Annual Catholic Appeal: The Courage to Love

Lisa Johnston |
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What is courage?

The root of the word — cor — is Latin for heart. The second part of the word — rage — symbolizes a fierceness or passion.

So in other words, courage is about giving it all you've got, from the heart.

Looking back on the history of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, there are many examples in which Catholics have had the courage to love others. Cardinal Joseph Ritter desegregated Catholic schools in 1947, seven years before the U.S. Supreme Court mandated it. In 1973, after the historic Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion, Cardinal Joseph Carberry rallied 30,000 people in a massive pro-life demonstration on the steps of the Old Courthouse. And in the 1980s, when AIDS became an epidemic and people with the disease were shunned, Archbishop John L. May said the only response we can have as Christian is to love them. He was among interfaith and civic leaders who had the vision to open Doorways.

Catholics are called to carry on these acts of courage to love others by supporting the Annual Catholic Appeal. The goal of the 2016 appeal is $13.5 million. The campaign runs April 16 through May 1. The theme this year is "The Courage to Love."

The appeal provides funding for programs that touch people of all faith traditions. Ministries include Catholic education, helping the homeless and others in need, defending life, marriage and religious liberty and supporting vocations

Loving the immigrant neighbor

St. Francis Community Services is dedicated to walking families out of poverty. One of its five outreach sites, Southside Center, is focused on assisting immigrant and refugee families, according to Southside's director Meredith Rataj.

Located at St. John the Baptist Parish in south St. Louis, Southside Center collaborates with the parish to provide services to about 1,000 clients a year. Services include mental health support (such as individual and family counseling and a support group for the Latino population); an after-school tutoring program, primarily serving Latino and Vietnamese children; and a health clinic and regular support group for Vietnamese elders.Annual Catholic Appeal

The Annual Catholic Appeal specifically helps with case management and physician care, said Rataj. "We rely on the ACA to have a case manager with the Latino population," she said. Sister Cecilia Pham is a community health worker serving the Vietnamese population. "We call her our secret weapon," Rataj said. "She does interpretation calls with pharmacies, connects people with (medical testing) and walks them through their medications."

Rataj said it definitely takes courage to serve immigrants and refugees, in a culture that is sometimes hostile toward them.

"There are people who have very different attitudes and wonder why we are there," she said. "Several of us are immigrants and lived as immigrants in other countries — and we know what it means to be welcomed by someone. That is what we are striving to do — to make it approachable and welcome them. We do it so they have safe place to go and that they know they are wanted here."

Expanded outreach

Another Catholic Charities agency, Catholic Family Services, recently opened an additional office, at 10235 Ashbrook Drive, at Holy Name of Jesus Parish. The expansion allows Catholic Family Services to more easily serve clients in Bellefontaine Neighbors and surrounding areas.

Catholic Family Services supports healing and improved mental health for families and children of all backgrounds through professional counseling and psychiatric services. It also has offices in Manchester, Crestwood, Florissant, Union, Troy and O'Fallon.

The agency counsels clients with all types of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, attention-deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, grief/loss issues, marital/relationship problems, addictions, bipolar disorder, stress arising from abuse or neglect, eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as some autism spectrum disorders.

Catholic Family Services also operates the Language Access Metro Project (LAMP), which provides interpreters who assist with doctors' appointments and medical care, legal matters and counseling sessions. A School Partnership Program assists students in more than 130 parochial, private and public schools throughout the 11 counties of the archdiocese.

The agency is a provider of the Veterans Choice Program. The program allows veterans to seek services from Catholic Family Services if the Veterans Administration waitlist for mental health services is too long. Catholic Family Services is also in partnership with the National Guard for assessments and counseling of soldiers. These services address extended and indefinite separations, increased workloads on family members, increase in anxiety levels of soldiers and families and other areas.

Tom Duff, executive director of Catholic Family Services, said that with the Annual Catholic Appeal funding "we are able to provide outpatient counseling and psychiatric services to those who are uninsured or underinsured. These funds also provide the opportunity for Catholic Family Services to continue to break down societal stigma as it relates to mental health issues."

For assistance from Catholic Family Services, call (314) 544-3800 or visit 

To learn more about the 2016 Annual Catholic Appeal or to make a donation, visit or call (314) 792-7680. 

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