By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
ST. JOSEPH — Jonathan came out of the Army, and tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, messed up.
“I wasn’t able to deal with my problems,” he said at the March 12 Reflections of Hope Luncheon, sponsored by Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph’s northwest Missouri office.
He turned to drugs and alcohol, he lost a job, his relationship with a young woman ended, and Jonathan wound up “sleeping in my truck.”
“Then somebody told me about Catholic Charities,” Jonathan said.
Through Catholic Charities in St. Joseph, he got therapy for his addictions, found a home and landed a job.
“If it wasn’t for Kayla (Acklin) and Catholic Charities, I’d be in a much worse situation,” Jonathan said.
So would Valerie, although she admits she is still a long way from telling a success story, as she continues to seek treatment for bi-polar disorder and substance abuse. But she does have one thing, she told the nearly 200 guests at the luncheon.
She has hope.
“I know now that I have the strength to overcome my problems,” Valerie said.
“If it weren’t for you people with your kindness, there would be a lot more people like me on the streets,” she said. “You are shining God’s light on the world, and I will never, ever, ever forget you.”
That’s what Catholic Charities is supposed to do, said Deacon Dan Powers, CEO of the diocesan agency that works out of regional offices in St. Joseph and Warrensburg, as well as the new headquarters at 9th and Main in downtown Kansas City.
“We are called to be imitations of Christ. We are called to be reflections of his love and his hope,” Deacon Powers said.
He praised the work of all the staff of Catholic Charities as “the heart of the church.”
But, Deacon Powers said, they receive more than they give, as do all who serve the poor and the broken.
“It is not a one-way ministry,” he said. “We know that the people we serve also minister to us. They touch us. They change us.”
Elaine Ingle, who revived the annual luncheon after a three-year hiatus, then presented Blessed Mother Teresa awards to 16 people who modeled Christian service in their faith communities, both Catholic and non-Catholic.
Two of the award recipients, Joan and Vincent Seiler of St. Ann Parish in Plattsburg, declined the invitation to attend, and their pastor Father Phil Luebbert explained.
“They don’t want any public recognition. They say they do it for the Lord,” Father Luebbert said as he accepted their award. “But I’m going to give it to them anyway.”
Ingle attributed much of the large turnout for the luncheon to one of the non-Catholic recipients.
“Almost every time I would pick up the phone, somebody would say, ‘I want to go to this luncheon in honor of Nancy Hopper,’” Ingle said. “This lady has to be a saint.”
Hopper, a member of Francis Street First United Methodist Church, is active in charities throughout St. Joseph, including collecting and delivering food to pantries.
Other people honored for their involvement in their communities and their churches were:
• John Bitunjac, St. Francis Xavier Parish, St. Joseph.
• Jerry Dishman, Helena United Methodist Church.
• Janet Fite, St. Rose of Lima Parish, Savannah.
• Mary George, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, St. Joseph.
• Julie and David Houser, St. Joseph Parish, Easton.
• Josephine Jackson, St. Joseph Parish, Easton.
• Judy McCowan, St. Ann Parish, Plattsburg.
• Karen Nold, St. Rose of Lima Parish, Savannah.
• Ellen Remick, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, St. Joseph.
• David Waltemath, St. Patrick Mission, Ford City.
• Ada Mae Wilmes, St. Gregory Barbarigo Parish, Maryville.
• Linda Wilt, St. Rose of Lima Parish, Savannah.