Catholic charities honors co-workers, studies programs

Omaha, Neb. — The more than 400 representatives of Catholic charities from across the nation meeting in Omaha Sept. 9-12 took time Thursday night to honor the achievements of colleagues and co-workers and to marked transitions.

Kathy Thayer, vice president of Life Connections at Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, received the Bishop Sullivan Award.

“Kathy was instrumental in developing and eventually supervising the community based youth services program,” said Adrian Dominican Sr. Donna Markham in her introduction. Thayer said she had the opportunity to meet Bishop Sullivan years ago and thanked the “teams who support me and truly are the hands of Christ.”

The award is named forr the late Bishop Joseph M. Sullivan of Brooklyn, N.Y., a former board member and longer time supporter of Catholic Charities in his diocese and nationally.

Richard and Elisabeth Buchanan, volunteers at Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, received the Volunteer of the Year Award. They have cared for 217 foster children over the years. Their time with each child has ranged from three hours to eight months. Markham noted that while many parents move out of late nights with their young children, the Buchanans have spent “45 years getting up in the middle of the night.”

Markham introduced incoming board members, thanked outgoing board members and the incoming chair of the board of trustees for Catholic Charities USA.

Incoming board members include Robert J. McCann, executive director of Catholic Charities Spokane, and Michael Connelly, president and CEO of Cincinnati, Ohio-based Mercy Health. The incoming chair of the board of trustees is Marguerite D. Harmon, CEO of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona.

Friday’s program included “3-hour institutes,” workshops and site visit tours. The institutes touched on social enterprise, the changing landscape of food access in low income communities, trauma-informed care in social service settings and the rocky road of re-entry for inmates. Site tours included Omaha Campus for Hope, Juan Diego Center and Boys Town.

Ray Boshara, senior advisor and director of the Center for Household Financial Stability at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, spoke at the Trends in Family Practice, Theology, Law and Economics Institute.

Boshara presented findings on financial stability. He said that the economic outcome of college graduates vary along racial lines. He said whites and Asians who have a college degree do better than blacks and Hispanics that have a college degree. Boshara said “the wealth gap remains large. African Americans have 40 percent less income than whites and have fewer opportunities to convert what they have into assets. We can’t ignore family structure when talking about family financial stability.

Attendees were also introduced to Prepares, a pregnancy and parenting support program of the bishops of Washington state. Prepares unites efforts under a single umbrella to assist pregnant women, fathers and families, working with family clients from conception to the fifth birthday of the child.

Supporting the program are 173 parishes in the Seattle diocese, 41 in the Yakima diocese and 82 in the Spokane diocese. In just one year, more than 1,000 families have been served.

Carolyn Y. Woo, president & CEO of Catholic Relief Services, the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic church, is a keynote speaker on Saturday.

[Elizabeth A. Elliott, an NCR Bertelsen intern, is covering the Catholic Charities annual gathering. Contact her at]


Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here