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In This Issue
Prayer for Our Nation
Lord, as we end the election cycle
And look ahead to a new administration,
We pray for healing and wholeness for our nation.
Our bonds of community must be repaired and restored.
Our willingness to listen to one another must be strengthened.
Our respect for every member of our society must be revived.
Guide us to move beyond divisive language,
Guide us to move beyond angry rhetoric,
Guide us to move beyond harsh judgments.
Let us reject all forms of violence,
Let us learn to forgive and reconcile.
Let us model inclusiveness and welcome to all.
May we move forward with hope,
May we move forward with faith,
May we move forward with compassion and love.
We pray to be a part of repairing and restoring the bonds of community.
We pray to be willing to listen to one another.
We pray that we may respect every member of our society.
Lord, hear our prayers. Amen.

- Jane Deren, Ph.D.

Coming Up:

The Minnesota Catholic Conference is hosting the first-ever Catholics at the Capitol, a day of inspiration and advocacy in St. Paul on Thursday, March 9, 2017. Members of the Curia, priests, deacons, principals, teachers and parishioners from around the state are encouraged to join Bishop Kettler, his brother bishops, and more than 1,000 fellow Catholics as we protect life and dignity in Minnesota. 

My Neighbor is Muslim: A Group Study Exploring the Muslim Faith

March 7, 14, 21, & 29, 2017
at St. Francis Convent in Little Falls

Topics will include:
+Five Pillars of Islam
+Islam and Jesus
+Islam, Jews/Christians
+Islam and Violence
+Islamic State (ISIS)

Participants will:
+Explore and learn
+Listen to Muslims  
   sharing their life and
+Meet Muslim neighbors
   now living in Little

Register by sending name, address, phone number with $10 payment by Feb. 14th to:
Clara Stang, Osf
116 8th Ave SE
Little Falls, MN 56345

Questions call: 320-492-3092 (S. Clara)

Department of Social Concerns
Catholic Charities
of the Diocese of St. Cloud
Winter Newsletter 2017

Yes, it is your Social Concerns team again sharing our work with you and sharing what we hope will be helpful in your parishes! As I said before, you will be receiving our newsletter more often this year and we'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

I would like to call your attention to three events we have information about in this newsletter.  Please, please take advantage of the wonderful and inspiring  offerings.  We are a small office and want to give all of you and your social ministry committees good resources to use and wonderful events to attend.  We need you to let your parishes know about them and ask your friends to participate with you! (Oh, and come yourself, too!)
Here they are:
  1. Lenten Small Groups for your parish are being encouraged by Bishop Kettler this year.  A recent article in the Visitor featured the background of these small groups, details of small group leader training, and the two major diocesan events with the theme: Missionary Disciples: Witnesses of God's Love.  Read the article here and get your parish involved.  The small groups lead participants to social action and are a wonderful educational tool for your social ministry groups.
  2. Fr. Virgil Petermeier, a Crosier priest, has been working in the area of interfaith dialogue for years, and is well connected with the Muslim community in our diocese.  He and the members of his group have perfected their format for this dialogue and wants to work with you and your parishes.  Bishop Kettler calls the way they do this work, a "best practice for the diocese" and all you need to do is call or email Fr. Virgil.  Please read more about this below in "Invitation to Interfaith Conversations at Your Parish".
  3. The annual JRLC Day on the Hill, on Thursday, February 23, will be another great state-wide advocacy day and we are again taking a bus!  Please join us!  We will learn more about our Minnesota safety net programs and speak to our legislators about them.  I love this day to learn more and share my thoughts with legislators, especially when I have others with me!  Will you join us?  We need our bus full! Please let us know if you are coming and we will schedule an appointment with your legislators and make it easier for you!  You will find registration information below.

You will also be reading about our Rural Life Leadership Development Initiative below.  I hope you find ideas to work on in your own parishes and communities.  The work that JoAnn and Doug are doing is amazing!  We are so blessed to have them  in this effort to make Catholic social teaching come alive in our diocese!  Thanks JoAnn and Doug!  


Thanks to you too!  Your work does make the world a better, more peace filled place to live!





Upcoming Event:
February 23, 2017
JRLC Day on the Hill 
for Social Concerns Advoca t es

Register Now!       
Each year the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC) chooses issues that participants will focus on as they go to lobby their elected representatives. Participants will have appointments set up with legislators as well as position papers handed out to them before the day begins, in order to be fully prepared. This year we will be learning about Minnesota's safety net programs.

This event is open to everyone, no previous knowledge necessary. It is like Legislative Advocacy 101!
Transportation will be provided from the St. Cloud area.
When: Thursday, February 23, 2017
Meet: in parking lot of Shopko West (4161 2nd St. S, St. Cloud)
Depart: load at 6:00 am and leave by 6:15 am
Return: Time TBD based on appointments with legislators. Will 
return to St. Cloud no later than 6:00 pm.
Once you register, if you would like to join Social Concerns on the bus to St. Paul, please let us know by contacting:
Rachel Gabelman, Social Concerns Intern
or by phone, (320) 650-1657
*Please also indicate whether you would like us to make your appointment with your legislator or if you would prefer to make your own. If you are riding with us and will be making your own appointment, please schedule it between 12 pm - 1:30 pm.
Invitation to Dialogue
Invitation from 
the St. Cloud Interfaith Dialogue Group
Rev Virgil Petermeier OSC 
Crosier Community of Onamia 
P.O. Box 500
Onamia, MN 56359-0500
Email -
Tlp - 480-747-0906
December 21, 2016
To the Parish Social Concerns Leaders
On behalf of the St. Cloud Interfaith Dialogue Group, we would like to offer our services to the Parishes of St. Cloud and rural areas to further our understanding and dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters.
In order to facilitate the dialogue with our own parishes, we would like to invite the Social Concerns/Ministry Leaders of our Parishes  to attend a meeting in the near future.  At this time we will respond to your concerns and questions about relating with Somalis, their faith and culture. We will clarify the preparations needed for a helpful parish gathering.  The parishes would plan the structure of the meeting and the Dialogue Group would be glad to assist with speakers, design of flyers, and media information.
Please respond to this letter with your concerns or topics you would like us to address.  Let us know whether your parish would be interested in attending a preparatory gathering with the St. Cloud Muslim-Christian Interfaith Dialogue Group.
In God's love,
Fr. Virgil Petermeier OSC

Rural Life Leadership Development
Phase 2
News from the Western Region
by JoAnn Braegelman , Rural Life Coordinator
Things are really shaping up in the western region of the diocese with the Rural Life Leadership Development Initiative! The parish social ministry teams, developed through our third cohort of training, are taking a foothold in their respective parishes and are showing great momentum in a variety of issues within their communities.  The projects they are working on include initiating  a home visit ministry, transportation, an international fundraising effort and a series of workshops on mental health awareness. 

It is so gratifying to see the months of training coming to fruition through tangible Works of Mercy in these communities. Trying to reach out and help those living on the fringes can feel so overwhelming but these leadership teams are a perfect example of how working together can create positive change! Their efforts are at the beginning stages but it is clear that each of these teams is committed to making a difference and that these communities will be reaping the benefits long into the future.

We have now successfully completed three rounds of training sessions with three groups or cohorts as we refer to them.  After we complete the last session for each cohort, the Social Concerns staff reviews and refines each of the teaching sessions in order to improve upon what we do and to provide better opportunities for learning and personal growth for the participants.  Our hope is to streamline the training sessions to make it easier for participants to commit to the effort.

With that in mind, we are now working on expanding the Rural Life Leadership Development Initiative to the northwestern region of the diocese! This will be the fourth cohort for this Initiative!  We have spoken with pastors about bringing the training sessions to certain parishes in that region and are hoping to get started in February.  We are looking forward to working with the people in that region of the diocese!

Social issues and the people involved are unique to each community as are the ways we approach each of them.  Rest assured the training offered through the Social Concerns office and the Rural Life Leadership Development Initiative is comprehensive and gives our participants a well-rounded foundation that equips them to deal with whatever they encounter!

Keep watching this newsletter to see the progress of this effort!

Rural Life Leadership Development
Phase 3
Backpack Effort Reaches A Crossroads
By Doug Scott, Community Organizer
Last year, the Rural Life Coordinator for the eastern region, in collaboration with the Onamia cluster parish social ministry team, worked with staff from Onamia and Isle elementary schools to begin a supplemental food program for children in need called a 'backpack food program.'  Backpack programs have become best practice around the state and the nation to provide food to students who experience food insecurity at home.  Currently, there are hundreds of similar programs here in Minnesota.

In 2015, generous funders in central Minnesota provided nearly $20,000 in grant dollars to purchase food for the program.  Here's how it works: vegetables, cereals, energy bars and other low prep/no prep foods purchased through Second Harvest North Central are shipped to Family Pathways food shelf in Onamia once a month.  Volunteers bring the food to Onamia and Isle elementary schools where Margaret Hitzeman in Onamia and Jen Honek in Isle gather additional volunteers to bag the food into portions able to be carried in students' backpacks.  Every Friday, bags are delivered to classrooms and teachers place the bags into the backpacks of participating students.  Currently approximately 40 Isle and 60 Onamia students receive bags. The program is free and open to all students who qualify for free lunch.

Soon the team will be gathering to discuss the future of the program.  If the effort is to continue for a third year and beyond, renewed funding will need to be secured.  During the discussions, volunteers will brainstorm on other ways to provide similar relief.  For example, would a 'food room' at each school with open access to all children provide food to children who need it most?  Would an emergency food delivery program to children without adequate food be another way to stem hunger at home?  Perhaps it is a combination of these efforts.
What ever the final solution, these dedicated volunteers and generous funders, committed to feeding hungry kids, definitely deserve some extra credit!

If you are interested in starting a backpack program at your school or if you'd like more information on the efforts in Isle and Onamia, email Doug Scott at

To learn more and to chart the progress of the initiative, follow our Facebook page at #BuildingCommunitiesEmpoweringFamilies.

Update on Community Building Effort 
in Northern Mille Lacs County
By Doug Scott, Community Organizer
This past September, the Social Concerns Department of Catholic Charities in partnership with the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, began an effort to build community in northern Mille Lacs County.  Titled 'Building Community/Empowering Families, northern Mille Lacs County' the initiative aims to bring together residents from Vineland, Onamia, Wahkon and Isle to meet, network, learn and take action on issues of shared concern.
Thanks to generous support from The Initiative Foundation, Catholic Campaign for Human Development and The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, residents will gather three times from December '16 through February '17 to share a light meal and participate in learning sessions by Jodi Pfarr on diversity, Roxanne DeLille on cultural awareness and Louis Johnston on the local economy. Following these sessions, Mary Jo Wimmer will lead participants through three evenings of community action where they can name, prioritize and act on issues of shared concern.
The formal sessions will end with the last of the community action meetings on April 20 th.   Then issue-specific committees will continue to meet on their own to complete the work designated to them and to continue the discussion on challenges and opportunities present in the area.
To learn more and to chart the progress of the initiative, follow our Facebook page at

Kathy Langer
Directer of Social Concerns

          Doug Scott                                                                   JoAnn Braegelman
                       Community Organizer                                Rural Life Coordinator, Western Region

Rachel Gabelman
Social Concerns CCHD Intern