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Catholic Center in Jerusalem takes care of the ‘forgotten kids’ of Israel’s immigrant workers

September 27, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Jerusalem, Sep 27, 2019 / 08:30 am (CNA).- There are no tourists in Jerusalem’s Talbieh neighborhood. And even locals don’t always notice the Capuchin Franciscans coming and going from a non-descript three-house compound in the neighborhood. It does not stand out. But for many of those who know it, the St. Rachel Center is an indispensable refuge and a source of grace.

The St. Rachel Center serves a kind of immigrant unique to Israel: those born in the country, but living there illegally.

The strong economy in Israel is a magnet for many immigrants, mostly women, from places like the Philippines, Sri Lanka, India and Eritrea, who find jobs as housekeepers, caretakers of the elderly, or as maids in hotels. But the state of Israel admits those immigrants only under very strict rules: they cannot bring family members, and they have to commit to not get married or have children in Israel.  Violating any of those terms would immediately void their visas and would make them eligible for deportation.

But life happens. And immigrant women who get pregnant sometimes opt to remain illegally in the country, knowing that their children, ineligible for Israeli citizenship, will live in a legal limbo.

The need of daycare for the growing number of such children has created a cottage industry of “children’s warehouses,” especially in major cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. In such warehouses, kids are left mostly unsupervised, usually in deplorable conditions.

To respond to this need, the Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Jerusalem started the St. Rachel Center in September 2016. The center aims to provide safe, healthy and nurturing day care for the children of immigrants.

This September, a group of Catholic leaders visiting the Holy Land through an initiative of the Christian advocacy group known as the Philos Project were received at St. Rachel House by its director, Italian priest Fr. Benedetto di Bitonto.  Constantly interrupted by the joyous children who flock to him, Fr. Benedetto showed off the spacious one-floor building, with two playgrounds and two large rooms, one of them serving as a nursery for babies.

Another large room serves as a meeting place for the children who come to the center after school. Other rooms serve as offices, study and meeting rooms, and there is also a small apartment for volunteers, most of them young European Catholics.

Each school day, parents begin to drop off around 30 children at 7:30 in the morning, usually picking them up at 5:30 pm. Then, an additional 40 children arrive at 1:30 pm for an after school program that lasts until 6:00 pm. This program is especially important for the kids, since most of their parents are not sufficiently familiar with Hebrew and thus are not able to assist their children with homework.

“We try to provide as much after-school activities as possible to these kids, most of whom are integrated in Israeli school system,” Fr. di Bitonto told CNA.

With his long beard, bright eyes and easy manner, Fr. di Bitonto seems like a man of long experience at the center. Very few would imagine that was ordained a priest in May, just four months ago.

But there is an interesting story behind “Fr Benny,” and there is a reason he seems like such a seasoned leader.

Benedetto grew up in a devout Southern Italian Catholic family, and first heard a call when he was 18. He decided to study comparative literature, including Hebrew, until age 24, when he joined the seminary in his Diocese of Pozzuoli. But he stayed only for a year. He went back to college to pursue his Ph.D., which led him to study Hebrew literature in Jerusalem, where he fell in love with the small local Catholic community.

After leading a group of pilgrims to World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, he returned to the seminary to become a priest at the service of the Hebrew-speaking Catholics in Jerusalem.

By the time of his priestly ordination, “Benny” had accumulated significant cultural, pastoral and spiritual experience.    

During the visit of the Philos Project, Fr. Benedetto led the group to the small chapel where an icon of Rachel the Matriarch dominates one of the walls.

“Why did we choose St. Rachel for this house? Because she struggled to have children and died giving birth to her younger son,” Fr. Benny explained.

“She is therefore the model of the mother willing to do anything for their children, and that’s what we aspire to do here, with God’s grace.”

Catechism is taught to Catholic kids every afternoon, but, regardless of religion “every child in need of a refuge for the day is welcomed without hesitation,” Fr. di Bitonto explained.

“This is our small contribution to unity, peace and friendship in the Holy Land.”

This hope for peaceful and friendly inter-religious unity in the Holy Land seems to be at the core of Fr. Benedetto’s priestly ministry.

In fact, according to Cécile Klos, a journalist from the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem “the participants in the ordination celebration were happy for Benedetto, but also happy to have shared such a strong moment with people who are often very different in origin, language, administrative situation in the country and even religion.”


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Muslim leader meets Pope Francis, calls for Islam that sees no ‘infidels’

September 27, 2019 CNA Daily News 2

Vatican City, Sep 27, 2019 / 01:03 am (CNA).- The leader of the largest independent Muslim organization in the world met Pope Francis this week to present his vision for a more peaceful future and greater human fraternity.

Sheikh Yahya Cholil Staquf leads the 50 million member Nahdlatul Ulama movement, which calls for a reformed “humanitarian Islam” and has developed a theological framework for Islam that rejects the concepts of caliphate, Sharia law, and “kafir” (infidels).

The Indonesian Sunni leader told CNA that he was “thrilled and excited” when Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb signed in February the Abu Dhabi declaration on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together,” because it expresses the vision of  “compassionate Islam” his organization has advocated for for decades.

The sheikh has specific recommendations for concrete steps to achieve the pope’s aspirations of peace and human fraternity. He came to Rome to share them with the pope.

Staquf said that Abu Dhabi declaration requires “decisive follow-up” with actions, not just words.

Just weeks after the Abu Dhabi declaration, Nahdlatul Ulama hosted a conference in Indonesia with over 20,000 Muslim scholars in attendance. At this conference, Muslim clerics and scholars issued an “ijtihad” stating their theological reasoning for prohibting the term “kafir” meaning “infidel” to describe one’s fellow citizens.

“We cannot just pretend that there are no problems in Islamic views. There are problems there. You need to acknowledge that so that we can work for the solution. If you do not acknowledge the problem, you cannot resolve it,” Staquf told CNA.

“In Muslim-majority societies, you can see more attitudes of discrimination and persecution toward minorities … so the Islamic world needs to develop the whole religious system that will integrate the Islamic world harmoniously with the rest of the world,” he said.

Central to these proposed changes to Islamic theology is how Muslims are called to interact with non-Muslims, Staquf explained.

“We need for Muslims to view others as a fellow human being, fellow brothers in humanity. We should not attack on the basis of different identities,” he said.

Staquf met Pope Francis after the general audience on Sept. 25. He presented the pope with a letter and several documents from Nahdlatul Ulama, containing recommendations as to how Muslims scholars have sought to address “problematic elements within Islamic orthodoxy” to create a more harmonious world order with “respect for equal rights and dignity of every human being.”

“When you think about global harmony, global security, global stability, we see four centers of concern related to Islamic orthodoxy,” Staquf said.

Within the documents presented to the pope, NU lays out “a practical road map” to achieve the aspirations expressed in pope’s Document on Human Fraternity: “prohibiting use of the term kafir (infidel) to describe one’s fellow citizens; affirming the legitimacy of the nation state and laws created through modern political processes; committing Muslims to strive for peace as a religious obligation; and providing a detailed framework for bringing Islamic orthodoxy into alignment with 21st century norms.”

“My hope is that these documents will be examined seriously by the Vatican so that the Vatican can make decisions to engage with us and work together with this,” Staquf said.

The Muslim leader also brought a delegation of Indonesian Catholics and young Muslims practicing “humanitarian Islam” with him to Rome to attend the general audience with the pope. Together they asked Pope Francis to visit Indonesia to continue his interreligious dialogue.

Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country historically known for its ethnic diversity and peaceful religious pluralism, which has seen an increase in religious-based violence and radical groups in recent years.

“They explained to the pope that we stand for the harmony of Indonesia, so that when we [Nahdlatul Ulama Muslims] see threats toward our fellow Indonesian Christians, we protect them,” Staquf said.

“I mentioned to His Holiness that we believe Humanitarian Islam is in alignment with noble values of Christian humanism … It was received very well,” he said.

Archbishop Agustinus Agus of Pontianak, who accompanied Staquf on the trip, facilitated the Sunni sheikh’s meetings with the pope and members of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Archbishop Agus told CNA that when Sheikh Staquf expressed that he wanted to come to the Vatican to give the pope Nahdlatul Ulama’s response to the Abu Dhabi declaration, he knew it was “the right time … for one of the great leaders of the Muslims to meet the pope.”

“I feel that I have a responsibility for the future of Indonesia,” Agus said.

Staquf stressed that the persecution of Christians in Muslim-majority countries around the world must end. He said that when looking at the rise of the Islamic State and other radical groups, one cannot ignore the theological underpinnings that allow their radicalism and violence to spread.

“Let’s look at why these problematic views can spread effectively everywhere in the Islamic world in these Muslims communities because it is supported by … what is considered to be authoritative elements of the orthodoxy. So we need to change that so that people cannot use that elements to make troubles, to make problems,” he said.

“We have a network of hundreds of thousands of clerics and Muslim scholars in Indonesia. So we all know what is in the teachings of Islam,” he said. “We know that there are some elements that do not encourage harmony and even can be potential obstacles to harmony.”

One of the areas Nahdlatul Ulama is working to reform is religious education for Muslim youth. They are constructing a curriculum for teaching Islamic history that places less of an emphasis on the violence of the past, and more on spirituality.

“We want to create materials for education which contains more about the character of the prophet, the compassionate character of the prophet, rather than these records of conflicts and wars,” Staquf said.

“We use a creed for this movement, the global movement of humanitarian Islam. Our creed is: ‘We choose rahma’ … ‘We choose compassion,” he said.



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Notre Dame panel on abuse crisis: Where do we go from here?

September 26, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

South Bend, Ind., Sep 27, 2019 / 12:07 am (CNA).- It has been more than a full year since the sex abuse allegations against the former cardinal Theodore McCarrick and the publication of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report set off a shockwave of further abuse accusations and investigations in the Church in the United States and beyond.

It has been 17 years since the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) implemented the Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which proposed a “zero-tolerance policy” for child abuse in the Catholic Church in the U.S.

It was just this week that a panel of four experts on the abuse crisis gathered at the University of Notre Dame to discuss the question: “Where are we now?” and to propose ways for the Church to continue moving forward.

Panelists at the Sept. 25 event included Juan Carlos Cruz, an abuse survivor and advocate from Chile whose complaints were initially dismissed by Pope Francis (though were later accepted with an apology from the pope); Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore; Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI executive assistant director who helped the USCCB implement the 2002 Dallas Charter; and Peter Steinfels a long-time journalist for Commonweal who wrote a lengthy review of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on the sex abuse crisis. John Allen Jr., editor of Crux, moderated the panel.

While much has improved regarding the clerical sex abuse crisis in the U.S. since 2002, the panelists gave a resounding response that even one case of abuse occurring in the Church is too many, and that a change of hearts and attitudes, and not just of policies, is needed for the Church to progress and for victims to heal.

“The one thing that I am certain about is that most of us, myself very much included, know much less about this painful, stomach-churning scandal than we think we know,” Steinfels said.

Steinfels noted that since 2002, the Church in the U.S. made significant progress in the abuse crisis, reducing the number of cases of sexual abuse from about 600 per year in the 1950s-1970s down to roughly 20 or fewer cases per year, post-Dallas Charter.

“Anyone who obscures this dramatic drop in Catholic clergy abuse, as I think the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report did, is not telling the truth,” he noted.

But that is still not enough, Steinfels added, because “one case is one too many,” and these statistics of success “can blind us to the excruciating, life-derailing devastation caused by a single case of abuse.”

He also predicted that news of Church sexual abuse was not going anywhere anytime soon, because “the abuse scandal has gone global. More than 120 million children sexually abused worldwide – it is woeful that even a small fraction has touched the Church.”

Even though the bulk of the abuse crisis in the U.S. occurred decades ago, Steinfels said, there are still victims coming forward who were afraid to share their stories until now, and whose experiences of pain and betrayal “are like landmines left buried in the ground after the war.”

In one suggestion for a way forward, Steinfels encouraged Catholic universities like Notre Dame to compile the history of the sex abuse crisis, from which others could learn.

“A genuine history will require archives, oral history interviews, and study of scandal’s religious, cultural, and economic context,” he said.

“It has been said that we walk backwards into the future looking at our past. A genuine history is needed for our future.”

In his remarks, Cruz said that he would leave the statistics to the experts and speak from the heart. While Cruz’ story of abuse at the hands of his parish priest in Chile was initially dismissed by Pope Francis, the Holy Father later apologized to Cruz and other victims for being “part of the problem” in May 2018.

Cruz told the panel audience that what sustained him through the pain of his experience of abuse was his Catholic faith.

“I decided early on that I wasn’t going to let them win. I wasn’t going to let the bad ones win,” he said. “I believe that the relationship anyone has with God…it’s the most basic human right that one can have, is to believe in what you believe, and nobody can mess with it. And I wasn’t going to let them mess with that.”

In a word of encouragement to abuse survivors, Cruz said that while it is hard to come forward with a story of abuse, there are people who can help.

“There are so many people who want to lend you a hand, to help you through that horrible pain,” he said.

Cruz said that he was encouraged by Pope Francis’ apology and willingness to listen to his story and those of other abuse survivors, but that he was discouraged by the attitudes of some bishops who promise to improve but who continue to cover up and mishandle cases of abuse.

“Pope Francis wants to solve the problem, I’ve talked to him and know he’s sincere,” he said. “However, the bishops go, talk to him, say, ‘absolutely Pope Francis,’ they bow, they kiss his ring, go back to their countries and do the same thing they’ve been doing…nobody holds them accountable and that needs to stop.”

In her remarks, McChesney also called for a change of heart and attitude among the bishops.

“When I first worked for the USCCB, the Dallas Charter was new, we were excited about implementing it, and I talked with many survivors,” she noted. “And one man said: ‘Look, you can have all the programs in the world you want, you can have policies, you can have trainings, you can have background checks and investigations, you can do all of those things, but until the bishops realize that there has to be a true accountability, I and my fellow survivors are not going to heal.’”

“It is so critical for the men and women who have been abused to know that someone is taking responsibility for what has happened to them,” McChesney said.

There has also been a lot of talk about the rethinking of seminary formation in the wake of the abuse crisis, McChesney said, with suggestions to really emphasize the human formation aspect of seminary formation.

But this “puts the cart before the horse,” she argued.

“In my experience, I think that selection is more important than formation…you can have the best formation programs, the best seminaries in the entire world, but if you have selected the wrong person to go into seminary, someone who is so troubled, who doesn’t know what they want to do, has mental health issues…that person is never going to become a healthy cleric. So to have a healthy presbyterate, you need to start with healthy men,” McChesney said.

She also credited lay men and women, as well as some dedicated clergy, with working on the ground levels to bring the abuse numbers down since the Dallas Charter was established and who continue to work with and pressure bishops into doing more.

Because there have been so few cases since the 2002 Charter, McChesney added, it is all the more urgent to thoroughly investigate the cases of abuse that have occurred since then, and to ask how and why they happened.

“There are not as many cases – but there have been cases. Why? Who missed that lesson and why? And where was the oversight of those persons who abused?” she said.

Finally, she added, the Church must fight against issue fatigue and complacency when it comes to the sex abuse crisis.

“We can’t let our tiredness, our sadness, overtake our passion for continuing to work on these issues,” she said.

Archbishop Lori, once a member of the USCCB’s Committee on Sexual Abuse, noted that he was speaking only for himself and not all bishops. Lori said that for him, learning how to really listen to victims of the sex abuse crisis has been one of the “steepest learning curves” in the handling of the sex abuse crisis.

It may be the instinct of a bishop to offer a victim the help and support of the Church, Lori said, but survivors of abuse do not always want that. He had to learn how to really listen and realize that “I as the bishop listening to this cannot fully appreciate the nature of the experience that’s being described to me.”

He had to learn to not try to “be the person that has the answer, not try to be the person who pushes or who offers something that might not be wanted by the victim-survivor in that moment, the victim-survivor has to be in the driver’s seat. It’s not just a question of meeting them or of affirming, it’s a question of listening deeply, and believing them.”

Adding to the chorus of previous comments that “one case is too many,” Lori also echoed the other panelists’ call for conversion among the bishops and other Church clergy and officials.

“The need remains and will always remain not to see the charter, these norms…simply as policies to be complied with,” Lori said. “In the grace of the Holy Spirit, there’s really got to be, on the part of people like me, my co-workers, lay co-workers, a conversion of mind and heart.”

Protecting children and listening to and helping victims of clerical abuse must be “as much as part of the life of the Church…as evangelization, Catholic education, or raising up vocations,” he added.

“We’ve got to continue being held accountable, because the Church’s mission depends on it.”

During the discussion, most panelists also noted that the abuse crisis has in some cases been “weaponized” by both conservative and liberal camps within the Church to push certain other agendas.

This is “a shameful use of what has happened to these men and women,” McChesney remarked.

During a question-and-answer session, Lori added that part of the ongoing solution to the abuse crisis is bringing more lay professional voices to the decision table.

“I need the help of qualified, committed laypersons who have expertise that I’ll never have,” Lori said. “Who’s sitting around the decision table?…that affects Church governance and how we look at this.”

Cruz also called for more young people and more laity, particularly women, to be involved in the decisions and solutions to the abuse crisis.

“We need more women in the Church that are trained, that are prepared, to break this men’s club, to bring all their talent and their training to help us heal,” he said. “We can’t have women in the sacristy, we have to have them front and center in the Church, and we can’t wait for bishops to finish their learning curve, survivors need us now.”

Cruz added that he gets frustrated when he hears bishops or other clergy say that prior to the Dallas Charter and other protocols, they did not know how to act or handle cases of abuse.

“I want to tell them: raping a child has always been wrong – before Christ, after Christ, in the Middle Ages…and it always will be wrong. So you better learn.” 



The Crusade of Saint Francis

September 26, 2019 Father Seán Connolly 4

Critics frame the Crusades as an act of aggression from an expansionist Christendom upon an unsuspecting and peaceful Muslim world. This view totally ignores the fact, however, that the these religious wars of the medieval […]

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China harvesting organs from prisoners of conscience, human rights group claims

September 26, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Geneva, Switzerland, Sep 26, 2019 / 03:30 pm (CNA).- The Chinese government is harvesting organs from religious and ethnic minorities, a human rights organization told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on Tuesday. 

The China Tribunal, which calls itself an “independent, international people’s tribunal” that investigates allegations of organ harvesting in the country, is led by Sir Geoffrey Nice QC. The tribunal said they found evidence that China is continuing to forcibly collect organs from political and religious prisoners, despite saying they stopped the practice four years ago. 

“Forced organ harvesting from prisoners of conscience, including the religious minorities of Falun Gong and Uighurs, has been committed for years throughout China on a significant scale, and that it continues today,” said Hamid Sabi, a lawyer for the China Tribunal speaking at the UN meeting. 

The tribunal estimated that “hundreds of thousands” of people have been used to harvest organs, including hearts. This constitutes crimes against humanity, said Sabi, and is equivalent to genocide.

“Victim for victim and death for death, cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people constitutes one of the worst mass atrocities of this century,” he added. 

Although organ donation and transplantation is “a scientific and social triumph,” Sadi said that China’s practice of killing the donor is a crime.

“It is the legal obligation of UN Member States and the duty of this council to address this criminal conduct,” he said. 

China has admitted in the past that it would regularly take the organs of prisoners on death row and use them in transplants, but said they stopped in January 2015. According to the China Tribunal, it is unlikely to be true. The tribunal says there has been an “explosion” of transplants in China over the last two decades, as well as an increase of “transplant tourists” who travel to China to purchase an organ. 

These numbers “suggest a larger supply of organs than could be sourced from executed criminals alone,” says the China Tribunal’s website. This data, coupled with reports from prisoners, leads the Tribunal to conclude that “prisoners of conscience,” who have been detained for no reason other than their faith or ethnic group, are being killed in order to supply organs for the country’s organ trafficking industry. 

Groups detained en masse in China include Uighur Muslims, Tibetans, practitioners of Falun Gong, and people who worship at underground “home churches” that are not recognized by the government. 

On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan spoke at the UN General Assembly, and demanded an investigation into the alleged human rights abuses in the province of Xinjiang. Xinjiang is home to most of the country’s Uighur population. 

“The UN must seek the immediate unhindered, and unmonitored access to Xinjiang for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,” said Sullivan. “The United Nations, including its member states, have a responsibility to stand up for the human rights of people everywhere, including Muslims in Xinjiang.” 

Sullivan added that it is imperative that the UN work to continue to monitor China for human rights abuses, especially “the repression of religious freedom and belief.” 

An estimated 1 million Uighurs, members of a Muslim ethnoreligious group, have been detained in re-education camps in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, a region in China’s northwest that is roughly the size of Iran.

Inside the camps they are reportedly subjected to forced labor, torture, and political indoctrination. Outside the camps, Uighurs are monitored by pervasive police forces and facial recognition technology.

The Chinese government has said reports on the camps by Western governments and media are unfounded, claiming they are vocational training centers and that it is combating extremism.


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How these Virginia Catholics are helping the homeless find work 

September 26, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Arlington, Va., Sep 26, 2019 / 02:59 pm (CNA).- A Catholic group in Arlington, Virginia, is committed to helping homeless people, along with others down on their luck, by equipping them with the tools to find work and build careers.

In 2009, “Christians are Networking” (CAN) was launched by Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Arlington. The ministry began during the financial crisis, when unemployment was high, and those who had held steady careers were struggling to find work.

When the economy improved five years ago, CAN partnered with Christ House, a men’s homeless shelter in Alexandria, Virginia, to offer their services to people who have been living on the streets.

While the organization trains for resume-building, networking, interviewing, and computer skills, volunteer coordinator William Schuyler told CNA that the most important service has been helping participants believe in their own worth.

“The thing that we actually brought to the world was not so much that we could tell you how to write the perfect resume; it was that we reminded people of their value as a human being,” he said.

Christ House has enough space for 14 men at a time, and residents may stay in the house for up to one year. Men have their food, rent, and other necessities provided for them. They can also receive support to obtain identification papers.

The residents can also meet weekly with CAN to discuss career strategies like budgeting and networking. During the Wednesday night meeting, participants discuss progress and setbacks on the job hunt. Then, the job-seekers meets individually with volunteers.

Yvonne Horner, a volunteer coordinator for CAN, has been with the organization since it started at Christ House. With a background in human resources, she instructs clients on tax information and company benefits.

“When a man first enters Christ’s House, he will meet with the volunteers of CAN so they can find out a little bit of information, like education and work history. The volunteers also look to determine the clients’ interests and other areas of skills,” Horner told CNA.

“Then [we] talk a little bit about employment opportunities they might be interested in pursuing. We have a couple of volunteers who specialize in government work so they can help them navigate the government employment website.”

A major part of the program is helping men find a social support group.

Schuyler said that ideally the program will reconnect its clients to family members, like parents, children, and siblings.

The house will also encourage men to seek a community among themselves, he said.

“If [families ties are impossible], what we really tried to do is build ongoing relationships between the men at Christ House itself,” he said.

“Them bonding within the context of Christ … then what that seems to do is enable them to reconnect with other people.”

Through interactions with professionals and other job-seekers, the men are built up with encouragement, he explained.

“It’s important to remind people that they have value” in their dignity and in their work, Schuyler added.

“The organization needs you and it depends on you. Your colleagues are dependent upon you … if you do [your job] well, you are part of a thing that’s making an organization succeed.”

“If you think of only the [task] you’re doing, [like] the washing of the dishes, it’s pretty easy to think of yourself as not having value in this.”  But, he said, “if you think of yourself as part of a team of people that are enabling people to have a delicious dinner, I think you can feel that you will have human value that’s worth it.”

Catholic News Agency spoke with Dorian Spring and Leon Brown, both of whom participated in the program recently. The men had been homeless, and either not working or underemployed. Now, they have promising careers.

Spring entered the program about six months ago, after his landlord sold his home, leaving him homeless. He had been working at a hotel for 15 years, he said, but there was no room to move upwards in the company.

“I was very stressed out and then basically abused,” he said, noting that he had been passed over for promotions despite his lengthy employment and good attendance.

“I had to find something else and I talk[ed] to the CAN group about it,” he said. “They help you make yourself better, like with your resume and [preparation] for interviews and how to present yourself in interviews,” he added.

After coming to Christ House, Spring discovered new approaches to pursuing a higher position in a company.

He is now working for Georgetown University Hotel Conference Center, where he has company benefits and an opportunity for a raise every six months.

Spring explained that because of his background in hotel work, CAN worked with him to discover the goals of his career. He expressed hope that he might eventually be promoted to hotel management. He said CAN also helped him discover skills in his current profession, which are reflected in other professions, like office work.

“They keep you motivated,” he said, noting that the house is always open for people to return for additional help.

“They were very good to me.”

Brown joined Christ House over nine months ago, with no housing and no job. Now, he is working as a dishwasher at Hen Quarters, a restaurant serving Southern comfort food in Alexandria. He cleans dishes, floors, and linens.

Brown said he feels like a valuable part of the team.

“[I] love it and I got a good team with me and they appreciate me and I appreciated them. So I thank CAN group for that,” he said. “The charity really helped us and it made a better me, and I’m just going to continue on getting better.”

Brown said CAN also helped him establish a Facebook profile and track down his son, whom he had not seen in about 15 years.

“I [have] pictures on Facebook – me and my son and my friends,” he said.

 “My family, my workers and people who surround me, especially Christ house and CAN group, I appreciate each one of them.”

Both the men expressed gratitude for the job skills they’ve gained, but they also expressed appreciation for the community. One of their favorite aspects was the annual Christmas event. They said they had never experienced anything like it.

“Best Christmas I ever had,” said Brown.

“God is good all the time,” he said.