Living for Others
Posted on April 23rd, 2010
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, and the beloved women – mothers, grandmothers, sisters, aunts, who have loved and sacrificed for us, I wish everyone a most blessed Mother’s Day! Our mothers have had a profound impact on who we are: their generosity, caring and wisdom have formed us from the womb. Their love is like God’s love: forgiving, encouraging, all-embracing. We thank God for all mothers.
As we honor them, I would like to recall a dear friend and holy priest who had a special love for mothers and children.
On April 15, Catholic Charities lost our great friend and gifted leader, Father Roger J. Coughlin, 84, Associate Administrator of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago. For 54 years, he brought hurting people together in their brokenness, and created new programs or transformed established programs to meet their needs.
A great priest and a beloved son, brother, uncle and grand-uncle; Father Coughlin made the most of his “retirement.” A loyal friend to the entire staff and administration at Catholic Charities, he lived at our St. Vincent Center at 721 North LaSalle in Chicago. Whether celebrating the 8 a.m. Mass each weekday in our St. Vincent de Marillac Chapel, presiding at Benediction on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, or providing “dinner music” at the piano for our 130 Tuesday Night Supper guests, Father Roger brought great wisdom, good humor and genuine care to everyone he met.
While we mourn Father Coughlin, we rejoice that we knew him and his work and heard his stories, because the story of Father Coughlin’s life and ministry is the story of Catholic Charities over the last 54 years. His ministry at Catholic Charities began when he was 30 years old, fresh from five happy years as a parish priest at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Chicago. Assigned as Assistant Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago at 721 N. LaSalle Street in Chicago, he would remain there for the rest of his life.
For the next 16 years, in addition to his increasing duties with Catholic Charities, Father Coughlin also served as Chaplain to the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the staff and the children at St. Vincent Infant Hospital and Home on LaSalle Street. During those cherished years, Father Coughlin estimates that he baptized 600 children each year for 16 years—a total of 9,600 children—at the baptismal font that still graces our St. Louise de Marillac chapel.
From 1956 until 1962, Father Coughlin worked in the Catholic Home Bureau with Father Bernard Brogan in Catholic Charities’ Adoption Services, where he initiated adoptive parents clubs, worked with foster parents, and organized the agency’s Cuban Refugee Children program. During this time he also studied in the Graduate Psychology Department at Loyola University, and in 1964 earned a master’s degree in social work at the University of Chicago, majoring in administration and community organizing.
In 1964, Father Coughlin returned to Catholic Charities newly created Social Services Department and over the ensuing decades, became the founder, organizer or innovator of numerous Catholic Charities professional social service programs that served struggling individuals and families throughout Cook and Lake Counties. But that will require another column.
As we celebrate the gift of our mothers, it is important to note that in the 1980s, Father Coughlin was appointed the first Director of the Archdiocesan Respect Life Office; and in 1987, he established the Maternity Fund to assist families and women who have no maternity coverage.
Catholic Charities Annual Mother’s Day Appeal faithfully continues Father Coughlin’s legacy of cherishing, protecting and serving human life, especially children, families, seniors and all those in need. You can donate online at www.catholiccharities.net/donations, or phone your support or pose questions to Margaret at (312) 655-7012.
May God bless you and your families on this Mother’s Day and always!
New Life for Families in Need
Posted on April 1st, 2010
“We are here with open arms, to shelter, comfort and protect.”
Like a mother, Catholic Charities reaches out day after day with compassionate, practical and professional help that gets families and individuals back on their feet – that gives them new life.
During this Easter season, Christians celebrate the triumph of the Risen Christ over sin and death. At Catholic Charities, we know that there is hope for the hopeless year-round – and new life for those who have lived “in darkness and in the shadow of death!”
We see it every day as we reach out a helping hand to families struggling to find a job or make ends meet, or to low-income seniors in need of housing, or to homeless individuals in need of food and shelter. And we are blessed not only by the professional, competent staff members working in our 159 programs, but also by an army of thousands of energetic volunteers and generous donors.
These are “the open arms” of Catholic Charities. Together, we find creative ways to assist individuals and families achieve lives of health and stability; and we are frequently inspired by those we help.
I’d like to share some of these stories of new life with you, told to us by parents and children in three of Catholic Charities’ self-sufficiency programs.
Lumba, a single parent, explains that she was given a hand up, not a hand out, by our Lake County Family Self-Sufficiency Program.
“I am very thankful for the help this program has extended to my four children and me. When I was homeless, with no food or clothes, they picked me up and gave me a helping hand. I am extremely grateful and will carry Catholic Charities in my heart for the rest of my life. All the staff, my case manager, my employment case manager and supervisor, went the extra mile and were great examples for my children and me.”
José, whose mother was in the Forever Free Program for women recovering from addiction, told their family’s story:
“When my mother decided to go into Forever Free treatment, I was happy, but honestly, I didn’t think it would last. She wrote me letters all the time she was away. She told me that when she came home we were going to be a family again and she wouldn’t let anything bring us apart. It took awhile, and I missed her a lot, but it was all worth the wait. I am very grateful to have the mother I know back in my life and around when I need her. I am proud of her for making a promise to us and sticking to it. I continue to pray we live a better life everyday and to live as well as we are. Catholic Charities has been a great part in our lives and we are grateful for all they have done to help my mother to a road of a better life.”
Catholic Charities’ New Hope Apartments Program also provides intensive case management for homeless families with children in 124 transitional scattered-site apartments in Chicago and Suburban Cook County. For up to 24 months, families receive services such as rental assistance, household furnishings, employment assistance with training and educational referrals, child care, and assistance in budgeting and accessing appropriate government programs. They achieve job skills and income, decrease debt and increase self-determination during their time in the program, equipping them for maintaining permanent housing and steady employment.
Cecilia, a single mother, was living at PADS in the Northwest suburbs with her young son after having been laid off as the manager of a health club that closed because of the recession. “I wanted to get out of the shelter and get him back into stable housing,” says Cecilia, who entered the New Hope Apartments transitional housing program several months ago. Now, she is moving toward self-sufficiency because she has had the time and the guidance to figure out how to improve her life. “No one had ever taught me how to separate my needs from my wants,” she says, explaining how she was able to fall so far so quickly. “Catholic Charities has literally saved my life, because so many doors had been shut in my face when I was in my time of need, but Catholic Charities helped me. I plan on volunteering here after I leave the program.”
As we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ, please pray for our suffering neighbors like Lumba, Jose and Cecilia, who desperately need the “newness of life” made possible by God’s goodness, Catholic Charities and your generosity. May God bless you and your families throughout the Easter Season!