Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sometimes even Mom and Dad need a little help

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Last Thursday Catholic Charities’ Parenting Education Class held an informal graduation, celebrating the group’s accomplishments and milestones. They’ve worked together to find solutions to parenting problems and resources to improve their children’s well-being. And for one mom, Ana, the group was a lifeline in helping her find her happiness.

One year ago, Ana was gripped with anxiety, sadness, and despondency. Originally from El Salvador, she emigrated to the US in 1989 to find work. She married, and she and her husband had five children together. Ana felt a lot of pressure to cook, clean and take care of her family. “I was trying to be a good mom and a good wife, but I felt like my family wasn’t appreciating me or helping me out at all.” 

But she had trouble communicating her needs to her family. Most times when she tried to get her family to help her, the situation would end in an argument – and with Ana getting even more frustrated. Her mental health worsened, to the point that she didn’t even want to leave the house. She experienced neck and back pains from the stress she felt.

Though embarrassed about her domestic struggles, Ana eventually opened up to a friend, who told Ana about Catholic Charities’ Parenting Education Class. “I went the next Thursday. The instructor, Nhora, was wonderful, and I felt like I learned so much. I asked Nhora if I could come again, and she said yes, our group meets every week. They’ve been seeing me every week since then.”

Participants in the program learn effective strategies for common issues like family rules and discipline while gaining a friendly network of support in their fellow classmates. “Most of the participants are immigrants, with most of their family and friends living far away,” explained Nhora Rosero, Family Support Specialist at our MCFC. “So the parenting group is their first supportive network in the United States. They are empowered here to engage with their community, to help their neighbors and to seek solutions for any problems they are facing.”

Ana’s classmates advised her on everything from potty-training her youngest son, Moises, to encouraging her older children to clean their rooms and help her with chores. She learned that she could not change her family – but she could change the way she handled different situations. “Instead of telling them I want something done now, I ask them to do it when they have time. That way, I am showing respect for them, and they respect me back. I don’t have to get angry and yell. That’s when they stop listening.”

Nhora, right, worked with Ana for more than one year
Nhora also encouraged Ana to focus on her family’s positive traits, and to tell her kids she loved them more often. “It’s not something I thought to do a lot. One day after the group met, I went home and hugged my kids and told them I loved them. They were asking me, ‘What’s wrong? What happened?’ That’s how I knew I hadn’t been telling them enough before. Now I do.” 

Ana found that by changing her own attitude first, her husband and children began responding to her differently. “I’m very happy with how my life has changed because of Nhora and this class. My kids and my husband are happier too. Life has been very good.” Her experience with the Parenting Education Class was so positive she’s attended for two full six-month sessions, now helping to mentor other parents in the group. “I’m glad to help people facing similar problems, so they don’t need to let it go to extremes as I did.”

No longer reluctant to leave her home, and no longer grappling with the mental and physical strain of her stress and anxiety, Ana volunteers time at her daughter’s school and at clothing distributions at the MCFC. She now looks forward to the next chapter of her life, when her youngest son begins preschool next year. She wants to learn computer skills and return to the workforce. “I’m excited to go out and start something new.” 

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The Parenting Education Class is just one of the many resources available to families at Catholic Charities’ Montgomery County Family Center. A full list in English and Spanish is available here.

Monday, July 16, 2012

One year in, and Father John is just getting started!

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One year ago (almost to the day - July 15, 2011!) Father John Enzler joined the Catholic Charities family as our President and CEO. And our executive team will tell you he's been like a force of nature ever since, running to meetings, receptions, program visits, his pastoral duties, and even early-morning tennis sessions. 
Pinning him down for a commemorative one-year anniversary interview was tough, but Father John was thrilled to share his thoughts on his first year at the helm, and his vision for Catholic Charities' service to those who are most in need in the future. We think you'll be inspired!
Q:  First of all, how do you do it? You seem to accomplish more in a day than many people do in a week. Where do you get your energy and drive?
A:  I try to follow St. Augustine’s advice to, “pray as if everything depended on God, and work as if everything depended on you.” God, quite literally, gives me the strength to face the challenges of each day. And I try to do my part to stay fit: I play tennis, romp with my dog, Ivy, pray frequently, and spend time with my family. They’re a source of strength for me.
Q:  What would you say has made the biggest impression on you since you came to Catholic Charities last year?
A:  You know, when I came here last July, I remember writing that I felt humbled to carry on the work of the Gospel with the wonderful people here. I had no idea then, what an understatement that was! Today, I feel more amazed and honored than ever to be a part of this mission. The work being done here is life-changing.

Look at our Parish Partners Program, as just one example. We work with parishes throughout the Archdiocese to help people who are hurting, are hungry, or homeless, or need medical help. Parish Partners tries to put them in contact with all the different resources they need. And we are there for them for the long haul—until they have truly become self-sufficient.

But let me be clear: the people who really make the difference here are the donors. Without their generous gifts, there would be no programs. Period.

When they give through the mail, or online, or make a monthly gift as a member of our
Living Faith Society, they help make our programs possible, along with the staff members who are in the trenches every day, saving lives, helping people find hope and peace, and connecting them with the message of the Gospel. They are the most important people in our entire circle of caring.
Q:  Can you think of any success stories that stand out in your mind?
A:  There are success stories every day at Catholic Charities that would make you break down and cry. I remember, not long after I got here, I shared a story about a woman named Sarah who, with her two kids, had been driven from their home by an abusive husband. She found her way to our Angel's Watch Shelter where she found safety, counseling, and job training. With the staff’s help, her life was turned completely around.

I like to share stories like these, not because they are so unusual, but because they are so
usual. These are the kinds of life-changing experiences that suffering people experience every day through our programs.

That’s what I want donors to understand. This is what their gifts do. They literally save families and innocent children who, without their help, would be on the street, lost and alone. We are so thankful for each and every one of them.
Q:  So what’s next? Where do you see Catholic Charities heading in the next
few years?
A:  My vision is simple: We have to be in the business of saying, “Yes!” Yes to the poor and homeless. Yes to those that Jesus called, “the poor in spirit.” Right now we are working every day in the District, and in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary’s counties in Maryland.

Yet, even as we work for those in our current programs, we need to grow, to meet the other needs around us as well. I’m completely optimistic about this. We have an incredibly caring staff.

Most important, we have generous, deeply caring supporters who understand the holiness of our work and our mission. They make it happen. And I know that, whatever comes, we can count on them to be the cornerstone of all the work
we do.
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Leave Father John a one-year anniversary note on our Facebook - or tweet him @FrJohnEnzler ! 
Curious about the programs Father John mentioned? Learn more about Angel's Watch Shelter and Parish Partners.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th of July!

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Guest Post from Father John
President and CEO
Catholic Charities
Want a fresh perspective on what the Fourth of July means? Sit down and have a meal with a refugee.

Two weeks ago, I shared a meal with clients and staff of our Refugee Program, which works with refugees and asylees who fled their home country. It was one of those stark reminders to me of just how blessed I’ve been in my life.

One man shared a truly heart wrenching story with me. Rebels in his home country murdered his parents and siblings and threatened him unless he joined their cause. He and his family fled here, knowing nothing about the United States other than it would be safe. Catholic Charities helped him find a job, learn the culture and find a house for him, his wife and their two children. Today, he smiles again. I know he feels the pain of loss, but he also knows the soothing calm of hope in a better tomorrow.

Americans are often quick to say that we “take for granted” our freedoms.  And I think that’s a good thing – because our freedoms are granted to us. Our country was one of the first to recognize the inalienable rights given by God to each of us.

Still, many families in our community don’t have freedom. The freedom to chase dreams and provide a better future for their children is revoked by disability, poverty or illness.

Catholic Charities is our response, as a community, to these needs. Catholic Charities represents another great freedom of America – the freedom to serve. We serve, because it is one way we outwardly profess our faith, protected as the first part of our first freedom under the Bill of Rights.

To love our neighbors as ourselves, thousands of volunteers and donors join more than 800 staff members to give people the freedom to work, the freedom to live in their own home and, yes, the freedom to celebrate the founding of our great country on this blessed day.