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We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity may one day be restored.
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.
"They'll Know we are Christians" by Peter R. Scholtes
There are several definitions of the word Mercy. The one that resonates most for me is: compassionate treatment of those in distress; works of mercy among the poor.
As a nation, we have always had a healthy perspective on the plight of those who are struggling to receive help. Because of our work at Catholic Charities, we see oppression every day and understand why it is so important to look within our own borders to do what is right. It will always be from a place of more credibility to start from a place of right rather than might.
For us, mercy is more than empathy; it is forgiveness and compassion. It is treating someone with kindness when we might otherwise feel justified in doing the opposite. In this Year of Mercy, it is incumbent of us to look within ourselves and seek these things for ourselves as well as those around us. That is where we must start - finding some measure of peace within ourselves that allows us to find it in our relationships with others.
Remember the story of when Jesus fed the crowd of over 5,000 with just a few loaves of bread and fish? His disciples asked Jesus what they should do. Jesus's response was to feed them. Jesus did not ask the 12 what they had, but told them to give what they could. "Rabbi, there are so many, surely it won't be enough," was their response. "You provide what you have and I'll do the rest," was His answer. Our mercy is manifested in our faith and, like the 12, we are called to trust His answer to our need to forgive and be forgiven.
In this newsletter, you will read about Shawn, a young man who made some mistakes in his life, not unlike most of us except Shawn's were serious enough to result in a prison sentence. Through his own journey to find forgiveness, he is now getting a second chance to build his life. What that says about us is a reflection of his ability to forgive and accept his own forgiveness. Using the gifts God has provided and letting God lead him in life, love and learning bring about greater peace and joy. Today Shawn knows the value of being given a second chance, and it motivates him to use it to honor his Heavenly Father every day. Each of us has a Shawn in our life. How can we help provide mercy in their life?
May they know us by our love,
John C. Etling
Written by Ville Muttonen
Terre Haute is 5,000 miles from Finland, so I'm far away from my home. I came here for my last internship before graduating in December with a baccalaureate in Social Work. I used to work at a foster care home, so I thought Ryves Youth Center would be a good place to do my internship.
So why am I here at Ryves Youth Center? Two years ago some teachers and students from Indiana State University (ISU), who were visiting my school in Finland, spoke to my class about Ryves, and I learned a lot from their visit. I had always wanted to travel to the US and explore the culture, and after hearing them speak about Ryves, I decided to contact Catholic Charities directly.
During my 8-week internship I've learned much about how to work with at-risk youth and really create hope for those in need. The children here are similar to those back home in Lappeenranta, Finland. They need a lot of guidance and support, but the staff and volunteers at Ryves Youth Center are doing an important job. I've been amazed by the many activities Ryves offers to kids as well as the dedication of the volunteers. In Finland, we have similar youth centers, but they are not as big as Ryves and don't offer as many services. I've gained new friendships from both my co-workers and the kids. I think the kids had a lot of fun talking with me because I have a funny accent since English isn't my native language.
I think the best part of Ryves Youth Center is how much safety and security it provides children who possibly have insecurity at home. It gives the kids big smiles and allows them a place where they can just be kids.
During my internship I've learned much about the importance of volunteer work. When I get back home I will definitely do some kind of volunteer work with kids who need help. I recommend everyone to volunteer and donate if you are able because there always will be someone somewhere who needs help.
This 8-week training has been an awesome experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. Someday I will be back at Ryves Youth Center, because I want to see how the kids grow up and make a difference in their own community. I want to see my co-workers again too.
I thank Catholic Charities for this opportunity. I also thank my co-workers for their friendliness. Last, but not least, I thank the kids for how they made me feel welcome. I'm happy to go home, but at the same time I'm sad to leave here. Ryves will always have a piece of my heart.
Written by Jamie Judson
When I was a child, playing dolls with my sister was one of my greatest joys and now, as an adult, it is one of my most special memories. My little sister and I could spend all day playing dolls, just letting our imagination soar and our creativity fly. We always dreamed of a special dollhouse for our dolls; doesn't every little girl?
A truly extraordinary man from Terre Haute, Mr. Tony Jenkins, has been making this dream come true for little girls every Christmas for the past 5 years. Mr. Jenkins builds one-of-a-kind wooden dollhouses and then donates them to the Christmas Store. He spends countless hours meticulously hand-crafting the dollhouse all year long, making certain every little piece of furniture has its place, right down to making sure a little working clock on the wall is set to the correct time.
Once the dollhouse is built to perfection, he delivers it to the Christmas Store to be given away. Each year, we put the dollhouse in a drawing. Families can enter the drawing free-of-charge and one lucky little girl wins the dream of a lifetime. The dollhouse goes to a child Mr. Jenkins knows is in need of some Christmas magic, but one that he may never meet.
He is a true example of a generous heart; one that we all should strive to have, not just around Christmas, but all year long. Mr. Jenkins will no longer be able to make his beautiful dollhouses due to his heath, but the kindness and generosity he has shown to others over the years will be remembered for years and years to come. Thank you Mr. Tony Jenkins!
At Catholic Charities, we are blessed with God bringing to us the right people at just the right time. The Foodbank is blessed with a wonderful team of dedicated, hardworking staff and volunteers. With their help, we can keep going every day and, by God's grace, distribute 3 million pounds of food each year through our network of almost 100 agencies.
But this year, we have had a special need. The Foodbank facility, itself, has needed some loveand TLC for quite some time. We needed to do some repairs, cleaning and painting. Still, our staff, though mighty, is small and not all of them always know the difference between a Phillips and flat-head screwdriver, or sometimes, even which end to use.
One day, we had some volunteers from The Next Step Foundation Recovery House. The team was lead by Tony and, with the help from other guys in the group, they did a great job painting and cleaning, but we still had a lot of repairs left to make.
After thanking Tony for the great help they provided earlier that day, he offered their assistance anytime. Well, that opened an opportunity to talk about our need for someone who could perform some maintenance projects. Tony lit up, turned to his friend and roommate, Shawn, and then proclaimed, "I've got just the guy for you!"
As it turned out, Shawn is a skilled maintenance man, just the person we needed. But Shawn was hesitant because, even though he was, "very handy," we might not want him to work with us because he had just been released from prison for some non-violent offenses.
After considerable review and evaluation, our Agency Director and human resources made the heartfelt and merciful judgment to give Shawn a chance to work with us and offer up his skills. Since his joining us in early December, Shawn has made countless repairs and improvements at the Foodbank and Ryves Youth Center. Shawn's help has benefited all of our agencies and the people they serve.
We are certainly grateful to Shawn for his hard work, but also to our leadership for displaying great and thoughtful mercy to give our guy, Shawn, a second chance. Soli deo Gloria!
Ryves Youth Center has an ongoing relationship with the founders of Griffin Bike Park. Dona and Gene Griffin aim to provide mountain biking opportunities for people of all ages and abilities, with learning opportunities for children. Founded in celebration of the core values of freedom, family, friendship and community, the bike park was created and named in honor of their son, Sgt. Dale R. Griffin, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and gave his life in Operation Enduring Freedom. Many elements of the park have military themes.
Dona and Gene have continued to provide opportunities for Ryves Youth Center to be a part of Griffin Bike Park, such as inviting them to a presentation and fundraising event by "the Real" Forrest Gump, Sammy Davis.
In October 2015, we took a group of Ryves youth to the course and, as part of our day, we rode the least difficult path for beginners, called Basic Training. As told in the two stories that follow, our youth enjoyed these learning experiences, which they would not have had without the Griffins.
A Wild Ride, Lakota Bays, age 16
When I went to Fowler Park, I wasn't expecting a wild experience, but when I arrived at Griffin Bike Park I thought to myself, "This isn't so bad." It was fascinating for my Scout brothers and me, especially since Dale Griffin was also an Eagle Scout. Since the 16-mile bike park is still being developed, we saw parts of the park that were still wild and haven't yet been made into the course. On the right side, it was all grassy and still looked like a forest. The left side was completed and had defined paths. It was like looking at a picture. The wildest part was going down the steep hills with sharp curves. It was scary, but so much fun to take on those wild paths. You don't know you can do it until you try - and we did. I can't wait to go back when the park officially opens in 2016.
"The Real" Forrest Gump, Hailey Bennett, age 11
I went to this show that we had free tickets for at the Indiana Theater. We watched a video about Sammy Davis and how he won the Medal of Honor in the Vietnam War. It made some of us cry a lot. Even though he was hurt, he saved his friends in the battle by carrying them through the water. It was so touching. Sammy Davis had a lot of answers for everyone's questions. I asked him how he survived the war, and he told me he could not quit because he had to save his brothers. He knew his brothers would have done the same for him. He was so inspiring.
"There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus
When you're lonely
And it feels like the whole world
is falling on you,
You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
To the widow who suffers from being along
Wiping the tears from her eyes
For the children around the world without a home
Say a prayer tonight."
Lyrics from the song "Cry out to Jesus" by Third Day
The following is an excerpt of a recent conversation with a lifelong member of the Ryves Youth Center, which took place on December 23, 2015 at the Ryves Christmas party.
We often have volunteer adults who participated in programs at Ryves as children. I am always amazed that they return to volunteer. Perhaps it is because they made a connection during a time in their life that gave them some sense of purpose or a chance to start on a path in life that otherwise wasn't available. Or maybe it is because the Youth Center feels like home. Whatever the reason, the connections we make in life sometimes bring us back to a place that holds special meaning. For Brittney this was a sense of trust, safety and acceptance. This is just part of her story...
"I've been coming to Ryves since I was six years old. They fed us here and gave us something we didn't have at home - a sense of family. I can only imagine how much worse my life might be now if not for this place."
I first met Brittney 10 years ago when she was just 13; always full of energy. What appeared to be confidence was probably more of a coping skill that allowed her to survive some very difficult family situations and still serves her today. "I'm the only one in my family that hasn't gone to prison, all my siblings and my parents have served time or are currently serving. Thank God my parents decided to give up the drugs, only wish they would have done so when I was younger and needed them to be parents to me and my sister and brothers." Almost with a sarcastic laugh, "Better late than never, and good for them."
Pregnant at 15, Brittney and her common-law husband have three children and are still together eight years later. She will tell you they truly love each other and are committed to staying together even though they are not legally married. "I think I was always older than my age, maybe because I was exposed to so much early in my life. I knew what I didn't want; the drugs and crime were dead-end roads. I could see what it did to my family growing up and I didn't want that for me." Her husband works for a local car company and Brittney cleans homes and businesses. She says she likes the work for now but is trying to get her GED so she can go into a better career. "I'd like to get a job in phlebotomy, something that pays better and offers benefits."
Brittney and her cousin Bethany are the same age and grew up very close to one another. When you watch them interact with each other they act more like sisters, sharing and caring for each other. I get the sense they are thinking what the other one is most of the time. It is easy to see the bond that they have between them, it represents strength and security. "We both made it this far and avoided a lot of trouble. Someone must have been looking out for us."
Jim Edwards, Program Director at Ryves Youth Center, will tell you kids like Brittney and Bethany are typical Ryves' kids. Given their home life and other circumstances, the odds of a better life were against them. "It does make me proud to hear them talk about meeting their obligations, paying rent and utilities and providing for their children. I can tell you Brittney has a lot of energy and nothing about her includes the word 'quit' when it has to do with life," Edwards goes on to explain. "They look-out for their family members and they know right from wrong. I always worry about how these kids will turn out, we really try and make a difference in their lives but we always pray for the best too."
NALC Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive - May 14, 2016
Fill a bag with non-perishable food and leave it by your mailbox by 9am.
Peanut Butter & Jelly
Canned Chicken or Tuna
Canned Fruit in Juice
100% Fruit Juice
Iron rich Cereal
Whole Grain Cereal
*No glass containers
42nd Annual Benefit Dinner - September 7, 2016
Put Your Orange On - November 18, 2016
Soup Bowl Benefit - February 4, 2017