Quietly ministering: Catholic agencies provide practical services and financial aid in Ferguson

In the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting death, faith and religion took center stage in Ferguson.

NonCatholic ministers arrived from out of town and held services, conducted press conferences and marched with protesters, seemingly leading the charge for peace and justice.

On the secular side, foundations formed with the mandate of healing St. Louis and its environs.

Worthy enterprises, all.

But if you followed the Ferguson story in the media — both in the traditional outlets of print and TV/radio, and the non-traditional Internet outlets — you might assume that the Catholic Church sat this one out, remaining on the sidelines and letting others do the heavy lifting. There has been nary a mention of the term "Catholic" in stories and coverage related to faith in Ferguson.

So, you might ask: Where is the Catholic Church?

The answer: In Ferguson all along, quietly ministering and doing its thing; hiding in plain sight, as it were.

The Church has been active from the get-go, starting with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Parish in Ferguson holding a Rosary Aug. 11, with the plans set in motion BEFORE the initial violence, rioting and looting of Aug. 10.

Since then, from prayer visits at the Brown shooting site by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson and Bishop Edward M. Rice to priests walking with protesters to the prayers of Ferguson parishes Blessed Teresa and Our Lady of Guadalupe to the ministering of police chaplains to the work of Catholic Charities of St. Louis, the Church has provided practical services — i.e. pastoral care — and financial help to those in need.

It isn't as if media has been asleep at the switch, so to be speak; rather, the Catholic Church has done its work without fanfare, under the radar minus press conferences and photo ops to draw the spotlight.

In financial terms, the Church's tally has been at least $141,000, with the biggest chunk — $100,000 — funding scholarships at Trinity Catholic High School from an Annual Catholic Appeal grant. The need-based scholarships are available to students impacted by the unrest in Ferguson.

The grant made Monday "a banner day at Trinity Catholic High School," said Sr. Karl Mary Winkelmann, Trinity's president. She described her one-word reaction to reading the grant letter that morning: "Wow."

Meanwhile, Catholic Charities Community Services has received $25,000 from the Missouri Foundation for Health for long-term case management in Ferguson, and Blessed Teresa and Guadalupe have split $10,000, with $7,200 coming from the collection at a Votive Mass for Peace and Justice Aug. 20 and $2,800 from the Archbishop's charity fund.

In addition, Blessed Teresa's St. Vincent de Paul Society received almost $16,500 from impromptu collections at Incarnate Word Parish in Chesterfield ($9,000) and Immaculate Conception of Dardenne Prairie ($7,480). (Students at Immaculate Conception also held a food drive for Koch Elementary School about a mile from the shooting site and violence.)

Of course, these are tabulated contributions; Catholic Charities of St. Louis has contributed other services to which you can't apply a pricetag.

To wit:

- Cardinal Ritter Senior Services brought food for the residents at St. John Neumann Apartments in Ferguson during the riots and protests. St. John Neumann is an independent living facility where food isn't typically provided for clients.

- Our Lady of Guadalupe school spruced up with donations of paint from Schulte Hardware and stair treads (in the school's green color) from nearby Emerson Electric.

- Catholic Charities Community Services thus far has assisted 86 households in Ferguson by providing rental assistance, utility assistance and long-term case management.

- Catholic Family Services has provided and continues to provide crisis counseling to staff and youth in Archdiocesan schools in the Ferguson area.

- Language Access Multicultural People (LAMP), a program of Catholic Family Services, has been approached by the City of Ferguson to provide diversity training for the Ferguson Police Department.

- Good Shepherd Children and Family Service works with clients from Ferguson. In particular, they serve a number of Expectant Parent Program (crisis pregnancy) clients from Ferguson.

- And Queen of Peace Center, next door to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, has several programs working with youth in the Ferguson area. Its Adolescent Resource Center (ARC) in collaboration with the Ferguson Youth Initiative (FYI) and the Ferguson Municipal Court has formed the Ferguson Community Service Program (FCSP), which provides alternative sentencing for youth who have non-violent drug related offenses or misdemeanors, among other things. For sentencing, youth might receive counseling, case management, art-expression or art therapy through ARC and a service program through FYI. 

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