Catholic Charities plans service hub in Wichita Falls to serve Northwest region

By Jenara Kocks Burgess

Correspondent

January 6, 2014

Catholic parishes in the nine-county Northwest region of the Diocese of Fort Worth are working with Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) to establish a permanent facility or “service hub” in Wichita Falls in the next few years.

“This expansion is necessary because the rural counties are underserved, usually due to their remoteness and relatively sparse populations,” said Father Jack McKone, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Wichita Falls.

For the past few months, representatives of several parishes in the area have participated in the Northwest Services Strategic Planning Committee. CCFW Director of Parish Relations Laura Sotelo told the North Texas Catholic that CCFW formed this committee of parish and community leaders to help develop a business plan for its future  location.

“We have pastors, deacons, and community leaders from Wichita Falls and Young County, who have helped us identify gaps in services within the Northwest region so we can truly focus on coming in and filling those gaps,” she said.

The Northwest region includes the eight counties in the Northwest Deanery plus Young County, which is in the Southwest Deanery of the diocese.

Planning committee member Liliana Samuelson said she is very excited about CCFW establishing a service hub in Wichita Falls. “I had the dream of a center for the needy and the immigrant that would bring the Catholic presence into Wichita Falls,” she said.

Sotelo said the organization’s vision for the location is a “one stop, Catholic shop” that will provide a Catholic response to help people in need.

 “The permanent facility will include Catholic Charities’ offices, which will offer an array of services aimed at moving families toward self-sufficiency and our ultimate goal of ending poverty within our diocese,” she said, adding that it will also include a St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store.

Father Richard Kirkham, pastor of St. Jude Thaddeus Church in Burkburnett, Christ the King Church in Iowa Park, and St. Paul Church in Electra, said the new offices would better help meet the needs of the people in his parishes.

Though CCFW serves the entire diocese, Fr. Kirkham said it’s a challenge for the people in the area to make the two-hour drive for services.

Sotelo added that Catholic Charities serves anyone regardless of faith tradition. “We serve because of our Gospel call to do so and are privileged to be able to serve anyone who comes through our doors,” she said.

CCFW currently offers limited services in the Northwest region including clinical counseling, the St. Joseph Health Care Trust Program, TXU Energy Aid, and immigration consultations through a video site. Since Catholic Charities doesn’t currently have Wichita Falls area offices, it partners with various parishes in the deanery using their space.

“We take advantage now of the St. Joseph Healthcare Trust Fund, which works through Catholic Charities. That’s been going on a good while,” said Deacon Jim Novak, parochial administrator for Sacred Heart Parish in Seymour, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Megargel, Santa Rosa Parish in Knox City, and St. Joseph Parish in Rhineland.

Dcn. Novak added that he is excited that Hispanics in his parishes will have a closer location allowing them to take advantage of Catholic Charities’ immigration services.

Once they are able to establish a permanent location in Wichita Falls, CCFW hopes to expand services already offered to the region to include Financial Stability/Education, Community Connections (general case management program), homeless services, Enrollment Solutions, and potentially services aimed at assisting veterans, as well as a vocations program, Sotelo said.

CCFW will need both volunteers and people who can help provide financial resources to help make the agency’s presence in Wichita Falls a reality, she added.

“We have been so excited by the support and response we have received from people throughout the Northwest region of the diocese, as we have begun to share our vision for this project,” said Sotelo.

Fr. McKone said there are many good reasons for parishioners of the Northwest region to get involved with Catholic Charities’ new project, but the most important is that by virtue of the sacrament of baptism, every Catholic is called to be a missionary.

“The new project will offer our parishioners a much broader spectrum of services and a central location,” said Fr. McKone. “For example, someone coming in to apply for help with utility bills will be able to pick up some school or work clothes at St. Vincent de Paul.… We will have a very visible Catholic outreach presence in our community. This is part of our Catholic mandate to witness to the Gospel, in avenues far too great for any one parish to tackle on their own.

 “Few of us will go to Africa or Central America…” he added. But whether serving those, “across the street or across the ocean, we are called to solidarity with all our brothers and sisters. In this sense … the opportunities for service are not only for the benefit of the needy, the broken-hearted, the alien, or the sick, but they are also for our parishioners and clergy. Those opportunities are literally a gift to us from God, a way to make vibrant the faith that He has given us.”

For more information on how to help Catholic Charities establish a permanent location in Wichita Falls, contact Laura Sotelo by phone at 817-413-3904 or by e-mail at .

Catholic parishes in the nine-county Northwest region of the Diocese of Fort Worth are working with Catholic Charities Fort Worth (CCFW) to establish a permanent facility or “service hub” in Wichita Falls in the next few years. “This expansion is necessary because the rural counties are underserved, usually due to their remoteness and relatively sparse populations,” said Father Jack McKone, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Wichita Falls. For the past few months, representatives of several parishes in the area have participated in the Northwest Services Strategic Planning Committee. CCFW Director of Parish Relations Laura Sotelo told the North Texas Catholic that CCFW formed this committee of parish and community leaders to help develop a business plan for its future  location.

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