FALL RIVER — Two weeks into the 81st Catholic Appeal of the Fall River Diocese as of press time, the annual campaign has surpassed $1 million on the way to its $4.8 million goal. 

“There is a big difference between going out into the world with an empty stomach and starting your day after having a nice breakfast. When you are hungry, it is hard to get through the day. A full meal makes a difference.” — Jaime, guest of St. Kilian’s House (shown here with Elizabeth Neves, St. Kilian’s House Manager)

Each year, donations to the annual Appeal help to 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 Appeal is Catholic Social Services (CSS). CSS serves and ministers to 40,000 individuals across the Diocese of Fall River each year, working 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.  

Since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, the need for the programs and services CSS provides has skyrocketed — including a significant increase in the number of individuals facing homelessness and in need of emergency housing. Donor support of the Catholic Appeal helps CSS in its efforts to provide safe, secure housing for women, men, children, and families that have been displaced due to numerous social and economic situations such as domestic violence, substance abuse, unemployment, and foreclosure.

The individual homeless, emergency assistance, and overflow shelters across the diocese provide shelter for hundreds of individuals each year. Among them is St. Kilian’s House in New Bedford, a shelter for young men ages 18-25. In addition to offering eight beds for homeless and displaced youth, the program offers a path to secure employment and permanent housing. The staff at St. Kilian’s also includes an outreach manager who travels across the Diocese of Fall River providing information and resources for men and women experiencing homelessness.

“I want the donors to know their help is appreciated. It gets us out of a lack of food, out of hard times. Their support also gives a feeling of comfort and of knowing we are going to be OK. It gives us the motivation to live.”
 — Jaime, guest of St. Kilian’s House.

The Catholic Foundation team recently sat down with Jaime, a young man who has received a fresh lease on his life through his time at St. Kilian’s House. 

“I am 21 years old. I have been staying at St. Kilian’s House for the past two years,” Jamie said. “I got my driver’s license recently and I am currently finishing my schooling. After school, I plan to move into a job with the ultimate goal of finding my own place. I’m working with my case manager at St. Kilian’s to help me achieve these goals.” 

He added, “I first came to St. Kilian’s when I was 19 years old. When I arrived here, I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of life. I was just living. I had no real direction. St. Kilian’s has helped me become independent. I have grown during my time here. A person who comes here and really wants to move on — they do succeed in moving on with their life. The key is to have your own vision and goals, along with the help that St. Kilian’s provides.” 

He said that St. Kilian’s helped him find structure through schedules, rules and routine.

“We have two curfews (at St. Kilian’s House) — at 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.,” he said. “You leave the house at 7 a.m. and can come back at 3:30 p.m. A typical day for me includes studying and my schoolwork when I get back to St. Kilian’s in the afternoon. Or other times, I meet with my case manager. I like that there are fewer distractions in the house (such as TV, entertainment); it helps on the road to personal progress. 

“At school, I am learning about career preparation and training. My chosen track is construction. I’m on an internship where I am learning how to work on a job site. Before graduating, we learn about mental toughness, visualizing a dream, achieving that dream, and finally succeeding. St. Kilian’s has provided me help with housing, how to handle personal finances, and life lessons that will help me when I take the next step toward independence.” 

He concluded, “This experience has taught me how to think further about what I want to do with my life. When I am out there, I will be able to handle it.” 

“I like helping our homeless youth. I can see that they want to better themselves and I want to help them do that. I know these kids can make a change if we help them first. If I can make a difference in one young person’s life, maybe they can pay it forward and help someone else in need.” — Pedro Ramos, Youth and Young Adult Outreach Case Manager, St. Kilian’s House.

Contributions to the Catholic Appeal, which runs through June 30, may be made either through a one-time donation or through monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual pledges. Donations may be mailed to the Catholic Appeal office, 450 Highland Avenue, Fall River, Mass., 02720, made online at www.GiveFRDiocese.org, or dropped off at any parish in the diocese. Please contact the Catholic Appeal office at 508-675-1311 with any questions.