

The Leo House: a ‘Beacon’ for Travelers on Manhattan’s West Side

July 17th, 2014

Photo Credit: Maria R. Bastone

Time for another shout out in our Summer Agency Series.  These stories spotlight some of the 90 agencies in our Catholic Charities federation that, day in and day out, provide help and create hope for New Yorkers in need.

Today, let’s take a look at Leo Center and its recent profile in Catholic New York:

 

By Juliann DosSantos

Behind the front desk of The Leo House, a prominently displayed wooden crucifix is one of the first things a guest notices upon entering.

Once inside, guests in the lobby can view a flat screen television—all under the watchful eyes of a statue of St. Raphael in the background. Religious statues are dispersed throughout The Leo House, adding to a Catholic charm 125 years in the making.

The house. (an affiliate of Catholic Charities,) was founded on State Street in 1889—three years before Ellis Island opened—as an affordable place for German Catholics to stay.

Peter Paul Cahensly, a wealthy German, was instrumental in the beginnings of the guesthouse. He was one of the founders of the St. Raphael Society, which was tasked with helping recent German arrivals in New York. The generosity of the St. Raphael Society allowed The Leo House to open its doors.

Pope Leo XIII, who was pontiff from 1878 to 1903, also made a donation. The house is named for him.

Under the guidance of Mother Agnes Hazotte, C.S.A., the Sisters of St. Agnes ran the house at the outset, and they have served there ever since. Sisters of St. Agnes Kathleen Ries, C.S.A., and Marilyn Ellickson, C.S.A., are now on staff. Today, The Leo House is run largely by lay personnel.

The Leo House moved to its present location at 332 W. 23rd St. in 1926. Travelers from around the world, including Canada, Germany, France and across the United States, have found respite inside.

“The Leo House has been a safe haven of Christian hospitality for world travelers for over 125 years,” said Frank Castro, the executive director for the past eight years.

“That mission will continue to be that vital and important beacon of light in this ever-changing world.”

The motto for the nonprofit organization reflects Castro’s words: “What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains immortal.”

Accommodations include a total of 81 single and double guest rooms. In-room WiFi is available, as is a state-of-the art computer room. Room reservations should be made six months in advance.

Hidden in plain sight is a beautiful garden with tables and chairs for guests to relax outside, a unique spot for quiet amid the busy city. A fountain bubbles comfortingly in the background. Another statue—this one of Mary, Mother of Travelers—has her arms extended as if in welcome.

Castro noted that the house has a patron saint—St. Raphael, the patron of travelers. A regal painting in the dining hall depicts St. Raphael, along with SS. Michael and Gabriel, watching over the Blessed Mother and child.

The guesthouse accepts reservations from followers of all religions. Catholic mementos are prominent throughout. For instance, on each dining table, along with a card with tips for travelers in New York City, are prayer cards.

A highlight is the newly renovated chapel, seating some 40 people, which Cardinal Dolan blessed at a Mass he celebrated there May 24. Inside are original, refurbished pews from Leo House’s beginnings. On each side of the tabernacle stand two stained glass windows. Mass is offered daily in the chapel by visiting priests. The Leo House is seeking a resident priest to offer Mass, counseling and hear confessions.

Archdiocesan Catholic Charities donated $10,000 for the re-gilding of the tabernacle that has been in the chapel since 1926. The reconditioning of a stained glass window of the Blessed Mother was paid for by a donation from Angela Durso, who at one point was a resident of the Leo House. The other, depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was reconditioned from smaller donations. The American St. Boniface Society donated $15,000 for the reconditioning of one of the stained-glass windows that shows Pope Leo XIII in the hallway leading to the chapel.

For information and reservations: (212) 929-1010.

Pope Francis: Child Migrants to U.S. Must Be ‘Welcomed and Protected’

July 16th, 2014

The Pope has called for tens of thousands of unaccompanied child migrants to be “welcomed and protected” as they attempt to enter the U.S. from Central America and Mexico, reports Elizabeth Dias in Time magazine.

In a letter read Monday at a Vatican conference in Mexico City on human migration and development, Pope Francis said migration “has now become a hallmark of our society and a challenge.”

The Vatican Radio translation continues with the Pope noting: “Many people forced to emigrate suffer, and often die, tragically; many of their rights are violated, they are obliged to separate from their families and, unfortunately, continue to be the subject of racist and xenophobic attitudes.”

The pontiff calls on nations to become more welcoming towards migrants, singling out the increasing numbers of children who migrate alone as deserving special care and attention.

“They are increasing day by day,” the Pope said, in a reference to the rising number of unaccompanied child migrants attempting to cross the U.S. border. “The humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected.”

Pope Francis ended the letter by suggesting that the international community should inform migrants about the dangers of their journey and instead promote development in their home countries.

Hear more on Vatican Radio.

Find out about the host of immigrant and refugee services Catholic Charities provides.

Are you looking for immigration help?

Call the New Americans Hotline run by Catholic Charities at 800-566-7636.

Congratulations Team CYO – New York!

July 15th, 2014
CYO Track_Pedro Bravo

Pedro Bravo (R)

By Alice Kenny

Outstanding CYO track and field athletes throughout the New York Archdiocese converged in Orlando, Florida. last week to beat the heat as well as competitors from across the nation.  They ran so fast, jumped so high and threw javelins, discus and shot puts so far that many qualified to participate in the upcoming Junior Olympics in Des Moines, Iowa.

In this Samson against Goliath reckoning, 45 members of Team CYO New York faced off against 12,000 top athletes to bring home 10 medals from the national AAU Team Championships.  Nine of our athletes, including eight from Westchester County and one from Staten Island, won these honors at the weeklong event held at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

Some of the standouts include Westchester County’s Caroline Davis.  This Holy Family CYO member initially scored first-place and broke the turbo javelin meet record in the process.  Then, on her next throw, she broke her own record with a throw distance of 84 feet.

Meanwhile, Pedro Bravo from Iona Prep ran a smart, calculated race, pushing himself to the limits at the finish line to capture the 8th place medal.  This qualified him for the Junior Olympics in the 1500 Meter Race with an impressive time of 5:00 in the 12-Year-Old Boys Division.

Then there was Shari Brown from Blessed Sacrament in Staten Island who brought home a medal for her eighth-place finish with a triple jump distance of 21′ 9”.

And what about Liliana Gray from Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the only athlete to medal in two events.  She earned a seventh-place finish in the Turbo Javelin with a throw of 38’2″and an eighth-place finish for a 16’ 6″ shot put throw in the Ninth-Grade Girls Division.

“Our 45 athletes represented the Archdiocese, their respective schools, parishes and families with dignity and class,” says Catholic Charities Director of CYO Operations Seth Peloso who accompanied the team.

Click here for a list of our top winners and their Junior Olympic qualifying results.

Confronting Dramatic Increase of Unaccompanied Children, Catholic Charities Takes Charge

July 14th, 2014

The dramatic increase in unaccompanied minor children fleeing their homelands for safety in the United States has sparked political and humanitarian concerns. Best information indicates more than half of these children are seeking reunification with family members. Two-thirds are escaping violence and other threatening situations that are grounds for relief under standard immigration rules.

This current situation requires a multi-faceted approach: a humanitarian response to the plight of threatened children in the best tradition of our country; sound policies that respect individual rights and ensure a safe and secure border; and an effective system to adjudicate claims in a timely, humane and fair manner.
Providing humanitarian help stands among the finest traditions of our nation. It is a requirement of the human trafficking law reauthorized and expanded by Congress in 2008 that enables vulnerable children to receive immigration support and care in their best interest.

At Catholic Charities we have longstanding, comprehensive knowledge of the humanitarian plight faced by immigrants including unaccompanied minor children. For more than a century we have served newcomers from more than 100 countries of all religions with legal, educational and social services.

Now, every week in residences for unaccompanied youth in the New York area, Catholic Charities’ team of lawyers and paralegals provides legal and social services to unaccompanied children. We have met with nearly 2,000 children in the last year alone, work with more than 70 sponsors of released children each month and also provide individual legal representation to children released from New York area shelters, a central step in their integration into their communities.

Catholic Charities New York also recently helped found Terra Firma, an innovative medical-legal partnership designed to meet the complex medical, psycho-social, and legal needs of unaccompanied minors.

This gives us first-hand knowledge of the trauma these vulnerable children face. Catholic Charities has witnessed how deportation can be a far worse punishment than most criminal penalties, one that can mean the loss of family, home and security. It is imperative to determine the rights U.S. immigration affords these children and ensure their claims receive a fair hearing. Proposals to establish processing systems to review claims in Central American countries merit serious consideration to reduce risks faced by unaccompanied minors and other aspects of this humanitarian crisis.

The current crisis is another example of the need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that addresses a fair and humane legal immigration system; secures the border; prioritizes reunification of families and provides for those living in the shadows a system to earn their way toward legalization.

Catholic Charities Supports Mayor de Blasio as He Signs Municipal ID Card Into Law

July 11th, 2014
photo 2

Msgr. Sullivan with Mayor de Blasio, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Councilmen Daniel Dromm, Carlos Menchaca, Antonio Reynoso and HRA Commissioner Steven Banks

Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan joined with City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and others on Thursday, July 10, to support Mayor Bill de Blasio as he signed into law a plan to offer municipal identification cards to New York City residents regardless of their immigration status.

The program, signed into law yesterday at the Brooklyn Public Library at Grand Army Plaza, is designed largely to help the estimated 500,000 immigrants living without legal status in the city.  The card, dubbed the New York City Identity Card, will be available to anyone who can prove their identity and residency in the city. It is particularly aimed at groups that are currently unable to show a form of government identification required to do things such as cashing a check, signing a lease or even entering office buildings for job interviews or public schools for parent-teacher conferences.

The cards will be available starting in 2015.

Listen to this clip on CBS News to learn more.

Junior Board Rolls the Dice for Charity

July 10th, 2014

At their signature fundraising event of the year, the Catholic Charities Junior Board hosted close to 200 guests for the 6th Annual Junior Board Gala at Battery Gardens on June 12, 2014.  The evening’s theme was a Masquerade Casino Night.  Guests enjoyed playing casino games and posing at the photo booth while raising both money and awareness for the St. Nicholas Project.  Fundraising efforts surrounding the Junior Board Gala brought in more than $47,000 for the St. Nicholas Project.

Through the St. Nicholas Project, Catholic Charities helps nearly 4,000 individuals annually by providing them with essential items to help them stay warm throughout the winter season as well as job training classes, computer literacy classes, food from one of our many food pantries, and school supplies throughout the rest of the year.

The Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York Junior Board introduces young professionals to the varied programs and works of Catholic Charities through volunteer opportunities, social gatherings, faith-based events, and philanthropic support. The Junior Board helps cultivate the next generation of leaders committed to Catholic Charities and serving those in need in our community.

To learn more, please visit the Junior Board web page and Facebook page