Social Concerns Newsletter
Spring 2017
A Note from Kathy Langer

Exciting things are filling our spring at the Social Concerns Department of Catholic Charities! 

First of all, we are adding to our staff, which means adding to our ability to serve those who are on the margins!  Our board and leadership have decided to create positions for an Immigrant Community Organizer/Outreach Coordinator and a Refugee Community Organizer/Outreach Coordinator to work with the respective populations, identifying needs and assets, and to act as bridge builders to the larger local communities across the diocese. This will mean more opportunities for education and communication across cultures.  It also means more help from our office to grow in cultural awareness and bridge building. We are in the process of filling the positions and getting to work!  Please pray for us in this new endeavor!

Preparation is underway for the annual Diocesan Rural Life Celebration happening in Belgrade this year.  Please mark your calendars for Sunday, August 13 at 11:00 am and join in the wonderful summer get-together to celebrate the gift of God's creation and the treasure of our rural communities.  You will be hearing more about our celebration in the coming months. Watch for our emails!

Well, that is enough from me.  Now its time for you to move on to the rest of this newsletter and hear from our staff members, Rachel Gabelman and Doug Scott.  Also note the other upcoming events, educational opportunities/events and resources for your parishes.  I know that you will find kernels of wisdom and reasons for hope as you read their work and dream about what you can do!

Surely He has risen and is among us!  Yes, even today we see and sense this Presence.  Our job is to live like we truly do believe.  That is, to live ALLELUIA!  

Wishing you Easter blessings,

In This Issue
Participants from one of the circles lean
 in to listen and share stories.
Second Circles of Understanding Sparks Hope for Participants
By Rachel Gabelman, Social Concerns CCHD Intern

On March 26, the St. Cloud Area Faith Leaders (a group that Bishop Kettler initiated) convened the second Circles of Understanding event. With an array of Christians from several denominations present alongside Muslims, it was an incredible opportunity to openly and safely discuss the hopes and concerns in the community.  The following questions framed our time together:

What is your dream for this community?
What is it in you that blocks possible success of this dream?
What is a gift you bring to help make it happen?

Next, naming the daily reality of what many in the area are experiencing,  Jama Alimad, a local Muslim elder, shared about the escalation of fear around the increased harassment toward Muslim in recent months. Afterward, we closed with two rounds of sharing on the following:

Name a time, recently, when you stood up for someone.
Name a time, recently, when you wish you would have stood up for someone.

In a gesture to solidify our discussion and insights, we wrote on a card the gift we named would be helpful in making our dream possible. On the opposite side, we wrote our commitment to truly live into the change we discussed in our circle. As an example, on the first side I wrote "non-jud gmental," which is a gift that I try to truly cherish and actively refine all the time. For me, being a non-judgmental presence means being open to the variety of ways people choose to think, act, and live without imposing my own framework of my habits, or worldview, or religion onto another's liv ed experience. The opposite side reads "pay attention." This goes hand in hand with being non-judgmental, for it is easy to refrain from judgment when one is unattached and disengaged. But to truly engage, means paying attention to notice the ways the present moment is calling me to stand in solidarity or stand up for someone who could use an extra voice.

The feedback from participants included overwhelming gratitude for the opportunity to connect with their fellow community members and share intentional conversations. Many stated that their desire to do something like this is present, but it is helpful to have someone facilitate it. The participants left eager to share the insights and shared discoveries with those in their social circles who were not able to be at the event. It is exciting to imagine the way each circle that convened will send ripples out to the broader community, touching more and more lives with the common themes that arose. I included the questions we used in case it sparks ideas for you to build similar intentional conversations in your communities. If you would like assistance in how to plan these more in depth, let us know how we, at Catholic Charities' Social Concerns Department can help. 

Facilitator Mary Jo Wimmer looks on as one committee explores the action steps they plan to take on the issue of diversity and working together.
Community Action Wraps Up Third Phase of Rural Life Leadership Development Initiative 
By Doug Scott, Community Organizer

The effort, Building Community/Empowering Families, for Northern Mille Lacs County has wrapped up the third and final action phase. During the first session participants went through a series of exercises to name key issues they wanted to address in their community.  Using 9 characteristics of healthy communities as their guide, 45 men and women representing Vineland, Onamia, Wahkon and Isle ranked how well their communities fared in such areas as leadership, arts and leisure and diversity. Then they participated in a game-show style "community quiz" to test their knowledge in these areas. Surprisingly, most groups fared poorly (including mine!) in choosing correct answers to questions such as "across all age groups, what is the most common activity in the region?" (The answer is "dining out.")

The second action session was held on Thursday, April 6th at the Chiminising community center in Isle. There participants moved from naming to prioritizing issues and then into 3 action-specific committees. The third and final session happened on Thursday, April 20 at Eddy's in Onamia. At this session participants created a plan of action and received instructions on how to mobilize their efforts. They also received measurable techniques to show how much progress was made on each issue.
Stay tuned for a summary report after the final effort. 
This program is a partnership between the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and Catholic Charities Social Concerns Department and is funded in part by the Initiative Foundation and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development.  

Read more in an article from the Mille Lacs Messenger.

This tiny house on the property of St. John's Episcopal Church is the home to Dave, a member of the St. Cloud Coalition for Homeless Men.
Local Church Sticks Up for Gospel Imperative to House Homeless
By Rachel Gabelman, Social Concerns CCHD Intern

In the summer of 2015, a tiny house built by Willmar high-school students, was hauled onto the property of St. John's Episcopal Church in St. Cloud. Given originally to the St. Cloud Coalition for Homeless Men to house its member, Dave, who had been vetted and chosen by the coalition to be its resident, the tiny house was transferred to the property and care of St. John's. For the past year and a half, Dave has made the tiny house his home, but not without protest by the city. Under the arrangement for Dave to remain in the house, it did not meet the size requirements for a permanent residence. In addition, the short time-constraints one is permitted to live in a recreational vehicle (as it does have wheels) expired in mere weeks. Thus the tiny house falls outside the parameters for existing zoning laws. On the other hand, the immediate community greeted Dave with incredible warmth. One neighbor even welcomed him to the neighborhood with zucchini bread. He states that "everything has gone really well," and continues to do so. 
The Church sees itself as a missional church, Rev. George Ham told me when I visited St. John's to see the tiny house for myself. Addressing the issue of homelessness is a particular mission the church has. "We're not the church that says okay the fifth Sunday loose money in the collection plate is going to the homeless. We're the church that says you have to sit down and listen to these people and hear their stories. You have to recognize that there is as much of Jesus inside of them as everyone else. We are as obligated to helping them as we are to helping ourselves," Ham stated. Their community gathering space, which was lined with an exhibit titled Voices of Homelessness courtesy of United Way made their mission blatantly evident. It included several large posters detailing the stories of local homeless individuals, a project conducted by St. Cloud State University students. Not part of the exhibit, but displayed at the very end, was a letter, written by Alisa, a local homeless woman who benefited from other outreach initiatives of St. John's, including Fun Days and Laundry Love.  The letter expressed deep and heartfelt gratitude. It reads, "there are many churches who help us but at your church we are really made to feel at home." 
Though it is just one way St. John's has responded to the needs of homeless individuals, the tiny house has become one of the most prominent symbols of their witness to the Gospel. A local landmark, the house is recognized by several folks in the community who revere the Church's tenacity to insist upon practicing their faith within the bounds of their property. This insistence is taking shape as they are in the midst of a lawsuit with the city over their refusal to get rid of the tiny house and its long-term residence, Dave. In particular, Gray Plant Mooty, the church's legal representation in the case, is appealing to the Religious Land Use Act in the hopes that the city will agree. Rev. Ham and Dave both agree, that since moving into the tiny house, Dave has benefited greatly. Having a place to live was merely the first step toward better living. Being plugged into the community is also helpful in order for Dave to be intentional as he considers his future. These positive changes that stability and relationships offer are immeasurable. 
Although the topic of homelessness can polarize conversations, St. John's is unafraid to boldly stand in recognition of the dignity of persons who are homeless, even when it rubs against the grain of city zoning regulations. The actions of St. John's Church cause us all to ask ourselves, "How do I stand my ground in the face of controversy or disagreement?" and "Where are the opportunities for my spiritual and emotional growth when it comes to people who are homeless and/or struggling to make ends meet?"

With Sadness:

A member of our Social Concerns family, JoAnn Braegelman, recently experienced the death of her husband Marvin, after a long, courageous battle with cancer.  Please join in offering prayers and love to her and her family.  

Holy Anger and Renewing Commitments
By Rachel Gabelman, Social Concerns CCHD Intern

In order to be passionately involved in advocating for justice, there is no prerequisite that we must have lived a difficult life or experienced grave injustices ourselves. For some, personal experience paired with resilience does indeed serve as our entry point. But for others, empathy and a deep capacity for listening to the stories of others' hardships act as a catalyst for putting our social concerns into action. Integral to developing both resilience and empathy is holy anger - something I presume all who are committed to advancing the social mission of the church hold in common.

Senseless acts of violence such as bullying, racial discrimination, imposing division within immigrant families, human trafficking and several others that persist around our diocese should incense and outrage us! Allowing our anger to go unchecked, we can be tempted to react with counter-violence in the face of such evils. But holy anger is that which is propelled by the offense we take, but moves into life-giving measures rather than destructive. I recently offered a reflection on Jesus' example of this on Palm Sunday - when one of his followers cut off the ear of the Roman soldier, he renounced this act of counter-violence and yet remained there to resist the violence embedded in the empire.  For those of us involved in Social Concerns around the diocese, we are called to remain in the tough places of conflict, stand up for the most vulnerable among us, and resist the injustices that promote division, chaos, and dehumanization. Holy anger drives us to seek reverence for all persons, unity in our diversity, and wholeness in Jesus' name. 
In this Easter season - after having just renewed our Baptismal promises - rejecting the works and empty promises of Satan, let us take this opportunity to consider the concrete ways we must reject and resist evil. What issues seem the most pressing to you right now? Where will you devote the most energy to restoration? Notice that who and what we proclaim to believe is so much more robust than what we oppose and reject. Which beliefs sustain you in the work that you do? Keep those in the forefront to prevent burnout. 
Consider using this Pledge of Nonviolence, written by Fr. John Dear, to further renew your commitment to live out your baptismal call:
In the name of the God of peace and nonviolent Jesus,  I pledge today to live, practice and teach the nonviolence of Jesus,
to renounce violence and to non-cooperate with the world's violence;
to love every one as my sister and brother;
to respond with love and not to retaliate with violence;
to forgive those who have hurt me and reconcile with everyone;
to accept suffering as I work for justice, rather than inflict further suffering;
to live more simply, at one with all creation;
to work with others for the abolition of war, poverty, nuclear weapons, global 
warming and all violence;
to follow the nonviolent Jesus on the way of the cross into the new life of
resurrection, knowing that my life is in God's hands, that life, love and
peace  are stronger than death, hatred and war;
to seek God's reign of nonviolence for the rest of my life;
and to promote and teach the Gospel message of nonviolence.

May the God of peace give me the grace and strength to fulfill this pledge and make me an instrument of God's peace. Amen.
Please let us know if those of us in the Department of Social Concerns can help you in anyway to identify opportunities for to live out your Baptismal promises .
Upcoming Events:
Christina Lamas
Diocesan V Encuentro
September 24, 9:00 am - 7 pm 
Rivers' Edge Convention Center 
St. Cloud, MN

Keynote Speaker Christina Lamas is executive director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry. 

9:00     Exhibits Open/Continental Breakfast
10:00   Morning Prayer and Welcome
10:30   Keynote Address
11:15   Circle Conversations
Noon   Exhibits/Lunch
1:00     Large Group Process
1:45     Working Groups/Address
3:00     Mass
4:00     Exhibits/Dismissal
5:00     Dinner on Own
7:00     Exhibits/Concert

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano
Diocesan Ministry Day
September 25, 7:30 am - 4 pm 
Rivers' Edge Convention Center 
St. Cloud, MN

Keynote Speaker Bishop Frank J. Caggiano is bishop of Bridgeport, Connecticut. 
7:30     Continental Breakfast/Regisration Exhibits
8:45     Welcome & Prayer - Bishop Donald Kettler
9:00     Keynote - Bishop Frank Caggiano
10:15   Learning Sessions
11:30   Mass - Bishop Donald Kettler
12:45   Buffet Lunch/Exhibits
2:00     Core Sessions (90-minute session)
4:00     Close

Educational Opportunity:
Interested in bringing a presentation on human trafficking to your parish or community? 

Catholics and Human Trafficking, the Modern Slavery

The Multicultural office with the Diocese of St Cloud will offering, upon request, training on Human Trafficking from September to November 2017 in English and Spanish around the diocese.
This is an initiative to support the efforts of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Amistad movement; a call to fight human trafficking which is an affront to human dignity.

What could we do at local, state, national and global levels as Catholics to stop human trafficking?  Be part of the training and become a community Educator.

Participants will:
  • Know the History of the Amistad Movement
  • Know the Catholic response to Human Trafficking
  • Define Human trafficking and the different modalities
  • TVPA Protective Laws
  • Explore where human trafficking is taking place
  • Identify possible indicators of human trafficking
  • Who are the victims
  • Examine strategies and best practices to avoid human trafficking
  • Provide resources
  • Learn about Terebinth Refuge and services
For more information, contact the Multicultural Ministries Office, Diocese of St Cloud, MN
Mayuli Bales

*Note:  For those of you who were at the Mission Rally, this presentation would be modeled after what you heard there. For those who weren't able to make it, feel free to contact Mayuli for more details about the content.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc (CLINIC) recently developed a new guide to engage your community on immigration issues and help newcomers feel welcome. Included are reflections to help with discernment, ways to help, and a pop quiz to assess how welcoming your community currently is. 

Recommended Articles:
Read about the experiences of immigrants and refugees across the United States. 

Giancarlo Salinas talks with a parishoner after a presentation at St. Mary of Mount Carmel in Long Prairie (Photo by Dianne Towalski/The Visitor)
Read about the efforts of the Mexican consulate to educate immigrants on their rights across the diocese.

Job Openings:

The Department of Social Concerns is now hiring for three positions. Do you know of anyone who would be a good fit to serve as next year's CCHD Intern? Or as the Rural Life Coordinator for the Eastern Region of the Diocese? We are also looking to hire an Immigrant Community Organizer/Outreach Coordinator.

Visit our Employment Website to read the job descriptions. Please feel free to share the applications for these three positions with anyone you know who would be interested in applying.
Contact us:

Kathy Langer
Director of Social Concerns

JoAnn Braegelman
Rural Life Coordinator, Western Region

Doug Scott
Community Organizer

Rachel Gabelman
Social Concerns CCHD Intern