Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hoyas Honor Lifelong Georgetown Fan Sr. Mary Louise Wessell

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For most of her adult life, Sr. Mary Louise Wessell has followed season after season of Georgetown University Men’s Basketball in the same way: by tuning in on the radio to legendary broadcaster Rich Chvotkin.
Sr. Wessell gives Coach John Thompson III
a hug before the game.

Sr. Wessell, a sister of the Congregation of St. Joseph, tuned in to the games on the radio because, “Rich really knew what he was talking about.” Over more than three decades, she’s heard some of Rich’s most classic “Hoyas Win!” calls.

In the early 1980s, during her work researching her doctoral degree in philosophy with a focus on medical ethics at Georgetown, she welcomed a young Patrick Ewing, already a superstar, to the campus when they crossed paths in the parking lot. Sr. Wessell stands about 5’3. Even as a freshman, Patrick Ewing towered at 7’0.

Sr. Wessell’s ministry as a nun and a nurse led her to Catholic Charities, where she was tasked with running newly formed Archdiocesan Health Care Network in 1984 as a way to coordinate specialized medical care on a pro bono basis for those without insurance or the means to pay for their care. The program is still going, last year serving more than 1,600 patients.

Sr. Wessell with legendary Hoyas
Broadcaster Rich Chvotkin
Later she helped open our Tenant’s Empowerment Network (TENProgram) to help homeless families in southeast DC, a program she leads to this day. The TEN Program provides a family with their own apartment and highly-focused support from staff. Most of our families are coming to the TEN Program from a shelter and the TEN team aims to transition families to stable living over the course of two years. Last year, the program helped 52 parents and 77 children.

[Donate to the TEN Program to celebrate the work of Sr. Mary Louise Wessell!]

This brings us to Saturday, February 20, when Georgetown University honored Sr. Mary Louise Wessell before tip-off at the men’s basketball game against nationally ranked Xavier. Before the game, Sr. Wessell had the chance to meet Coach John Thompson III and was interviewed by Rich Chvotkin for the halftime show broadcast. She even got a chance to pet Jack the Bulldog, who cruises across the court on a skateboard each game.

Washington Wizards star Otto Porter, who
played at Georgetown, signs
an autograph for Sr. Wessell
Just before tip-off, Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs Dan O’Neil presented Sr. Mary Louise Wessell with a game ball autographed by Coach Thompson III at center court while her work helping the homeless families of Washington, DC was shared with the thousands in attendance.

Sr. Mary Louise said later she loved the day and the opportunity to see the team up close, but admitted she was uncomfortable being the center of attention. “But I know this kind of spotlight helps keep all of our families who are living at TEN or elsewhere in the front of people’s minds, so I don’t mind helping to do that,” she said. “And while the Hoyas lost this game, I always enjoy the chance to watch these young men play in-person.”

Are you proud of Sr. Mary Louise and her work? Make a donation right now to the TEN program!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Pope Francis will hold a Mass at the US border for migrants. Here is one family's story.

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Today, Pope Francis will hold a special Mass at the US-Mexico border to pray for those migrating to the United States across the Rio Grande river. Thousands of those who have made this journey were children and young teenagers fleeing gang violence and utter despair. 
Every year, our Immigration Legal Services team
 helps those fleeing violence start a new life.

We thought the Pope's message today, one of love and acceptance of those in need, was a fitting time to share some of the story from a client we are currently helping who fled gang violence in Honduras.

One client fled from Honduras when he was 16. His sister had been dating a gang member. When she became pregnant, he murdered her. His mother and brother testified in court against the gang member, and the family feared retaliation. Word reached my client the gang was seeking to kill him as well, thinking he would also testify. So he fled to the US. We were able to help him receive asylum, and are now also helping his mother and brother as well.

Finally, a thought from Father John:

"Today, Pope Francis calls us to be compassionate to those who take on incredible risk to try and live their lives free of violence, oppression and fear. While this is an issue with valid truths on both sides and a balance our political leaders must strike, I hope we all never lose sight of the humanity of each person and child, as well as the suffering that comes in every step of the migrant story. Many of the young people who eventually come to our doors are granted asylum or a protected status by a US immigration judge. It is a life-saving ruling." 

Friday, February 12, 2016

Maryland Football Tackles our Coat Drive

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Breakfast? Check. Exhausting workout? Check. Volunteer at Catholic Charities coat drive? Check. All before 11 am.

On Friday morning, 24 players from the University of Maryland Football team volunteered at the Catholic Charities Coats of Many Colors drive. Coming straight from an intense morning workout, they were surprisingly unfazed by the 1,500 coats piled in the center of the room. The team’s task for the next hour was to sort, organize, and hang each jacket so they were easy to pick out for future guests in need of a coat.

The coats, donated by parishes, schools and individuals throughout the Archdiocese, ranged from infant jackets to XXL men’s coats and the Terps jumped right in. Teammates on the field, the Terps worked together to sort, hang and organize the coats in their own fashion. Quarterback Caleb Rowe, flung coats from the middle of the room to his receivers by the hangers.

A few running backs were in charge of passing out hangers to each rack and a blur of Terps were working around the room.  Within one hour, all of the coats hung neatly from the racks ready to be distributed to the community the following morning.

Director of Player Development, Bryce Bevill coordinates service projects for the team throughout the year. “It gives them the chance to see how fortunate they are and also gives them a chance to be a part of the community and help out how they can,” said Bevill. Coordinating volunteer opportunities for busy college athletes can be difficult but for Bevill, and the athletes, they see it as a must.

“I realize there are people out there who are less fortunate than me and if I can help somebody else and make them smile, that makes me smile,” said junior running back Marcus Smith.

Staff from our New York Avenue shelter came to pick up coats and express thanks to the Terps for their service. The players, for the first time all morning, were silent and still listening to the struggles the homeless face and the impact a coat can have on their lives.

As the players piled on to the bus to head back for class, one player hung back.  He asked, “How much do the kids coats cost?” After doing the math, he donated $60 so that the first 30 kids on Saturday morning would get a free coat. Put a smile on 30 kids faces? Check.