St. Theresa Social Concerns meets August through May on the fourth Thursday of the month at 7 PM. Please contact Bill Worlie, Director of Social Concerns, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how to help with our projects.
We work on a number of charity and justice issues throughout the year. Projects are mostly monthly, with some being yearly or one-time projects and are designed to engage active participation of as many St. Theresa parishioners as possible. Our parish and committee members bring a variety of talents, gifts and ideas to our committee. We have been blessed with a group of people who believe in working towards love and justice for all.
- St. Theresa Social Concerns implemented and administers the First Fruits program parish-wide. St. Theresa Parishioners receive First Fruits envelopes in their tithing packets. There are eight categories that a parishioner can “check off” to designate their donations: Utility assistance, Refugee Assistance, Pro-Life, Emergency Shelter Needs, Peace and Justice Needs, St. Theresa Transitional House, Hispanic Ministry needs and Current Needs. The First Fruits subcommittee of Social Concerns meets once a month to disburse the funds for each of the eight categories. St. Theresa parishioners donate $25,000-$30,000 each year to support the needs in our community through the First Fruits program.
- One of our big projects is the St. Theresa Transitional House. It is a 4-bedroom house for low-income large families who can stay for a maximum of two years. We have owned it since 2001. We believe it is a house of justice, trying to help low income, large families live in decent housing while helping them work towards more permanent housing. We have made a multitude of improvements on the property since we bought it. It is an older house, always in need of work. Between tenants, St. Theresa parishioners are recruited to clean and paint and do update projects. While a family is in the home, we provide monthly mentoring meetings and a savings match program to assist them with attaining their goals to transition them into stable employment and housing.
- On a monthly basis we provide meals to two shelters. One is Central Iowa Shelter Services and the other is St. Joseph Family Emergency Shelter. Central Iowa Shelter & Services Meal is the 8th of the month and approximately 80 people provide food and supplies to feed 250 people. Another group of 10-15 people come to the church, picks up the food, takes it to the shelter, and serves it to the shelter guests and staff. St. Theresa has been providing this meal to CISS for over 20 years. The St. Joseph meal is the fourth Friday of the month, where a small group, family or individual buys, prepares and takes food to the shelter for approximately 30 people, most of which are children.
- St. Theresa Church is a member of Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC). St. Theresa Social Concerns promotes and coordinates the monthly Food Pantry and quarterly Personal Care Pantry collections. St. Theresa consistently remains one of the largest monthly contributors to the DMARC food pantry in both food items and monetary donations.
- On a monthly basis we promote and sell Fair Trade coffee, tea, and chocolate that we obtain through Catholic Relief Services’ partnership with SERVV and Equal Exchange. We have a permanent kiosk located in the back of the church where people can purchase items anytime the church is open. We have had Work of Human Hands catalog and “table sales” at the St. Theresa Rosary Bazaar to sell CRS Fair Trade items created by artisans throughout the world. St. Theresa has averaged $8,000 a year of fair trade products through monthly coffee sales and the holiday sales.
- In 2009, members of St. Theresa Social Concerns, in conjunction with parish staff, started an emergency food pantry in the church office to be able to respond to the growing number of people who come to our church door asking for help. Funded through private donors, we also became an approved agency by the Food Bank of Iowa that gives us the ability to stock ample amounts of nutritious food at a very nominal cost. Since 2010, we regularly partner with Catholic Worker to supplement their weekly Free Food Store Saturdays. In 2014, a total of 1,399 families were served by the St. Theresa Food Pantry at our church door and through the Catholic Worker Free Store Saturdays.
- St. Theresa has sponsored several refugee families through Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement program and have held many collections to provide household setup and meet personal needs.
- For over 20 years, St. Theresa has participated in the Angel Tree Program that provides Christmas presents to the children of prisoners within our state. We serve about 100 families each year through this program.
- St. Theresa Church is a supporting congregation of Family Promise Shelter, where we provide monetary support through First Fruits and assist with hosting duties when the shelter does not have a host congregation. We also assist Windsor Heights Lutheran Church with their host weeks.
- Our parish is a member church in AMOS (A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy). AMOS brings member churches together to concentrate on specific local issues that impact the programs and projects that affect their own families, neighborhoods and communities.
- Since 2002, members of our committee and parish have participated in the JustFaith/Engaging Spirituality programs to learn more about their Catholic Faith and their own call to promote charity and justice in our world.
- We pass out white ribbons and prayer cards after all the masses for Torture Awareness Month. We publish torture awareness in St. Theresa’s bulletins during the month of June and we also put white ribbons around all the trees on our parish campus to commemorate Torture Awareness Month.
In addition to our ongoing projects, we work on several projects as requested:
- We coordinated parish efforts to assist a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Many of our parishioners traveled to New Orleans for a number of years to help with rebuilding efforts.
- We host a parish Lenten soup supper each year where one year we invited members from Save Darfur to speak on the genocide that is happening there.
- We staff Saturdays at the Windsor Heights HyVee to ring the bells for Salvation Army during the holiday season.
- Annually, we provide Grief Support Meals to Amanda the Panda.
- Annually, we provide Faith in Action Youth Service meals.
In addition to their work through Social Concerns, we have a number of people from our committee that volunteer outside the parish: St. Mary’s Family Center, St. Joseph’s Family Shelter, St. Benedict’s Mission, St. Ambrose Refugee Services, The Connection Café, ReStore, Amanda the Panda, DMARC Food Pantry, Serve our Youth (SOY) and Center for Social Ministry.