A practical guide to giving: local ministries that help those in need
It’s the season… to give, to love, to let go of the old year while welcoming in the new.
This time, while pondering which New Year’s resolutions might make it past February, let’s focus on ways to keep the Christmas season alive year-round.
Along with eating healthier, exercising more, and losing weight, we as Catholics can place a greater emphasis on loving our neighbors; after all, the spirit of giving shouldn’t just be seasonal.
If you feel your actions are insignificant, just remember this quote by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who left us a beautiful example of how to give and to love: “Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”
To make it a little easier for you, the NTC created a list of some of the opportunities to serve others within the diocese and to use as a reference for those who need help.
St. Vincent de Paul
As inflation continues and prices soar, many people just can’t keep up. Prices of food, electricity, and rent are climbing, leaving many people stressed out and seeking ways to get bills paid. For some, living paycheck-to-paycheck works — until there is an emergency.
One idea that seems like a way out, getting a payday or title loan, is only a trap that leads to more hardship down the road, according to Victor Craig, diocesan council president of the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
To help families with financial assistance, St. Vincent de Paul aids those who have fallen upon hard times with two programs — the Council Loan Program (CLP), a short-term assistance program that can help people avoid sliding into a deeper crisis and/or becoming homeless, and the Mini-Loan Conversion Program (MLCP), to help rescue people who have high interest payday loans. Both programs offer a short- and long-term approach toward climbing out of the debt cycle.
“Inflation has hurt all segments of the population. For people on fixed incomes or those that make just enough to get by, that pressure really adds a burden, especially on the elderly or disabled,” Craig said.
Volunteers with SVdP do home visits to get to know their neighbor and their needs better, something that cannot be accomplished in the same way behind a desk at an office.
“When we encounter our neighbors in need, we show Christian love. We bring them spirituality and promote the love and the hope of Jesus Christ to those suffering,” Craig said. “We tell them to hang in there… Hope is a powerful emotion; you’ve got to give people hope.”
Craig said if SVdP cannot help, they collaborate with other resources for referrals, which rings true to the group’s motto: “No work of charity is foreign to the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.” He also referenced 1 John 3:18, “Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
For local info: Reach out to your parish office to find out if they have an SVdP council, or email [email protected].
Those who are experiencing grief, loneliness, divorce, disability, job loss, or other life difficulties are encouraged to reach out to this ministry, which is available at many local parishes.
“Christ caring for people through people” sums up the philosophy of Stephen Ministry in a Catholic parish, according to the organization’s website. “We are the caregivers, and God is the Curegiver.”
The name of the organization comes from Acts of the Apostles, as Stephen was among those chosen to provide caring ministry to those in need. People who have a servant’s heart and love caregiving are encouraged to seek more information about this ministry.
Miles Smith, Stephen Ministry lead at St. Michael Parish in Bedford, said people who join this organization volunteer for years, with many never leaving.
The group is unique because those called to serve go through an extensive training program that lasts for months, equipping them to serve knowledgeably. The team, along with the pastor or parish priest, provides ongoing care for more people than the pastor could provide alone.
For local info: Reach out to your parish office or contact Miles Smith, Stephen Ministry lead, at St. Michael Church: [email protected].
Christ Child Society
“Challenging poverty one child at a time” is the motto for this 501(c)(3), which is a chapter of the National Christ Child Society. Incorporated in May 2018 and an active apostolate of the diocese, the organization promotes literacy and helps with financial needs.
Suzanne Jasinski, board president, said the goal of the group is to bring families together and help children feel good about literacy.
“We want all of our children to build their own personal library,” Jasinski said. “Most of us have had that luxury but many of these children do not.”
To help, the group holds book fairs, helps with tutoring, and has family-friendly literacy events.
In partnership with Loreto House, a Catholic-led pro-life pregnancy center in Denton, volunteers assemble bags filled with activities and books for infants and toddlers that encourage a love of reading at an early age, as well as provide parent/infant bonding opportunities.
The group is ever evolving. Along with giving away books, they provide basic needs for students such as shampoo or laundry detergent, give layette bags to new mothers, and team up with Gabriel Project to give diapers, wipes, and newborn clothing to expectant moms. “It’s a baby shower in a bag,” she said.
The care doesn’t end with children. Because teens sometimes get overlooked, Christ Child Society provides “teen bags” with girlie stuff such as nail polish and hair scrunchies and guy stuff such as hair gel or cologne, as well as snacks. The group also puts together foster home comfort bags with new pajamas, stuffed toys, and other comforts.
“Find a need and fill it” is how the group evolved, Jasinski said.
“We have fun when we get together,” she said. “And we always welcome new members.”
The group is an affinity ministry of St. Philip the Apostle in Flower Mound but would like to branch out and create groups at other parishes.
For local info: Email [email protected] to find out more about local chapters.
The Knights of Columbus
Need a roof repair or a wheelchair? How about a warm coat or food? The Knights of Columbus empower Catholic men to live their faith at home, in their parish, at work, and in their community.
Chris Stark, general agent for the Diocese of Fort Worth, said there are four contexts for the group’s action: faith, family, community, and life.
For faith, the Knights support seminarians with its RSVP program. For every $500 given to a seminarian by the Knights locally, the Supreme Council will refund the council or assembly $100. For family, the organization helps families with food, prayer nights, and parish and family activities.
Knights are called to serve others. For community, service is provided to the parish, the homeless, the addicted, and the elderly. Preparing for disaster, providing coats, helping fix roofs, and sponsoring community activities are other ways they help.
And for life, the Knights of Columbus Ultrasound Program provides ultrasound machines to pregnancy help centers. More than 1 million moms have seen their unborn children thanks to this program. They also help with special needs children, Christian refugee centers, and pregnancy support centers.
“We have such a vast array of programs,” Stark said.
The Knights of Columbus is always looking for men to join them. Stark got involved after being confirmed as a Catholic in 2013.
“When I found out about the Knights in RCIA, I thought, ‘If I am going to be a part of the Church, I’m going to be a part of this,’” he said.
Stark said charity donations go 100 percent to the cause.
For local info: Email Volunteer Services at [email protected] or call 817-289-3871.
Catholic Charities Fort Worth
Catholics and non-Catholics alike have heard about Catholic Charities Fort Worth. Although the organization is guided by the social justice tenets of the Catholic faith, being a Catholic is not required to give or to receive services such as help with rent, mortgage, utilities, childcare, food insecurity, and transportation.
The organization got its start in 1910 when a small group of women attended the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Fort Worth.
“They went united by a purpose — to petition [Dallas] Bishop Edward Dunne to allow them to begin a ‘work of mercy’ … and a ‘voice for the voiceless,’” according to their website.
Their work continues. And they are busy; workers and volunteers typically receive 500 calls per week. Earlier this year the number was between 800 and 900, and at one point the organization received 1,100 calls during a one-week period, according to Courtney Walker, Community Care program manager.
“We always need help on our call lines,” Walker said. “A warm heart on the end of the line, someone who can pray or provide resources.”
Those in need can reach the Community Care team at 817-534-0814 from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Thursday. The staff has locations in Fort Worth, Colleyville, and Arlington.
“The biggest needs that we see are rent and utilities,” Walker said. “If a person is used to earning an income, they may be a good candidate for one of our long-term programs to establish savings and help plan their future.”
Allie Phillippi, engagement manager, said another big need is for transportation drivers and Gabriel Angels, caring volunteers who support the mother’s choice of life through prayer, ongoing friendship, and encouragement. Phillippi is not Catholic but is a Christian and loves her role with CCFW.
“If you boil it down, we are all followers of Jesus and want to help our neighbors. It doesn’t matter what background we are, we are all here to help,” she said.
For local info: Email Volunteer Services at [email protected] or call 817-289-3871.