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November 25, 2009
Counting one’s blessings
By Julie Filby
On Thanksgiving family and friends will gather to express gratitude to God and each other for the blessings in their lives. The stories below are expressions of gratitude shared by people who have been served by ministries in the Denver Archdiocese.
Grateful for the chance to raise her daughter
“I don’t know how to thank everyone who has helped me. My focus has changed from being self-centered to doing what’s best for my daughter.”—Kendra Hick-man, empowered by the Father Ed Judy House, a ministry of Catholic Charities
A year ago, Kendra Hickman was not a fit mother. Her now 2-year-old daughter Madilyn had been taken away from her as Hickman struggled with marijuana, alcohol and an abusive relationship with Madilyn’s father.
After several years without a permanent residence, Hickman moved into the Father Ed Judy House for a four-month stay. Father Ed Judy House is a temporary shelter for mothers with young children. They help families find housing and rebuild their lives.
With help from this ministry and other local organizations, she is now sober, motivated, confident, excited about the future—and will regain full custody of her daughter next week.
“I’m so grateful to Catholic Charities and the Father Ed Judy House,” Hickman said. “They’ve really turned my life around.”
Hickman is in the process of moving into transitional housing with a goal of settling in a permanent residence within two years. Her daughter is enrolled in a Montessori preschool and Hickman, who holds a Certified Nurses Aid license, is looking for work at a nearby medical center.
She credits her experience at the Father Ed Judy House, along with the support of family and friends, for her turnaround.
“I want everything out of life now,” she said. “I’m able to make decisions that are best for me and my daughter—and with that comes confidence and joy.”
Grateful for self-esteem gained through literacy
“The program changed my life completely. When I started, I didn’t even know how to write my own name.”—Flavio Vera, learned to read and write through Plaza Comunitaria, a ministry of Centro San Juan Diego
Flavio Vera felt helpless when his son asked him a question related to his homework.
“I was not able to help my children with their homework,” Vera said. “Due to my ignorance, I was experiencing low self-esteem and it was affecting my family.”
Vera discovered Plaza Comunitaria, an adult literacy program offered by Centro San Juan Diego, a Catholic ministry providing family and pastoral care, outreach and education to the Hispanic community. Through Plaza Comunitaria, students learn how to read and write at their own pace—and are able to acquire elementary, middle school and high school certifications.
Vera now reads and writes proficiently. Last year, he completed elementary school and now he’s only a few classes away from middle school certification.
“I feel competent enough to guide my children with any homework questions,” he said. “I thank the center and its amazing professors for providing this extraordinary program for people like me who did not have the opportunity to go to school.”
Grateful for life lessons and Catholic education
“When I look back over my life, probably the best thing that happened to me in my formative years was the four years I spent at Regis.”—Anonymous donor, alumni of Catholic schools
To express gratitude for his Catholic education, a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, established a fund at The Catholic Foundation to provide grants for students attending Catholic high schools. The fund recently awarded nearly $50,000 in scholarships.
The donor, born and raised in Denver, attended St. Bernadette School followed by Regis Jesuit High School. He explained that his education wasn’t valuable only academically, but that it instilled lessons in faith, morality and character that have stayed with him his entire life.
“We need young people to grow up with God as the primary focus of their lives,” he said. “Catholic schools do an excellent job of keeping Christ at the center of what they’re doing.”
The donor is a semi-retired real estate broker who took a chance on a real estate project a few years ago. Many times the project came to a halt with seemingly no way out. He attributed the ultimate success of the project to the Holy Spirit.
“Since the Holy Spirit was so involved in the project we felt we needed to give back as our expression of gratitude for the many blessings of our lives,” he said. “It was a powerful experience for both my wife and I.”
They are grateful they can help more Catholics from the next generation have the opportunity for the same type of faith formation they received in Catholic schools.
Grateful for spiritual guidance during pregnancy
“My pregnancy wouldn’t have been so beautiful without their help. They helped fulfill all my dreams of pregnancy.”—Sarmili Das, supported during her pregnancy by the Gabriel Project, a ministry of the Respect Life Office
Sarmili Das was born in India into the Hindu religious tradition.
“I always believed in Jesus,” she said. “And I wanted to learn more about Scripture, but I was not finding what I wanted.”
During her pregnancy, she kept running into dead-ends in her quest to study and learn the Christian faith. One day she was attracted by a Gabriel Project sign which read, “Do not be afraid.”
Gabriel Project is a Catholic outreach providing spiritual, financial and practical support to pregnant women of all faiths, ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. She contacted Gabriel Project, where she received the help and guidance she was looking for through classes suggested by her dedicated volunteer or “angel.” Das came to know more about God, the Bible and the Catholic faith.
“I become so close to God during my pregnancy,” she said. “I was so happy—the Gabriel Project really helped me get what I wanted.”
Das and her 9-week-old son Shayan were baptized together last Sunday at St. Thomas More Church in Centennial. Her Gabriel Project angel was her baptism sponsor.
“Now I will know God,” she said. “And my baby will know God.”