Catholic Charities : Diocese of Des Moines
November 2011

November 23, 2011

By Trish Radke, Public Relations & Fundraising Event Coordinator at Catholic Charities in the Des Moines Diocese.


At Catholic Charities, we rank DIGNITY as the number one thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. What does dignity "look like" to the clients we serve?  I asked our dedicated and passionate staff to articulate this about the services we provide. Here are some of their heartfelt responses:



Dignity is a supportive home environment in the form of a homeless shelter for families. Last year, 288 people found shelter at St. Joseph Emergency Family Shelter and nearly 60% were children.


Dignity is a place to go for food when a job loss or illness prevents you from feeding your family. Last year, an average of 78 new families each month received a supplemental food box at St. Mary Family Center.


Dignity is providing compassionate support to women and families facing a troubled pregnancy and assisting them to make decisions on behalf of the child that they all can live with.

Last year, A New Beginning Adoption & Pregnancy Counseling provided support to 81 women, birth fathers and their families.


Dignity is access to professional guidance in working through life’s challenges no matter what your circumstance or income.

Nearly 800 new clients received professional counseling last year through Catholic Charities Center for Life Counseling.


Dignity is a warm place, healthy food and an opportunity to be educated. Last year, 110 adults graduated from computer classes for Spanish-speaking adults offered by the Hispanic Community Outreach Program.


Dignity is support to chose a life free of violence and to let go of shame. Last year. the Phoenix House Domestic Violence Shelter & Sexual Abuse Program provided 7,654 nights of shelter to victims of abuse.


Dignity is a second chance to fulfill dreams in a safe country. More than 130 refugees, individuals forced to flee their homeland because of war, violence, or fear of persecution, will find a new home in Iowa through Refugee Resettlement.


Together, we can help lift people out of poverty with dignity.


Have a very happy Thanksgiving!


To learn more about these programs go to, call 515-237-5045 find us on facebook ( for regular updates.




Yesterday, I spoke with a young man named
November 18, 2011

Yesterday, I spoke with a young man named "Pablo Perez" who was deciding whether or not to skip school. When I asked him why he was going to skip school he said in a very matter of fact tone, "I have things I have to do". He further explained that he had to get to the bank and cash a check so he could get food for his family. 


I spoke to "Pablo" during a Poverty Simulation hosted by Catholic Charities and the Center for Social Ministry yesterday. "Pablo", whose real name is Tom Catus, a member of the West Des Moines Leadership Academy, had been assigned the "role" of a young man who should have been in school, but was put in a position where getting food for his family was the top priority.


It is difficult for those of us who have enough to truly understand the challenges that families living in poverty experience every day – the decisions they have to make, and the fears and frustrations they feel. Yesterday, Tom Catus (aka: Pablo Perez), along with a group of thirty leaders from the West Des Moines Leadership Academy, were challenged to experience life below the poverty line by participating in the simulation.


Here is how the simulation works. Participants assume the roles of different families facing poverty. Some are newly unemployed, some are recently deserted by the “breadwinner”, and others are receiving assistance—either with or without additional earned income. Others are disabled or senior citizens receiving social security while some families were recently forced out of their farming operation. The task of all the “families” is to provide for basic necessities and shelter during the course of four 15-minute weeks.


Why is the experience important? Because in order to help end poverty, we have to talk about and understand poverty. We have to understand that living in poverty is not only about not having financial resources, but also about lack of adequate health care, education or emotional resources.


Catholic Charities and the Center for Social Ministry invite you, your co-workers, your family and your friends, to join us in working to end poverty by participating in a Poverty Simulation on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 9am to Noon at the Catholic Pastoral Center in downtown Des Moines.


Held in conjunction with Catholic Charities annual No Room at the Inn poverty awareness event, the hands-on simulation will help you understand what it might be like to live in a low-income family trying to survive month to month.


I promise - it will have a profound effect on how you view people living in poverty.


A suggested donation of $15 helps to cover the cost to put on the simulation. Click here for details and registration information.




November 11, 2011

By Ken Bresnan, Parish Outreach Liaison


When a blogger starts with a title like that, one would wonder where he is going to go. Let’s find out.

Yesterday I was in a conversation with one of my coworkers and we were talking about the theme for this year’s annual No Room at the Inn events, “Together, we can help lift people out of poverty with dignity”.

Needless to say that sent my mind to wandering. Many of my interactions with the poor, similar to most people, are at least one step removed from personal contact with a person in need. We get involved with collections and donations. It has dawned on me that through those collections, we can truly help to raise people up with dignity.

Let me explain how I look at this. I have an old end table in my basement that my wife Rita and I don’t need. I could take it to one of our warehouses for use by one of our programs. But the more I look at it, I realize that I would be using this as a means for getting rid of a piece of junk more than an act of dignified charity. We have had that table for 40 years and it has not survived the raising of four children well. It is so beat up that I don’t even have it in the basement rec room but hidden in a storage area.

If I think that it would be ok for a person in poverty, am I really treating them with dignity? As Bishop Pates stressed in his sermon on centennial Sunday, “Each is entitled to be accorded the dignity consistent with his identity.” The danger here is that through my donations and actions I could be considering the person in need as a second class citizen. I believe that what Christ wants is for us to consider treating people with dignity, the exact same dignity that I want to be treated with. In summary, I wouldn’t want to be given that end table.

I had a new white dress shirt given to me last Christmas. Unfortunately the relative that sent it to me did not account for my ever increasing size. I remember actually having the thought, “It’s too good to give to the poor”. Again, an attitude that does not treat people with dignity.

Recently my wife insisted that I get a new pair of gym shorts for my workouts. The 1960ish pair that I had been wearing seemed to me to still be in good shape. I had been wearing them for a few decades and they held up pretty good. Would I want to receive a pair of gym shorts that someone wore for twenty years? No, it was beneath my dignity.

And finally I will mention a can of corn. My wife and I make a habit of on every weekly shopping trip we buy three extra canned goods for the monthly collection at our church. When I get canned corn for myself, I go with DelMonte. When I am shopping for those three cans, I see myself reaching for the generic brand. As you can see, having thoughts like this and some of the others that I mentioned can lead me down a path of looking at people in poverty as a different group, a sub class so to say.

Not a good way to think. In each of our actions we have to think of the end user as a person with same dignity that God has given each of us. This really wasn’t about an end table, a white shirt, a pair of gym shorts or a can of corn but about treating all people with dignity.

I would be delighted to hear from any in the reading audience about similar thoughts and experiences.

November 6, 2011

Today, thousands of people will flock to Des Moines to celebrate the diocese's 100th anniversary!


Catholic Charities is proud to take part in this celebration and thankful for the support and guidance of the diocese as we offer social services in central and southwest Iowa!



Catholic Charities was born in Diocese of Des Moines in 1924 as “the official head of all Catholic welfare agencies in the Diocese and the link of cooperation with all other welfare agencies” as stated by Most Rev. Thomas W. Drumm.



Since then, with the guidance and support of the diocese, Catholic Charities has evolved with the times offering programs, services and support in a professional, dignified and respectful atmosphere.



Catholic Charities is devoted to offering a helping hand as well as challenging those assumptions and systems that make it difficult for individuals to improve their lives. Guided by the Catholic Church, we offer help and hope to thousands of people of all faiths each year.


See you at the celebration!




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