Catholic Charities Fort Worth expands westward
EASTLAND — As he serves at the four Eastland County parishes to which he’s been appointed, Father Vijaya Mareedu, SAC, likes to always stay “conscious of one thing — wherever we are at a point in time, God puts us there to reach as many as we can … you leave your footprints where the work is pointing you.”
Today, the pastor’s footprints are pointed toward the many rural families who will benefit from the expansion of Catholic Charities Fort Worth into Eastland County. He is providing office space at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Eastland for a full-time CCFW client navigator and is allowing three bilingual staff at his parishes to help with translation, when needed. Since he and his staff know area families well, they also will be able to refer clients to CCFW Navigator, Amy Barnes, who began assisting Eastland County August 1.
Fr. VJ, as he is known by parishioners, oversees St. Francis Xavier, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish in Cisco, St. John Parish in Strawn, and St. Rita Parish in Ranger.
He said for rural parishes, “it’s hard because sometimes to get help it is a three-hour journey. But now [CCFW] has placed someone here for ongoing help.”
Cindy Casey, CCFW director of client services/client strategies, said the agency will address short- and long-term critical issues to lift families out of poverty and help them put together a plan to deal with those needs. CCFW provides financial coaching along with resource connections that include housing, employment, education, utility assistance, and transportation.
“We want to make sure people know that we’re here to help not just with one-time assistance, but to identify their real needs.” Casey explained. “Is it one-time assistance? Or do they need it for two or three months? Or do they need a longer-term plan in place?”
Casey said CCFW wants to hear from community members about their needs.
“We’re not going to tell people what they need,” Casey noted. “They’re going to tell us … there may be needs out there that we don’t even know about.”
She said there are funds to begin serving clients, but the program needs additional funding to continue.
“We’ll be looking for partners to help us serve the community,” she added.
Casey said Eastland County families that struggled with poverty even before the pandemic now face rising inflation, a drought, and devastating effects of the Eastland complex fire that burned more than 54,000 acres. Seven of the 83 families in Carbon who lost their homes to the cluster of fires are St. Francis Xavier parishioners.
However, both Fr. VJ and Casey stressed that assistance is available to everyone in the community — not just to Catholics.
“Now with the presence of Catholic Charities here, we are making an impact in the heart of every person who seeks help,” Fr. VJ said.