Together We Serve

With your help, Catholic Social Services is Saving Lives and Building Futures

Will you be Robin’s lifeline?

Robin spent her early years in the foster system, never staying long in one place. She had no family, few connections and was short on trust. She was now a teenager.

When Robin first met Kathy, her Catholic Social Services’ mentor, she was withdrawn and distrustful. Kathy was just another face of the system.

But when someone is cared for by CSS, they become part of the family.

Kathy was different. She checked-in with Robin each week for months. She left care packages and food baskets on her doorstep without demanding a conversation. She showed Robin that she wasn’t going anywhere. She wouldn’t abandon her, or, be pushed away.

At the height of the pandemic CSS received a donation which allowed us to buy cellphones for vulnerable young people. Kathy immediately thought of Robin, who could never afford a phone of her own.

At first Robin resisted. In Robin’s world gifts always came with strings attached. But Kathy insisted. She came to Robin’s door with the phone in hand and didn’t leave until she had taken it.

A few days later a message appeared on Kathy’s screen:

I need help.”

Kathy responded:

I am here for you. How can I help?”

For the first time in her life Robin could trust. She called Kathy and cried. She told Kathy about the pain, about the loneliness, about the lack of hope. Then she cried some more.

Robin told Kathy she wanted to give up. She wasn’t sure she could keep living. Kathy was calm. She helped Robin build a safety plan. They went to the hospital together and waited until a mental health professional could see her.

When Robin returned to the waiting room Kathy’s was the first face she saw, and Kathy saw a new person.

Robin smiled and asked Kathy to go for lunch. And, as they broke bread together, the walls came down. For the first time Robin shared her whole story. It was full of disappointment and despair but Robin still had dreams. She wanted to go back to school, get her diploma, and get her life in order.

Kathy sat and listened. When Robin was done, she told her, “You can do all of those things and more. We will help you.”

Today, thanks to Kathy and CSS, Robin is on her way to building the life of her dreams.

Over the past two years, thousands of vulnerable people have peered over the precipice of despair. Catholic Social Services has been their lifeline.

As we pick ourselves up after these past two years many lives remain scarred, many spirits remain broken. But CSS remains committed to serve. Please help us ensure we can answer the call when people need us the most.

Your donation to Together We Serve supports vulnerable people like Robin – today, tomorrow and beyond.


With your help, St. Joseph’s College is Growing Faith and Shaping Catholic Leaders

  • Alexis was moving away from her tiny hometown where everyone knew everyone to a city where she knew almost no one. But she did know where to find a home on campus.
  • Rielle came from a strong Catholic home and had an active faith life but it was time to figure out who she was and what it meant to be Catholic – apart from her family.
  • Larissa was looking for a place to live on campus. A friend suggested SJC but Larissa was concerned about the faith-focus: “Do I need to be more Catholic to live there?”  
  • Éamonn was a self-described “Chreaster”* Catholic and heard about SJC “mostly by accident.” He moved into the men’s residence in his second year – with no expectations.

The university years are an exciting time for young adults, as they begin to explore their world and learn more about themselves. But it is also a time when many Catholic parents watch helplessly as their children abandon their family’s beliefs and faith practices. It doesn’t have to be that way. St. Joseph College, a Together We Serve beneficiary, offers a unique Catholic community in the heart of the University of Alberta campus where young adults – whether believers or seekers – can learn, grow and thrive.

Alexis
Alexis

Alexis had helped her older sister move into Kateri House, SJC’s new residence for women, a few years earlier and wanted the same kind of community when it was her turn to venture out. “We are like a family here; we take care of each other and help each other figure out life in general.”

Rielle also found what she was looking for at Kateri House. “I was really attracted to living in a vibrant community in the heart of campus, supported by a faith community,” says Rielle. “It was more than just a place to live. It was being part of a community, surrounded by brilliant academics and kind, caring, compassionate individuals, mentors, and role models who cared about me as a person.”

Larissa
Larissa

Unlike Alexis and Rielle, Larissa was not initially attracted to the Catholic connection. “It scared me at first,” she says. But her fears were soon put to rest. “I was looking for something that would help me get connected and be part of something,” said Larissa. “At St. Joe’s, I was part of this bigger community where I made a lot of friends – in fact, all of my university friends!”

In the fall of 2021, Éamonn expected another year of online classes but instead found himself scrambling for a place to live. “My uncle mentioned to me that St. Joe’s had a men’s residence. I applied and they took me in.” Not knowing what to expect, he was immediately struck by the closeness of the community. “Living with guys all going through the same thing, you can build really strong friendships as you build your faith together. I regret not coming here my first year!”

While we might think that young adults slowly drift away from their Catholic faith when they leave home, the reality is that many simply stop going to mass immediately. SJC makes it easy to stay involved. “When you move away from your family – and mom is not waking you up for church – suddenly it’s all on you,” says Alexis. Éamonn agrees: “In my first year, I would often justify not going to church by saying it was far away. Here, it is literally down the stairs.” But it’s more than just convenience. “Going to mass at SJC was the first time I wanted to go to mass, for me,” says Larissa.

Rielle

“SJC helps young adults away from home for the first time figure out what it means to be Catholic,” says Rielle. “SJC is a great place to learn the faith without pressure,” adds Larissa. “They give you the tools to find out for yourself.” Those tools include an active Catholic Students’ Association that offers weekly groups, like Alpha and Bible studies, along with retreats and other non-academic opportunities to experience and grow in the faith. On the academic side, the college offers over 70 credit courses open to students of all faiths – or no faith – that explore the unity of Faith and Reason.

Residents are not required to take SJC courses but many do. When Larissa came to the University of Alberta to study engineering she had no intention of taking courses at SJC. “I was getting into arguments with an atheist friend and realized I didn’t know the answers to his questions,” she explains. “I took my first course, Intro to Science and Religion Dialogue, which gave me more foundation to my faith.” Seven courses later, the erstwhile engineering-student graduated from Arts this spring – with a major in psychology and a minor in Christian theology.

Alexis also found inspiration at SJC for the direction her life will take after graduation. “Being surrounded by people who share my values, I realized that I want to teach in a Catholic school.” Toward that end, Alexis just completed the SJC Certificate in Catholic Education, which is recognized as a hiring asset by a growing number of Catholic school boards in Alberta.

Rielle & Matthew
Rielle & Mathew

A third-year political science student, Éamonn took his first SJC course “for the GPA [grade point average],” but has learned to value the relationship between faith and his chosen major. “My politics are very informed by my religion,” he says. “I am more confident in saying, ‘this is what I believe.’”

Éamonn also changed his approach to life after just one year at SJC. “I’ve re-prioritized,” he says. “Before it was mostly career and fun. Now, I’m working towards marriage. With 50 guys [in residence] and 250 women, there’s a good opportunity to make a Catholic marriage!” he says with a laugh.

Rielle is a case in point. In July, she will marry Mathew, in a wedding mass celebrated by Father Glenn McDonald, a former SJC chaplain.

“We met at SJC. Mathew transferred to UofA in his third year and lived in the men’s residence. We were both elected to the Catholic Students’ Association and became fast friends. Five years later, we were engaged.”

This Catholic “power couple” – Rielle a future lawyer, Mathew a future doctor – credits SJC and their shared Catholic faith with not only enabling them to meet but for giving them a solid foundation for their life together.

When you give to Together We Serve, you are helping young Catholics like Alexis, Éamonn, Larissa, and Rielle, grow in their faith during a formative time of life when many young people turn away from their family’s beliefs and practices. St. Joseph’s College needs your support to continue growing faith and shaping tomorrow’s Catholic leaders.

Visit www.caedm.ca/togetherweserve to give today.

*Chreaster = Catholics who go to Mass primarily at Christmas and Easter.


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