Resulting donations for St. Gianna’s Women’s Homes double goal
(SNR) – Each president of the Lincoln Diocesan Council of Catholic Women – the diocesan organization which unites Parish Councils of Catholic Women in seeking to serve God through works of mercy – selects a diocesan-wide project.
The current president, Ann Jansky, chose support of St. Gianna’s Women’s Homes as her project.
St. Gianna’s Women’s Homes, an outreach of Catholic Social Services (CSS) of southern Nebraska, provides housing and support for victims of domestic violence and women pressured to have abortions. Jansky asked each deanery – groups of parishes in the 13 regions of the diocese – to join together in each furnishing one apartment for St. Gianna’s by the next biennial convention in April 2016.
In September, when the PCCW (Parish Council of Catholic Women) of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish in Osceola decided to hold a giving tree to collect enough items for one apartment, they thought it was such a lofty goal for their parish of 131 families that they enlisted another parish to help them complete the project.
Chelsey Girard of St. Vincent Parish contacted her mother, Julie Wasem of St. Mary Parish in Aurora, and explained the idea from Osceola: each parish would host a ‘giving tree’ to collect enough items to furnish one three-bedroom apartment for St. Gianna’s. An itemized list of everything from bedding and towels to kitchen utensils and dish soap was supplied by Deb Bixby from St. Joseph Parish in Geneva, and Girard put them all on gift tags with the items listed. The gift tags were cut out – Wasem cut out dozens of tags while she watched Husker games – and hung on Christmas trees in the two churches. Then parishioners who wanted to participate were invited to take a tag, buy the item or items listed, and return them – unwrapped – under the tree for distribution to CSS.
Girard grouped the small items, making 85 categories. She and her mother worked out a partnership.
“If in the first week, St. Mary’s tree has silverware, a pitcher and a small trashcan appear, I’ll remove those labels from my tree (in Osceola),” she explained to participants. “If our parish tree has mixing bowls, a broom and ice cube trays, she will remove those tags from her tree, and so on.”
Her fellow PCCW members who helped plan the project supplied the first six items to place under the tree to “get the giving spirit going,” Girard said.
Through bulletin announcements, Girard also encouraged parishioners who like to purchase Black Friday deals to look for specific helpful items. She purchased all the comforters and mattress pads herself on Black Friday – as her own donation, and also with cash donations from the PCCW and the Knights of Columbus.
As it turned out, members of both parishes so embraced the spirit of giving that they both far surpassed the goal. Donations came in so quickly, that the parishes have already furnished two three-bedroom apartments, instead of just one.
Two weeks before Christmas, Girard said, about 20 tags were still left on their tree. Before the end of the week, however, all 20 were removed – and the items anonymously supplied. By the same time, only one tag remained on the tree in Aurora.
“I’ve never been part of a giving tree project before,” Girard said, “so I was so pleased with how the parish turned out and how they gave back.”
Wasem, her mother, said her fellow PCCW members in Aurora were “so excited.”
“We’re always trying to find a way to give back,” she said. “This was a project in which everyone could take part.”
She said the parish has grown in the 35 years she has been a member, from 45 families to about 250 families.
“This was so easy to do,” she said. “A small or large parish could do it.”
Rather than waiting for the 2016 convention, Girard has packed up the items for CSS already.
Father Christopher Kubat, director of CSS, recently wrote in his “Seedlings” column how St. Gianna’s had affected the lives of the women the program assists.
When asked, “What has St. Gianna Women’s Home done for you?” he wrote, “here are some of the answers: ‘This place has saved my life.... If I wasn’t here I would be on the streets and probably not alive.... It has brought me back to the sacraments and to my faith….. This place is a safe haven for me, it has taken care of me and my needs.... I am now able to help others who are struggling. In fact, last night, I talked to someone for an hour who was going through some tough times.... My daughter is now learning about the Church and faith.... I am so grateful for the Sisters and Father for all that they have done for me.… I have been through a lot in my life, violence growing up and then into my adult life.... this place has given me security since my abuser is now out of prison... most of all, this place has helped me learn a lot about myself and for this I am grateful.’”