On July 17, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville will mark the 60th anniversary of its founding.
This article is one in a series published by the Tennessee Register exploring Catholic Charities’ past, present and future.
View the entire series here.
For all the several ways that Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville has been serving the tens of thousands of people annually for the last 60 years, it can all be summed up by three key areas: emergency assistance, emotional support and job training. Or, as it is more simply put, love, hope, healing.
“In my short three years as executive director of Catholic Charities, I have seen a world of hurt … and yet the resilience shown by people is astonishing,” wrote Judy Orr, executive director of Catholic Charities, in a letter “Sixty Years of Love, Hope, Healing,” a commemorative book for the 60th anniversary. “When I started at Catholic Charities, the organization seemed complex and diverse. But I did not fathom the breadth and range of people whom we help. I quickly came to understand that programs can come and go, but they are all built around the same principles of helping.”
The emergency assistance program provides short-term assistance to individuals or families who are experiencing a personal crisis or are a survivor of a disaster.
This can include helping with overdue rent and utility payments; transportation assistance including bus and gas cards; food assistance through programs such as Loaves and Fishes; finding temporary housing; housing stability; providing diapers for infants, and more.
The need for emergency assistance can come for any reason whether it is a job loss or unexpected medical issues, or because of natural and unnatural disasters, most recently, the Christmas Day Bombing of 2020 and the August 2021 flooding in Waverly, Tennessee.
“Every person is a neighbor worthy of love. The movement of love is God-infused, lavish charity, especially in times of need. At some time in every person’s life, there will be a lack that needs filling. There will come an emergency which needs attending. There will be a hunger that needs feeding. There will be an insecurity requiring the assurance of a safe haven and hope for tomorrow,” according to the commemorative book.
“This is the core mission of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Nashville: Following Christ’s example, we recognize the dignity of all people and serve our neighbors. Everyone is a neighbor and Catholic Charities sees the needs and meets them with the love of Christ every day.
“Financial hardships and personal challenges are often the first introduction a neighbor has to Catholic Charities. And, once that neighbor finds love, hope, healing, it is often the case that he reciprocates that love in his own community, building stronger relationships of trust and care for others,” the book continues. “This is the Body of Christ at work to meet the needs of all neighbors.”
If you or someone you know has experienced financial or personal hardship, call 615-352-3087.
Through its emotional support services, Catholic Charities focuses on strengthening relationships, providing quality service, and providing accessible service with a team of more than two dozen professional counselors and social workers.
Specific areas of support include: adoption and pregnancy counseling; trauma-focused counseling; individual and family counseling; parenting programs; support programs for older adults who want to continue living at home; and school counseling.
“Fear can be paralyzing. Fear from trauma. Fear of loss. Fear for what is unseen. Fear in times of transition. Fear as life begins and as it ends,” according to the commemorative book. “Fear can make an individual feel powerless to handle the crosses of life and out of control in times of hardship or uncertainty.
“Emotional support programs are an essential piece of the whole person puzzle when pursuing sustainable self-reliance. Mental health services are a key component of comprehensive social service models, such as that of Catholic Charities,” the book continues. “A healthy mind and strong relationships are as vital to human flourishing as a full stomach or secure employment, and Catholic Charities is devoted to facilitating all of it as a movement of God’s spirit of love in the community.”
Through its job training programs, Catholic Charities offers opportunities for students to learn the skills needed for in-demand jobs, experiential training, be taught by experts in a given field, and have access to additional services for life skills, counseling, housing and more, according to the Catholic Charities website.
While this includes basic job-training skills, such as how to write a resume, interview for jobs and more, Catholic Charities also offers opportunities to complete one of four job-specific programs to prepare them for the workforce. They include:
- The Culinary Training Academy, which prepares students to work in hospitality settings.
- The Sewing Training Academy, which prepares students to work in industrial sewing jobs.
- Unidos in Banking, which trains and provides job placement assistance for banking industry positions.
- The Guild: Plumbing, which trains its students to become plumbing assistants in three weeks.
“From the beginning, in the Garden, a most basic part of the human experience is work. All people are called to some work in the world as a participation in a community and as a function of God’s original design for the human beings made in His image,” according to the commemorative book. “Yet, some people, because of social circumstances, natural disasters, disabilities, or other challenges find it difficult to find meaningful work to sustain their lives and families. Work is a dignified universal calling, but some people have real difficulty in finding sustainable employment.
“Catholic Charities’ job training initiatives give the individual not only the fundamental skills, but also the confidence to find good jobs for long-lasting financial stability. Work is more than a way to make a living,” the book continues. “It is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation, according to Catholic social teaching. And as the old adage goes, you can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but when you teach him to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”
For more information about services, call 615-352-3087 or visit cctenn.org, and click the “Get Help Now by Phone or Email” button at the top of the screen.
Along with its locations in Davidson County, Catholic Charities currently has its services available in six other Middle Tennessee Counties through its Family Resource Centers.
To find a local Family Resource Center, visit https://cctenn.org/causes/family-resource-centers/tennessee-serves-neighbors/.
Copies of the commemorative book are still available. For more information, contact Betsy Everett, Catholic Charities development specialist, at 615-540-1238 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The coffee table style book features large color portraits of 35 former clients representing the broad range of programs that are a part of Catholic Charities’ 60 years.