Tag Archives: Catholic Charities

Dorothy Day Center: Helping the homeless for 31 years

May 2, 2012



Msgr. Jerome Boxleitner, left, talks with Catholic Charities CEO Tim Marx at the Dorothy Day Center Community Breakfast May 2 in St. Paul. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Charities)

A small child walks by a church holding her dad’s hand.

“That was a nice bed we had last night,” she tells him. “Where are we going to sleep tonight?”

“I don’t know,” her dad says.

The conversation was overheard not long ago by Susan Vento, who works at Assumption Church in downtown St. Paul, just a stone’s throw from Catholic Charities’ Dorothy Day Center, where thousands of homeless people go each year for basic needs, like a place to sleep for the night.

It’s the kind of conversation that breaks your heart. No child — indeed, no one at all — should have to worry about whether they will sleep on the street because they have no bed and no home to sleep in.

Vento’s experience was one of the stories — some sad, some inspiring — told during a breakfast May 2 commemorating the center’s 31 years of service to the community’s poor and homeless. Mayor Chris Coleman was in attendance and read a proclamation declaring it Dorothy Day Center Day in the City of St. Paul.

The need for the center after three decades is as great as ever and, sadly, is even increasing.

Meeting the need

After Archbishop John Nienstedt offered an opening prayer, speakers like former St. Paul Mayor George Latimer talked about the center’s history, including how it began in the early 1980s, during another recession, thanks to the collaborative efforts of church, city and business leaders who refused to turn a blind eye to the growing numbers of people in need of assistance.

Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab and the morning’s keynote speaker, noted the intentional decision the leaders made to put the Dorothy Day Center in the middle of town so the challenge of poverty wouldn’t be hidden away in a corner of the community — out of sight and out of mind.

It’s a decision that still carries an important message. “We can’t live in glass towers” and ignore what else goes on in the community, said Baker, whose Ecolab employees — many of whom work downtown — are among the center’s volunteers.

The dedication of the center’s staff and volunteers has been steady over the years, but much has changed as well, including the types of services offered.

On its first day three decades ago, the Dorothy Day Center served coffee and day-old rolls to 50 men. Today, it provides hot meals, mental health services and medical care to more than 6,000 clients annually. While chemical dependency and mental illness are associated with homelessness, clients coming to the center today often don’t fit the stereotypes associated homeless. They are once-properous individuals and families who have fallen on hard times because of the faltering economy and housing foreclosure crisis.

One of the people who helped lay the foundation for the center attended the breakfast — Msgr. Jerome Boxleitner, a former executive director of Catholic Charities. While reminiscing about the center’s history, he also reminded those in attendance that simple charity isn’t enough.

Feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless are extremely important, he said, but we must also work for justice, including public policies that can help put an end to the spiraling cycle of poverty once and for all — efforts that all too often seem “muted these days.”

Get involved

If you’re willing to speak up and take action to help end homelessness, Catholic Charities has a few ideas that it listed in handouts distributed at the end of breakfast. Among the suggestions:

• Stay informed: You can learn more about people who are experiencing homelessness by visiting the websites of Heading Home Minnesota and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

• Keep the conversation alive: When you share a meal with people you respect, ask them about the homeless in the community. What are the community’s values regarding how the homeless are helped back to self-sufficiency wherever self-sufficiency is possible?

• Advocate: Help build support for programs that provide permanent solutions for homelessness by contacting Catholic Charities’ Office for Social Justice at osj@cctwincities.org or 612-204-8393.

• Don’t blink: Even if you don’t give money to a person who is begging, you can recognize their humanity by smiling and wishing them a good day. Remember, sometimes people sitting next to you at school or waiting on you at a restaurant are experiencing homelessness.

• Be a catalyst: Educate and encourage community groups, congregations and workplaces to address the issue.

• Volunteer: Connect with Catholic Charities at volunteer@cctwincities.org or 612-204-8435.

• Pray: Keep the needs of the poor and vulnerable in your thoughts and prayers.

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A different way to decorate the Christmas tree

December 7, 2011


Guest post by Jackie Daugherty – The Catholic Spirit

How do YOU keep warm in the winter? With Hats, Scarves, Mittens, and Socks, of course!

This year, The Catholic Spirit decided to decorate the Christmas tree – differently. We’re making our tree “warm and cozy” with items that’ll be donated to St Joseph’s Home For Children in Minneapolis.

St. Joseph’s Home for Children, a program of Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, serves children and their families by addressing immediate needs for shelter and stability and offering long-term solutions to emotional and behavioral issues with quality mental health care.

If you would like to find out more about St Joseph’s Home (and their other affiliates) and how you can help brighten up their holiday, visit their website for more info.


or call

Sheila Senescall
Corporate and Foundation Relations
Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis
1200 Second Avenue South
Minneapolis, MN 55403
612-204-8364 (w); 612-664-8610 (f)

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Vern Schultz has saved glimpses of St. Paul back in the day

November 15, 2011


If you’d enjoy a trip down memory lane through St. Paul 60-70-80 years ago, you might look for Vern Schultz’s “Memoirs of a Left Hander” (Amazon.com).

The self-published book about growing up in the Frogtown neighborhood preserves some history worth saving about the 1940s and ‘50s.

Schultz, who lives in Prior Lake now, taught at St. Agnes High School in the early 1950s, and for many years officiated sports, including in the Catholic Athletic Association.

Catholic to the core, Schultz recalls both highlights and low-lights of Catholic life in those pre-Vatican II days. In more recent times, room in the Schultz home was rented to the pastor of St. Michael Church in Prior Lake!

No abortion for them

Schultz’s faith pours through when he writes about how he and his wife Toodie reacted when, after a genetic disorder took the lives of their first two children and a doctor recommended she have an abortion when they found themselves expecting again.

There is their gratitude, too, when Catholic Charities came to their rescue to help them adopt the family they so wanted.

Writing a memoir is no easy task, of course, and while the middle years of Schultz’s life get short shrift, that weakness doesn’t detract from the very pleasurable reading of his earlier years. Those are great memories of a time and place that need to be remembered and cherished, a Schultz has a nice writing touch.

Allow me, though, to offer advice for others putting down their life history: Get a proofreader. My teeth grind when I read “to” where “too” is required and “complemented” when “complimented” is the proper word. — bz

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Stories you shouldn’t miss

July 6, 2011


Here’s a sneak preview of some of the stories you can read this week in the print edition of The Catholic Spirit and online at TheCatholicSpirit.com.

• “Get a good read — on what’s happening at local Catholic bookstores.” Our Page 1 story gives a snapshot of the joys and challenges of operating independent Catholic bookstores in the age of Amazon and BN.com. Don’t overlook the summer reading list suggested by the booksellers.

• Two articles have a Catholic Charities focus. Agency CEO Tim Marx writes about how the current Minnesota state government shutdown is a wake-up call to mend our civic culture. And, staff writer/photographer Dave Hrbacek spent time with St. Paul Homeless Connect — a one-day event that offers important services and resources in one location for people in need. Read about one of the event’s volunteers who knows personally the challenges faced by the homeless.

• This week’s “Outdoors” column by Dave Hrbacek features a priest who recently led a fishing retreat as an opportunity for men to pray and deepen their spirituality while spending time on the lake.

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Best Charity, City Pages says, is Catholic Charities

July 5, 2011


Nice to see Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis get the recognition it deserves. This time it was in the annual “Best of” issue of City Pages.

The Twin Cities’ newspaper noted:

As busy as they are trying to pick up after a society that lets people slip through the cracks on a daily basis, they’re just as busy fighting at the Legislature to close up those cracks. At the Capitol, they’re a consistent voice for the most vulnerable, pushing back against punitive anti-immigrant bills and cuts to health care assistance and food stamps. At a time when lawmakers are contemplating tossing what remains of our social safety net in the shredder, Catholic Charities’ work and advocacy are more important than ever.

Read the whole piece at http://www.citypages.com/bestof/2011/award/best-charity-1843989/


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