Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An Ash Wednesday Message from Msgr. John Enzler

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Today is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar. 

Father John distributed ashes at a mass held for staff.
For many of us, Lent is a time when we make sacrifices that help us to cherish and keep close the sacrifice Christ made for us. Additionally, days of fasting remind us to always stand in solidarity with those whose hunger pangs come more frequently and without choice.

Growing up, I was taught by my parents that there were three pillars to the Catholic participation in Lent: fasting, prayer and alms giving. As a youngster, I would dutifully give up sweets or candy and say extra prayers in the morning or evening with my father or mother by my side. But I did not understand alms giving. 

As an adult, I now better understand how important it is for me to share my blessings with others. I see much more clearly just how blessed I am. These blessings come both in the treasures which afford me safety and security, but also in the warmth and support of family and friends like you. 

This Lent, I want to see our community extend that warmth in an overwhelming way to our neighbors in need. Each year, Catholic Charities’ programs reach and help more than 100,000 people. How great could our impact be if everyone who read this committed to doing at least one act of kindness and service during Lent for someone in need?

Like today’s Gospel lesson from Matthew 6: 1-6 reminds us, you don’t need to pledge or proclaim your righteous works to me or anyone else. Offer it instead as a gift to our Father in heaven. If you can promise to add one good act to your Lent, please visit www.CatholicCharitiesDC.org/volunteer to find out ways you can help.
 
I hope this Ash Wednesday and Lenten season are a period of reflection and growth for you and your family. Growing up, I longed for the end of Lent, which brought the tidings of spring and the celebration of Easter. Now, I find a special sense of purpose in these 40 days and in finding new ways to stand in solidarity with the poor and to be the face of Christ for those in need.

May God bless you,
Monsignor John J. Enzler
President and CEO
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington 

Take action:
This Lent, help us feed our neighbors through the Share in Hope Food Drive
Support the work of Catholic Charities through an online donation
Learn more about volunteer opportunities available through Catholic Charities

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hope - in a hundred fonts and formats!

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Anthony has learned Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel!
Technology has eased the stress and complication of job-hunting for many people – there’s online databases, online applications, even online reference checks. But for Anthony, a resident at our Mulumba House, technology was a major obstacle; until ten months ago, he had never even touched a computer.

Nevila Gremi, Anthony’s case manager at Mulumba, said this is a common problem among people who are homeless. And it’s not just online applications: there are also resumes, cover letters, and basic computer skills that many jobs would require of applicants.

So Anthony began taking a computer literacy course. “At first I was scared,” he said. “I thought I might mess the computer up.” But he soon learned that computer programs have options to help undo any mistakes he makes. And, thankfully, so does life – as long as you have the right attitude. 

Anthony at Mulumba House
Anthony freely admits that he didn’t always have the right attitude. As a young man, he turned away from some of the blessings in his life – a loving family, a good education – and began experimenting with drugs and alcohol. This experimentation became a dangerous force in his life. “You lose your spiritual connection with God,” he said. “And you do stuff that’s unbecoming.” He committed crimes of robbery and assault that kept him in the justice system since the 70s, including a 25-year jail sentence.

It was during his incarceration that Anthony redirected his life. The first broken relationship he repaired was with God. “If I didn’t fortify my spiritual connection, I would really have been lost,” he said. He also stopped using drugs and alcohol and dropped contact with people who were a negative influence on him. When he was released from prison, he was mentally and spiritually refreshed. – but with absolutely nothing in the way of housing or income.

One of his daughters opened her home to him, but Anthony wanted to build an independent life, so he went to a 90-day transitional house for ex-offenders. Determined to stay clean, he attended meetings for recovering addicts. “These meetings aren’t just about drugs,” he said. “They’re for how you think and treat yourself. They’re about your spirituality.”

As his 90 days at the transitional house came to an end, Anthony knew that he could not hope to afford housing without a steady income. So he turned to our Mulumba House, a safe haven for men overcoming homelessness and substance abuse. Mulumba is a transitional housing program, meaning the residents all have demonstrated a commitment to sobriety and are ready for a supportive environment with more flexibility. “The men are mature here. You need to have a direction for your life to be here,” he said.

He wasted no time in getting on top of his job search, but realized that his lack of computer skills were a major hole in his qualifications. “I was ashamed,” he said. “I had a friend, her young daughter could do everything on the computer. And my teenage grandson is a computer whiz.”  He enrolled in a computer literacy course at the National Housing Corporation Learning Center, where they also set Anthony up with a refurbished laptop computer.

Anthony now has an impressive list of skills for several Microsoft Office programs – he can design presentations, write and use formulas on Excel, use headers and footers, adjust formatting, and change the look of a document with all different fonts. “I see him working at his computer – he knows how to do things I can’t!” Ms. Gremi said. “He loves to work and is interested in some type of office work environment.”

Anthony knows he has a lot more learning to do before he’s ready for a technology-intensive career, but he’s grateful for the progress he’s making – not only on his trusty laptop, but also within his personal development. “Now I’m really living,” he said. “I enjoy life.  I’ve had many blessings, and I’m conscious of them. There’s people who have my interest at heart – like Ms. Gremi and the staff at Mulumba House. I just have to trust in them, trust in God, trust in myself, and trust in the direction I’m headed.”

Where’s he headed now? “Have to go do my practice before class!” 

Get involved!
Dressed for success: Many of our clients, like Anthony, are ready to hit the job market, but lack business suits and other professional attire that are crucial for making a positive first impression. Consider an in-kind donation of gently-used professional wear, or host a drive!
Volunteer: Mulumba House welcomes volunteers for clerical support and case management services. Can you help out? Give them a call! (202) 234-2399
Donate: They know how to stretch a dime at Mulumba House – see how far your dime can go in helping men like Anthony get back on their feet!
Learn more about employment-training services at the National Housing Corporation LearningCenter.
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