With a chosen theme of “Strengthening the Fabric of Our Families” for 2018, the members of the Catholic Women in Action Giving Circle of The Catholic Foundation awarded $120,000 in grants April 26 to nine local nonprofits that focus on helping children and families.
Winning the top awards of $20,000 were Mercy Family Center, Padua House and Create a Clean Heart Committee.
“This will let us keep seeing the children whose parents really can’t pay for it,” said Mercy Sister Sarah Ducey, Ph.D., co-founder of Mercy Family Center, of the tutoring services her ministry offers at three locations.
Niki Garner, administrator of Padua House, also received grant money for the first time and will use it toward a $65,000 bus.
“That’s a lot,” she said about the $20,000 grant. “It is going to offset our costs for a new bus that we need with certain specifications to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers.”
Four recipients of $12,000 grants were two programs of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans – Isaiah 43 and Cornerstone Builders – and Boys Town Louisiana and Margaret’s Hope.
“We are so pleased that we were one of the nominated nonprofits,” said Darrell Johnson, development director of Boys Town Louisiana. He said the money will be used for a new program called “On the Way Home” that helps ensure that the path the boys take while at Boys Town continues when they return home. “We want to make sure that all those values and good lessons are still utilized.”
Catholic Charities’ Adoption Services and the Archdiocesan Spirituality Center each received $6,000.
Community need is great
The Catholic Foundation’s Josephine Everly said the Celebration Mass and Breakfast is the culmination of three Catholic Women in Action Giving Circle events held each spring. Fifty-two organizations within the archdiocese applied for grant money this year.
Members of the circle learned about the organizations at a kickoff Mass and luncheon March 21. Each member voted for her five favorite organizations after the organizations made presentations, and the field for prospective grant was narrowed to the top 10 organizations.
Nine organizations were invited to give brief presentations at a Sip and Learn for members April 4 the St. Katharine Drexel Chapel at Xavier University. Father Sidney Speaks, parochial vicar of St. Matthew the Apostle, celebrated Mass. Members then voted for their top five organizations.
As with all Catholic Women in Action events, April 26 began with a Mass at Notre Dame Seminary Chapel celebrated by Father Joe Krafft, followed by a breakfast and the awards presentation in Schulte Hall. Father Krafft referenced the Gospel reading about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples as an example that Christians are called to serve, not to be served.
“I believe this group gathered today truly is a gift of the community, who washes the feet of others,” Father Krafft said.
He said the laity today can no longer just be participants in the life of the church. They must be “co-responsible for the activities of the church.” He hoped they would be renewed and strengthened as they continued God’s work in the church and by doing their part to change people’s lives in the community.
Christ to others
The Catholic Women in Action Giving Circle seeks to “promote philanthropy that empowers women, compels action and glorifies God.” Its beauty involves more than donating money. Members share their faith at every event and visit the grant recipients to discover all the wonderful work being done by nonprofits in the community. Many become volunteers at the different organizations, so both the members and the organization benefit.
“It’s a wonderful endeavor,” said Jane Nalty, one of this year’s circle co-chairs. “We tried to get people from the across the city interested. Not only do we give this money, we go in buses (in the fall) and visit. … It’s a way of educating people to appreciate what’s going on in the community. It’s a good organization.”
In approximately four years, the circle’s philanthropy has been close to $400,000.
“This really is such a celebration, especially this year in our 300th celebration as a city,” The Catholic Foundation executive director Cory Howat said. The Catholic Foundation, through the archbishop’s inspiration, chose the theme “intertwined” to show “how our faith is deeply intertwined into the culture in our society in this city of ours. … What the foundation does is really a reflection, a mirror of what you do. … We have to claim the times we intertwined our faith and the community, and the Women’s Giving Circle is obviously that in a deep way.”
Howat gave credit to the members as women of faith who discern together “as a sisterhood of philanthropy” whose impact is what makes this city different.
“It’s what makes us (Catholic church) different. … It’s faith that brings us together and action. It’s beautiful to be a part of and watch the intentional discernment that makes a difference in the lives of others.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.