Applying What We Learned

If you follow the Catholic Family Services blog, you read that most of our Administrative staff was heading to Notre Dame to attend a conference this past week.  The goal?  To focus on how to connect Mission to Service — taking our foundational purpose (our Mission Statement) “off the wall and embedding it in organizational DNA” as one presenter put it.  It’s a topic that almost every organization struggles with and we were excited to take the opportunity to work, as a team, on such a foundational concept.  We arrived on campus Sunday and stayed until Wednesday afternoon.

What a conference it was!  Some of the best thinkers on the topic volunteered their time to teach us, inspiring us to think about our work in new and different ways.  While we have not yet had the time to process the diverse content and apply it directly to our daily work, we wanted to share some of these thoughts and concepts with you.  We’d love to hear your feedback and see how you think these ideas might help make a stronger organization, better services, and a healthier community.

  • The ultimate outcome of the work you do should not be measured in the number of lives  you touch, but rather the number of lives you transform.
  • Take a moment to think about what Jesus spent his time doing.   Did he feed and heal a lot of people?  Could he have fed and healed more people while on earth?  Rather, he chose to divide his time between teaching, prayer, and communal life.  What does this mean for those who try to live as he would have us do?
  • What is the difference between “Working for God” and “Doing God’s Work?”  The first leads us to decide what to do with our life and then offering it to God.  The second encourages us to submit and let God decide where our time should be spent.
  • If you do your work well, people will  be helped in such a way that they no longer need you.
  • The task of the Church is to gather, teach, and nourish . . . preparing us to be sent out into the field to become the hands, feet, and workers of Christ.
  • The Scriptures are not texts to be read, but rather to be performed.  In this way, they are much like Mozart’s great works.  If left on paper, they do not accomplish what they are intended for.  We need to practice them and perform them, and the more you do so, the better you get at it!
  • As St Augustine said, “Love God and do what you please.”  If you truly do the first, the second will be taken care of automatically.

Connecting Mission and Service

Most of Catholic Family Services’ leadership team will be out of the office next week from Sunday until Wednesday.  We’re not heading out on Spring Break (at least not yet, anyway)!  We will be using the time together to attend a special training called

From Mission to Service: A Program on Mission-based Leadership and Organization Development

The event is co-sponsored by the University of Notre Dame and Catholic Charities USA and will be held at Notre Dame with faculty from the Mendoza College of Business among others.

As a leadership team, we are so excited to be able to set aside the time and devote attention to this foundationally important topic.  We will spend the three days examining how faith-based mission imprints our daily work in decision-making, leadership, and organizational practices . . . in short, we will be looking at how the Catholic mission animates, energizes, and guides our leadership and organizational systems.  We hope to see both short-term and long-term impacts as a result of this important investment.

In the short-term:  We are asked to pick an organizational issue to be the focus of an Action Learning Project.  The issue will be evaluated, examined, and (hopefully) improved using the tools and insights we gain at the training.  Then, in October, we come back together and present on the progress of our Action Learning Project, receiving feedback from amazing faculty and our peers.

In the long-term:  We hope to learn tools that will apply across our work in the agency.  Not only will we learn more about Catholic Charities and its amazing tools, we will also focus on incorporation our mission, vision, and values into our everyday work.  This will impact our organizational culture, services, and interactions with peers and co-workers.

In the midst of a busy organization, we sometimes get overwhelmed with the daily and urgent needs.  We are so excited for this opportunity to come together and focus on the foundation of our service.  Please pray for us as we undertake this journey to make Catholic Family Services as strong — and mission-driven — as we can be.

If you’d like to know more about the event, please click on the link below.  We welcome your insights and feedback about what you read and look forward to sharing information with you about the event in next week’s blog.

Blanketed In Love

If you’ve ever been a new parent you know that taking care of your baby is a top priority.  You looked forward to baby showers and using all those new items to make life for your little one as safe and comfortable as possible.  You wash them all, paint and set-up a nursery, and make the perfect “nest” for your little one before they are born.  The new mothers who seek our Caring Network services feel exactly the same way . . . but they seldom have friends and family who throw a baby shower for them and setting up the perfect, freshly-painted and color-coordinated nursery is an unreachable dream.

According to the 2011 Kids Count in Michigan, the number of families in Kalamazoo County who are in poverty is increasing.   The young mothers who seek Caring Network services are among the poorest of these, with incomes significantly below the poverty level.  Most are single (94%), eligible for Medicaid (83%), under the age of 20 (51%), and have no high school diploma (49%).  To complicate the issue, these young women are undergoing major life changes, learning how to care for newborn infants, and dealing with the challenges having a baby invariably lends to employment and education.

In the midst of so many challenges, who would think that a brand new baby blanket, made with love, could be such an important thing?  Yet, year after year and mother after mother, we have seen that it is!  For the fifth year in a row, 5th grade students at St. Augustine school took the time to collect donated materials and turn them into beautiful, soft, and warm blankets.  These blankets — made with such love — will soon surround and comfort newborn babies at Caring Network.  New mothers will have some tangible way to wrap their babies with love and start on the path to creating a safe and healthy family.  It may seem like “just a blanket,” but in a very real way these amazing schoolchildren are changing lives.  They are not just giving blankets, they are giving love, and we applaud and thank them for their generosity.

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. 
Mother Teresa


Turning a House into a Home

Welcome Home!!

Every time we get to say those words to a homeless youth, Catholic Family Services has changed a life.  We have worked with that youth to find a safe and stable place to live . . . and they are no longer couch-hopping or living on the streets.  It’s a major achievement.  But a house is just that — a house — unless we are able to provide that youth with all the comforts and supplies that make a house a home.

That’s where you have the power to help us change a life!  Our Welcome Home Project provides an opportunity for groups in the community to come alongside a newly housed youth and provide that youth with kitchen, bathroom, and housekeeping supplies.

The impact?  Not only does the youth have the supplies to keep their home clean and safe, but they also feel the love and support of a caring community as they continue on the path to self-sufficiency.  It’s a meaningful way for you to build a positive future for a youth in need.

If you’d like to help, we invite you to call Jeannine Boehm at 269-381-1234 and check out our list of needed supplies by clicking here.  This list provides suggestions of the types of items these youth so desperately need and we will work with you to make this a successful project!  You can truly turn a new house into a safe and comfortable home for youth!

Person-To-Person Contact

Catholic Family Services’ staff is so blessed by the volunteers that join us in our mission each and every day.  We know the work is hard and, like most things in life, the rewards aren’t immediately apparent.  So why do these dedicated volunteers come back, day after day and week after week?

We answered that question…at least in one volunteer’s case…when we received the following e-mail from Mary Waurio, one of our long-standing Caring Network volunteers.  Her amazing insight is a useful tool to each and every one of us as we encounter people throughout the day.

I was thinking about my little job in the basement (helping mothers and mothers-to-be get the items they need to take care of themselves and their new babies).  I pray about it so much…the success for life in each woman and for the program.  This morning in my prayers, God shed a little light on why it is I have such great “job satisfaction” there in the basement.  It might sound selfish, but it really isn’t about me.  It is about God showing me that it really IS still possible to have true conversations.   Let me explain…

Many have written and testified that, when in the presence of Mother Teresa and having a conversation with her you ‘had her full attention.’ 

“In the moment you were with her, there was only you and her.  She was not looking over your shoulder to see what was happening around you.  It was as if nothing else existed except for her and you.”

Mother Teresa said, “I believe in person-to-person contact.”

Now contrast that with the world we live in today.  People are always multi-tasking.  I remember how I felt with one client who was continually texting as I was trying to help her get clothes for her baby.  I finally asked her to stop texting until we had met the needs of her baby unless there was an emergency.  She stopped…and then it was just her and I.

That was one case…I haven’t ever had another quite like that, but what I have noticed with all my experiences as a volunteer there is that these young mothers want my attention.  And, to be honest, I want theirs too.  When that happens perfectly, the Holy Spirit is most present in what happens next.

Mother Teresa viewed each individual person as Christ.  Because of that, she was always looking for the next opportunity to love Him (Christ) by loving the one she served.  Maybe we can use this quote of hers as we go about our daily work, as a gentle reminder for all of us in the midst of the difficulties and challenges we face:

“I believe in person-to-person contact.  Every person is Christ for me and, since there is only one Jesus, the person I am meeting with is the one person in the world at that moment.” 

Could this be the recipe to end empty conversations which are often fueled by vain distractions?  Imagine…there are so many people who are given a prescription for attention difficulties…could some of these problems be cured by us simply giving each individual the attention they deserve, as given to us by our Creator?  The possibilities are endless! 

If you would like to experience some of the joy Mary talks about through volunteering at Catholic Family Services, we encourage you to call us.  Jeannine Boehm, volunteer coordinator, would be more than happy to find the perfect way to match your time and talents with the needs of our clients.  She can be reached at 269-381-1234. 

Regardless, please take the time to really talk to someone — as if they are the only person in the world — today.  It will change your life.