By Jennifer Kelemen
NATCHEZ – More than 200 guests joined Catholic Charities at St. Mary’s Basilica Family Life Center on Friday, March 21, for a Journey of Hope luncheon. The attendees were joined by Bishop Joseph Kopacz, Msgr. Elvin Sunds, Vicar General, Father David O’Connor, pastor, Donna Miller, director of the Guardian Shelter for Battered Families and Greg Patin, executive director of Catholic Charities.
The Journey of Hope provides much needed financial support for the many services offered by Catholic Charities, including counseling, domestic violence services, emergency assistance services, homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing, rape crisis center and the parish health ministry.
The keynote speaker, B.C., a survivor of domestic abuse who benefited greatly from Catholic Charities, shared her story as a way to show the impact the organization can have. She said she was bounced from house to house as a young child. She rode the bus with a boy for a year before she realized that he was her brother.
C. told how she ended up in a relationship with a man who physically and mentally abused her. The police became involved and directed her to the Guardian Shelter. She was 7-and-half months pregnant and hadn’t received any neonatal care, and had three small children in her care. The shelter was able to get her medical care and provide a safe home. She left the shelter twice, once out of fear she would be found, but eventually returned determined to make a new life.
C. said she would pray day and night for” just one year” without her abuser. After she returned to the shelter she learned her abuser had been sentenced to exactly one year in prison.
C. thanked the Lord and set about making serious changes in her life. She worked two jobs, bought a car and was chosen for a Habitat for Humanity home.
She attends Alcorn State University, and her children are now thriving in school. M. has also started her own foundation. “It still takes a village to raise our children,” which honors students who have lost a parent, but are continuing their education.
C. credits Catholic Charities and the Guardian Shelter with giving her the tools she needed to transform her life and the lives of her children. Her testimony inspired many of those attending the lunch to support the programs Catholic Charities offers.