Last week, a visit to the Diocese of Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, demonstrated so vividly for me that we belong to a Church that can make great things happen… even on a small budget. I met with Sister Rosaline who operates the Our Lady Help of Christians Center for outreach near Gwinn, Mich. With $50,000 in support from Catholic Extension’s donors, the center will be able to expand its ministry from a shoestring operation to a more robust presence in a community that desperately needs the steady hand of the Church. Sr. Rosaline can now purchase a phone—a luxury she did without until several months ago when news of Catholic Extension’s support reached her.
Sr. Rosaline reaches out to local families and children through the Our Lady Help of Christians Center.
The Our Lady Help of Christians Center provides meals to the hungry and referral services to an isolated rural community beset by poverty, drugs and violence. The center serves an area that has been deeply affected by two major industries slowing down or completely leaving the area. Iron ore mining, which was historically a strong source of jobs, is no longer the lifeblood of the region. The K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, which brought tens of thousands of families to this otherwise rural community, closed in 1995. The center is able to serve thousands of people in need, including children, who were affected by the decline of these industries essential to the region, or who find K.I. Sawyer the only affordable place to live. As we visited the center, a group of local children approached Sr. Rosaline, some walking barefoot on asphalt, others with the day’s dirt on their hands and faces. Sr. Rosaline is the face of the Church’s compassion for this abandoned community and the children clearly know her well. “How are you today?” she cheerfully asks one child as she stoops down and cups the girl’s chin in her hand. Before departing, Sr. Rosaline turned to me and said, “Without Catholic Extension’s support, this ministry would have discontinued.” Looking back on it now, I wish I could have been quick-witted enough in that moment to answer her by saying, “Sister, without people like you, Catholic Extension would have discontinued long ago.” Catholic Extension’s mission is to help extend the faith in the U.S., but this can only be accomplished in partnership with dynamic Catholics like Sr. Rosaline who stand ready to do the hard work necessary to “extend” the Church’s presence and mission. We belong to a Church that gets things done. It is the Church that works. It is the Church that continually extends itself beyond its four walls to serve the larger community. Across the country, anywhere Catholics have a determination to live their faith, Catholic Extension is a ready partner for them in their efforts to mobilize. — Joe Boland, Senior Director of Grants Management