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Aid in a time of distress

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Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the families of those who died in the deadly shooting in Newtown Connecticut. This tragic loss of life has sparked nationally-felt sorrow as well as much conversation about why and how tragedies such as these happen. One can only hope that out of such unimaginable horror we find a way to not only reform our national gun control laws but improve our ability to better identify and treat mental illness.

So at Catholic Charities, as we prepare for the Christmas holidays, we hug our own children just a little bit closer, we remember all of those, near and far, who have lost their lives to violence and we recommit ourselves to helping build stronger, safer communities.

We also turn our attention to those in our community whose needs continue to grow.

Catholic Charities works with many families who find that this time of year is not just a time when there is "so much to do and so little time," but rather a time of real distress, distress that results from having not enough cash in hand to cover the basics -- food, rent, and heat, let alone anything special for the Christmas season.

One such family has two young children, Shawna and Brandon (not their real names), enrolled in our child care program. We were touched by the letter we received from their parents describing their newfound hardships that had arisen since the father's hours at his second job had been dramatically reduced. The loss of this income meant that the family was constantly struggling to make ends meet. Even while cutting back everywhere that they could, they were still consistently running short. The parents were grateful to be receiving help with gifts for their children from their parish's Giving Tree program, but were not able to afford the long drive to enjoy the holidays with their extended family -- grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins -- as they had in the past. Their request to us was a modest one: food enough for a holiday meal to prepare and enjoy together as a family.

Thanks to the efforts of so many individuals, families, parishes, and businesses both large and small through our Friends Feeding Families campaign, Catholic Charities is able to ensure that many, many families just like Shawna, Brandon and their parents will enjoy a holiday meal together this year.

It is such an inspiring time here at Catholic Charities, as acts of kindness and generosity abound.

Not only are we able to help feed families, we are also able to provide warm winter clothing and toys for children who are without. Children in our child care and afterschool programs or living in our family transitional shelters, children whose parents are enrolled in our adult education programs, children whose mothers and fathers are working hard to learn how to be better parents.

Donations through parish giving tree programs, individuals who adopt families for the holidays, businesses that sponsor toy drives make it all possible for us to meet the needs of so many.

At this very special time of year, I want to thank you for all the assistance and support you give us here at Catholic Charities, not just at Christmas, but throughout the year, as we work to meet the basic needs of so many struggling families across the region.

May you have the gift of faith, the blessing of hope and the peace of this season at Christmas and always.

To discover more about our work go to www.ccab.org.

Debbie Rambo, LICSW is the president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston.

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