Agency fosters ‘loving,’ deacon says

Abeer El Farrah, a young woman honored by Catholic Charities of Louisville for overcoming adversity, was flanked by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, left, and Steve Bogus, who leads the agency, after receiving an award last week. She and several others were honored during Catholic Charities’ Celebration of Spirit and Success fundraising dinner Sept. 21. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)
Abeer El Farrah, a young woman honored by Catholic Charities of Louisville for overcoming adversity, was flanked by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, left, and Steve Bogus, who leads the agency, after receiving an award last week. She and several others were honored during Catholic Charities’ Celebration of Spirit and Success fundraising dinner Sept. 21. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

Deacon Scott Haner held the attention of nearly 400 people as he enumerated the reasons he supports Catholic Charities of Louisville during the agency’s annual benefit dinner Sept. 21.

“We often hear people talk about raising the standard of living,” Deacon Haner told his listeners, who included parishioners of various parishes, archdiocesan staff and representatives of local service agencies. “As Catholics, it’s our job to raise the standard of loving in the world.”

The benefit dinner, held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Louisville, featured brief talks by Deacon Haner and Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who discussed the Year of Mercy. The archbishop noted that “when we think of mercy, we think of the way we should treat another person.” He presented awards at the end of the evening to several local groups and individuals for the way they show mercy in the community.

Deacon Haner, who serves at St. Patrick Church, listed for the sold-out crowd the various ways Catholic Charities helps spread God’s mercy and fosters “loving in the world.”

“We talk about being pro-life,” he said, “but some expectant mothers don’t have the opportunities and resources” they need to choose life for their child.

Catholic Charities’ Mother-Infant Care Program fills that need, he noted. The program provides parenting classes, and those who complete the program receive a large baby item, such as a car seat or a crib. The program also offers a mother-to-mother support group for those who want to continue meeting after the program ends.

“Helping those expectant moms,” Deacon Haner said, “that’s love in action.”

He went on to praise the agency’s work to “welcome the stranger,” resettling refugees and migrants.

And he noted the charity’s newest program, Common Table, which provides culinary training, helping clients gain skills and certification for work in the food industry.

Deacon Haner concluded, “I support Catholic Charities because I’ve seen the life-giving work that happens here.”

The notion that Catholic Charities’ work is life-giving — both for recipients of its aid and those who share in its mission — seems apparent in the stories of those honored during the benefit.

Jean Chele and Virginie Kalwaye, a couple from Africa who came to the United States in 2015 with their seven children and already help care for other refugees, received Catholic Charities’ Passport Spirit Award.

“Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, the family has adapted well to life in Louisville and is on the path to success,” according to an announcement about the award from Catholic Charities. “Within two months, Jean secured a full-time job and Virginie completed the Common Table Culinary Training program and is pursuing a job in that field.”

The couple have assisted several new refugee families, “empowering them with the wisdom they have attained during the short time they have been in Louisville,” the announcement said. “One family from the same village has struggled a great deal due to the mother’s illness, and Jean and Virginie have been by their side the entire time, caring for the children and helping with the household.

“As the mother’s illness increased Jean and Virginie have taken on the great responsibility of becoming foster parents of the four children in this family, welcoming them into their home and caring for them as their own children,” the award citation concluded.

Abeer El Farrah, who hopes to inspire young women like herself, received the agency’s Kroger Success Award, which honors a Catholic Charities client who’s overcome adversity.

El Farrah, originally from Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, arrived in the U.S. at age 18, engaged to a man 10 years older than she. They married the day after her arrival and shortly after, “she found herself in an unsafe situation and sought assistance from the Center for Women and Families,” the award announcement said. 

“By cooperating with law enforcement in the prosecution of the crimes perpetrated against her” and working with the Catholic Charities Immigration and Legal Services Department, Abeer received legal help, getting the visa she needed in 2010 and becoming a U.S. citizen in 2015, the announcement said.

“Abeer has shown great courage by coming to the United States at the young age of 18, and overcoming a number of obstacles in order to make a life for herself in a new country. She is now a U.S. Citizen and a surgical technologist at Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital.

In accepting the award, the young woman told the crowd that when she was first offered the award, “It was hard. I didn’t want to remember.” But, she said, “I’m glad I came. I just want to tell American women and any woman living in this world, ‘If I can do it, you can do it.’ ”

The Pax Christi Collaborative, composed of three parishes, received the Parish Partner Award. The award recognizes “a parish that has gone above and beyond to support the work of Catholic Charities,” the announcement said. The collaborative is composed of St. Therese, St. Elizabeth and Our Mother of Sorrows churches.

“Pax Christi has been involved in a number of programs with Catholic Charities, like assisting with refugee camp simulations and hosting a CRS (Catholic Relief Services) Food Packing project. Their largest contribution to Catholic Charities was hosting a trivia night where they raised money to help install an irrigation system at the new St. John Vianney Common Earth Garden site,” the announcement said.

Seven Counties Services received Catholic Charities’ Community Partner award. The award recognizes Catholic Charities’ partnership with Seven Counties, which “provides services to many of our clients” in various different programs, “and is also one of the largest clients of our language services program,” according to the announcement.

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