While the Catholic Enrichment Center offers a variety of services, its goal is to lift up the dignity of every person and to let them know “you belong,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.
He spoke at an April 22 celebration at the center on West Broadway to commemorate its 21st anniversary. The center, which opened in May of 2000, had to put off plans to celebrate its 20th-anniversary last year due to the pandemic.
Archbishop Kurtz was among several speakers who addressed a gathering of about 55 people, including representatives of the CEC’s community partners such as Dare to Care, Sacred Heart Academy and Presentation Academy.
He opened his remarks by calling attention to the guilty verdict that had been handed down a day before in the case against a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd. The case helped to bring issues of racial justice in the country to the forefront of the national conversation.
“You were struck by the fact that we are seeking justice, and we’re also seeking continued growth of all of us. We all benefit when there’s justice to be had,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “And we do it in, what I would call, a Catholic fashion; we do it in a way that Christ would want us, we do it in a peaceful way. We do it in a way that lifts up other people and that is grounded in the dignity of every person.”
Racism, he said, is a sin for many reasons. A person who is “racist not only denies the dignity of the person he may hate but also lessens his own dignity. The human race is diminished because of that,” he said.
The archbishop went on to note that the image he associates with the CEC is one of belonging.
“It seems to me that if we don’t feel we belong, we are not going to be enriched. We are not going to gain talents and gifts and abilities; we’re not going to share these abilities with others if we ourselves feel diminished,” he said. “Of all the things, for the last 21 years, that the CEC has stood for, I think it’s the sense of belonging, of being an important person.”
He noted the center has provided a variety of ministries and activities in the last two decades but none of them would have happened had someone not shown up, wanting to belong.
The archbishop gave thanks for the “gift” of the CEC and commended its staff.
“I want to commend and thank you all and tell you how proud I am to be your archbishop and how delighted I am that we continue together to promote this ministry of such variety, but having one common goal and that is to lift up the dignity of every person that comes in the CEC and to let them know ‘you belong’ ” said Archbishop Kurtz.
Dorice Beauséjour Firmin, who serves as the CEC’s family life skills program coordinator, said more than 20 years ago the center was that place of belonging for her.
Firmin now works at the center, coordinating enrichment and academic programs for children and families.
When she and her family arrived in Louisville from Haiti, she was just a child looking for a place where she felt at home. She found that place, she said, at the CEC when she and her five siblings started attending the after-school program. Firmin was in the sixth grade and was having some trouble fitting in at school.
“Some kids would pick on us because we didn’t speak English, but we were accepted here,” she said in an interview the day of the 21st-anniversary celebration. “They welcomed us with open arms. They learned from us and we learned from them.”
Firmin and her siblings were soon involved in most of the programs offered by the center, including dance and camps.
“I was able to meet new people from the community and the other parishes. It was a way for me to find out what I liked and didn’t like doing,” she said. “It shaped me.”
The tutoring program helped with her grades and the retreat and conferences she attended helped deepen her faith, she said.
She remained active at the CEC through high school and, while attending Sacred Heart Academy, she became a volunteer at the center earning school credit for service hours. Now that Firmin has three kids, ages 12, 5 and 3, the CEC has become a place of belonging for them as well.
“It’s become a family tradition,” she said.
The anniversary celebration took place in the CEC’s Thea Bowman Hall and included various speakers, including Loueva Moss, a member of Christ the King Church who serves on the center’s advisory board. Moss shared the history of the center with those in attendance.
Mayor Greg Fischer’s office also issued a proclamation declaring April 22, 2021, Catholic Enrichment Center Day.