FALL RIVER, Mass. — The 79th annual Catholic Appeal has begun in the Diocese of Fall River and runs through July 31. As of press time, the Appeal has raised $1 million, one week into the annual campaign. 

Each year, donations to the annual Appeal meet the physical, emotional, and Spiritual needs of tens of thousands of individuals and families in the diocese. The largest beneficiary of funding through the Catholic Appeal is Catholic Social Services (CSS). CSS works with persons of all faiths and cultures in the Spirit of God’s universal love to advance human dignity and promote social justice, truth, and solidarity in the community. This year, due to the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for the programs and services offered by CSS is greater than it has ever been. 

As part of its wide scope of services, CSS provides emergency housing and homeless shelters to those in their time of greatest need across the Diocese of Fall River. One of these shelters is St. Joseph House in Hyannis. St. Joseph House has 20 beds for female guests and 30 beds for male guests, as well as another 10 overflow beds. It offers a day program for men and women of all ages who are currently or formerly homeless, or at risk for homelessness. The day program serves as a safe space to gather without stigma for three meals a day, activities that foster connection and skill-building, and the loving support of the caring and compassionate team at the shelter.

The need for resources, coupled with the demographics of Cape Cod, present unique challenges to the day-to-day operations at St. Joseph House. The onset of the Coronavirus earlier this year compounded these needs. The area has seen an increase in homelessness, particularly among the elderly: a population that often has more significant medical issues, greater susceptibility to contracting the virus, and financial hardship surrounding the loss of a spouse, pension, or longtime home. 

Since COVID-19 began, St. Joseph House has transitioned to a 24/7 “shelter in place” site, providing shelter to its guests around the clock. St. Joseph House has also provided COVID-19 testing for all guests, and has served as a safe place for them to stay healthy, as all guests have tested negative for the virus. Shauna Kane, the Day Program Coordinator at St. Joseph House, has served in her role for the past four years and is proud of the gathering spot she and her team have created. 

“In this place, blessed four years ago by Bishop da Cunha, we gather differently now. We are masked, gloved and six feet apart when possible. However, we still teach and learn together. We still know everyone’s name. We still smile, laugh, cry, think and figure out solutions,” said Shauna. “I am honored to share this space with amazingly resilient individuals. They are an inspiration.”

Eddie Jeter is a former guest who has turned his life around thanks to the care and support he received at St. Joseph House. Today, he has an apartment and dreams of eventually becoming a homeowner. “If it wasn’t for St. Joseph’s House, I would probably still be living out of my car, or in different people’s houses. I would not have my place. They gave me a foundation. A stepping-stone and direction with which way to go, as far as housing goes,” Eddie said. 

While staying at St. Joseph House, Eddie worked two jobs and was able to lay the foundation for a better future. “St. Joseph’s House and Catholic Social Services gave me the structure I needed to get a place of my own,” he said. “People should donate [to the Appeal] so people have the opportunity to find housing, to get a job, and build up self-esteem, self-discipline, guidance. If people have other issues, they can work on it through St. Joseph’s House.”

This year the Appeal’s series of focus videos highlighting ministries receiving much-needed support through gifts to the Appeal continues. The first video in the series is dedicated to St. Joseph House. A webpage telling Eddie’s story and featuring the video can be viewed on the Appeal website: catholicfoundationsema.org/eddie.

The Appeal website also includes a summary of how philanthropic dollars raised through the Appeal have been distributed across the various ministries it supports, and a video message from Bishop da Cunha. The website is updated regularly, so please visit it for more Appeal news and highlights in the weeks ahead. 

Contributions to the Catholic Appeal may be made either through a one-time donation or through monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual pledges. Donations may be mailed directly to the Catholic Foundation Office, 450 Highland Avenue, Fall River, Mass. 02720; made online at www.givefrdiocese.org/2020, or dropped off at any parish in the diocese. Please contact the Catholic Foundation Office at 508-675-1311 with any questions.