I came to Catholic Charities right out of college and spent most of my career here counseling families struggling to make ends meet. After many years on the front line, I began my role as Senior Vice President of Program Development, supporting and developing others to carry on the work and ensuring we have good organizational systems that allow our talented staff to do what they do best.
I try to get back out and touch the front line as often as possible. I am overcome with wonder at the strength, faith, and hope of those who struggle. I enjoy visiting our Tuesday evening suppers, where we feed the hungry and homeless, and I have the opportunity to meet our After Supper Visions photography clients, who live in the street but take photos of the beauty they still see there. I enjoy our LOOM events, where refugee women create and sell their craft work in a safe space, and step bravely into a new culture and country unknown. It is humbling to visit our domestic violence shelters, where I see courageous women protecting themselves and their children, coming into an unfamiliar place for help. These are places where I find God’s presence shining through.
Catholic Charities is very expansive yet intimate. One of the highest compliments came from an external reviewer who told us that we may have 150 programs but we act like we are a staff of 15 who all know each other. That does not happen accidentally. It is by design, good communication, and valuing the importance of working together.
The agency works hard to weave together our continuum of care from cradle to grave. I left Catholic Charities for four years to take a maternity leave, and when I returned, we had opened family shelters, early childhood programs, grew our child welfare programs, and expanded our locations and array of services.
Catholic Charities also started one of the first shelters that kept families together (including teenage sons) and was one of the first to apply for a scattered site apartment program. We were the first to have a DUI program in the court system, and provided foster care services before there was an Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Whatever the community needs, Catholic Charities steps up to meet them.
Although we leverage government funds we are always raising extra funds to fill in the gaps of care. A person in crisis may need their rent paid, but funds governed by the state can be very restrictive; donated funds allow us to remove the hurdle and give the family an opportunity to bounce back.
After 100 years I think the agency knows its core mission. We will continue to be an open door to people of all backgrounds, all faiths, and all needs. I think we will always be holistic in our approach and bring hope and compassion to anyone in need.
I have had a wonderful career at Catholic Charities. I can’t think of a program that I don’t love. No other agency has the breadth and depth of services that we do. We are a true safety net and have been for 100 years. I would hate to think what the city and region would be were it not for the services here.