Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic Charities’ Christmas Collection:
a giant leap of faith into the future

by Dr. Rob McCann

(From the Dec. 21, 2006 edition of the Inland Register)

There’s an old Mohawk saying: “It’s very hard to see the future with tears in your eyes.” We’ve all felt the pain of what’s been going on in our Church – the pain of the sexual abuse victims, and the pain of all the faithful Catholics who have lived these past two years in prayer and lamentation over what has happened in our Church. At Catholic Charities, we’re one step removed from the sexual abuse crisis. Nevertheless, the pain is still part of our daily lives and our daily prayers.

One way that pain and that need for prayer is showing up is in our annual Christmas Collection. The Christmas Collection is Catholic Charities’ primary fundraising endeavor. It’s the one month on the calendar where we try to raise all the dollars we will need for next year – it’s one giant leap of faith.

This year, Christmas Collection donations are down. It may be because people don’t understand that Catholic Charities is legally separate from the diocese – a separate 501 (c)(3) corporation. Perhaps they don’t understand that although we remain in solidarity with the diocese’s legal difficulties, we do not share those same difficulties, nor could we simply give, donate or contribute any Catholic Charities funds (meant to serve the poor) to a settlement.

I have talked to many parishioners who express fear of donating to anything with the word “Catholic” in it right now. Despite the rumors and mis-information in the media, donations to Catholic Charities are completely protected and are only used to serve the poor. It’s been that way for 93 years and will be that way 93 years from now. Catholic Charities is not in bankruptcy and we are not using donations for anything other than serving the poor.

What we are doing at Catholic Charities, what we have always done, is look toward the future. In our case, that means providing a place to stay for Lisa, who took her baby and ran from an abusive relationship and now lives at St. Margaret Shelter. It means providing 70,000 hot meals a year for homeless people at the House of Charity – on an annual food budget of only $6,000. It means giving 24-hour care to Janice, who is developmentally disabled, so that her aging father can relax in the knowledge that his child is well cared for. It means getting diapers to a young single mother who is struggling. It means providing counseling for people who struggle with depression, mental illness, loneliness. It means providing over 700 units of senior and family housing throughout the Diocese and volunteer chore services to thousands of seniors each year. It means more than we could possibly say in words. It means everything to the most vulnerable among us.

This year’s Christmas Collection is looking less hopeful than in years past. Our faith remains strong; however. So much of what we do depends on how our supporters respond to us during the Christmas Collection.

Two of our programs are funded almost entirely by Christmas Collection monies. Those programs are Refugee and Immigration, and Childbirth and Parenting Alone (CAPA). If you’d like to know more about the lives touched by these programs, ask Dominique. She’ll tell you how she escaped from political persecution in Africa and now works in our childcare center. Ask Thomas and Virgilio, refugees in our own country made homeless by Hurricane Katrina, who now live in Cathedral Plaza. Ask about Megan, who admits that she couldn’t have kept her baby without the help she got from CAPA. The answers to these questions are life stories – stories influenced by you.

We’re proud of the work we do at Catholic Charities. With the help of 220 staff members, 4,000 volunteers, and countless generous donors, we have the great honor of acting as Christ’s hands in the world. All of what we do is done in the name of every parish and every parishioner in the diocese. We exist because of Christ’s instruction to serve the poor. We represent your desire to make Christ’s words a reality in Eastern Washington. Even as we feel the pain of our Church, and the pain of the all those who suffer and are alone, we blink the tears from our eyes and turn our faces toward the future, toward doing what we can to alleviate suffering.

At Catholic Charities, we continue to look towards the future, even through the tears – especially through the tears. I can not thank you enough for all you do to support us in those efforts.

(Dr. McCann is Executive Director of Catholic Charities.)

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