Lenten Social Justice Project

Sue Geegan

Our Catholic faith calls us to engage in Prayer, Fasting and Alms-giving for Lent

Prayer – Lent is essentially an act of prayer spread out over 40 days. As we pray, we go on a journey, one that hopefully brings us closer to Christ and leaves us changed by the encounter with him.
Fasting – Fasting is more than giving up a certain food or drink. It is an opportunity to provide an emptiness which allows more space for God to enter our lives and transform us.

Alms-giving – Through prayer and fasting, we grow in solidarity with others living in despair or without basic, adequate resources and turn our attention away from ourselves and to the suffering of our brothers and sisters, no matter where they live. Alms-giving is additional generosity beyond your financial support of Holy Family’s regular operation of our mission and the quality programs offered.

Each Lent since 2014, Holy Family Catholic Community has promoted a Lenten social justice project to support an organization or mission diocese working to address a need within their community. Steeped in Catholic social teaching, we educate the parish about a specific justice issue and offer prayers, fasting, and financial support in solidarity with that community.

Several of those projects have been in partnership with Catholic Extension Society to support mission dioceses throughout the United States and other foreign countries, where the needs are great and the Church is growing. Our efforts have also supported local programs addressing the need for housing, violence prevention, and care for the economically-challenged elderly.

Lenten Social Justice Projects have raised over $621,853.

Scroll down to see a listing of these earlier projects.

2023 Lenten Social Justice Project

A message from Fr. Terry

“The lay life is the life of the Church” – Rev. Jean Baptiste Muard, founder of the Edmundite Missions, 1843

I really like this quote.  I BELIEVE in this quote. It expresses the spirit of Vatican II, only 120 years before the Council was convened.  The Edmundite Missionaries have been empowering lay people and respecting the life of the laity for 180 years. Muard founded the Edmundites in Pontigny, France in 1843.  Then amidst radical anti-clericalism in France at the time, the Missionaries moved to a French friendly Montreal, Canada and then to Winooski, Vermont to establish St. Michaels College which today has an enrollment of 3,000 students. 

In 1937 the Edmundites were called by God to serve the poorest of the poor Black Americans in Selma, Alabama.  They have served that community ever since with programing and ministry in four main areas:

* Health          * Self Reliance         * Nutrition and        * Education

This past week, Sue Geegan our Director of Human Concerns, Eric Kramp our new Parish Manager and I visited the Mission in Selma.  Our partners with Catholic Extension Society sponsored our trip and, as they have for several previous Lenten Social Justice Projects, they once again introduced us to a group of very dedicated, faith-filled people.

The Edmundites that we are assisting are all Lay Ministers.  Their work carries out the spirit of their founder Rev, Jean Baptiste Muard.  They are Lay people serving Lay people in the name of the Catholic Church. In doing so, they are carrying out every tenet of Catholic Social Teaching:

        Respecting Life                                              

        Protecting the Rights and Responsibilities of Life

        Strengthening the Community, particularly the most fundamental community—the family

        Supporting the Dignity of Work


        Care for Creation

        Exercising a basic and fundamental outreach to the Poor

Like all good Missionaries, the Edmundites are always looking for new frontiers, new challenges and new ways to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Their newest frontier is to engage College Students in their ministry and their commitment to the principals cited above.

The Mission has several buildings that house activities and ministries and they recently purchased a building that needs renovation to house these college students. The funds that we generate will go directly to the renovation of that building.

“If you build it, they will come.”  A voice from the movie Field of Dreams

The building will be called the Casey Center after Fr.Casey who played a critical role in the movement of the Order to Selma.  Renovating the building will cost $1 Million.  They have already raised $750,000 and we are hoping to raise at least $50,000 to assist them and move closer to empowering college students and advancing their mission.    

In addition to the many challenges of the Edmundites in Selma, on January 12 of this year a tornado ripped through the town.  The facilities that the Edmundites own and operate had very minimal damage thank God.  However, that tragedy displaced many residents and increased the number of people needing their services.

Please help to house college students from across the country learning about the importance of service and Social Justice.  As we help to house them they will learn about basic health needs met by the Mission’s clinic, about nutrition and to see that many of the former clients of their Soup Kitchen now work there and teach others about good nutrition.  They will learn the dignity of work as they empower residents to gain employment and they will learn the significant role that education plays in moving from poverty to productivity.

Familiarize yourself with more details of how the Edmundites, with our help, will form a new generation of Catholic leaders.

Support the expansion of the Edmundite Missions in Selma, AL.  Help build the Casey Center for Faith and Community Service – Integrating Faith, Service and Social Justice. 

For more than three generations, the Society of St. Edmund has promoted and championed the healing presence of Jesus Christ through programs that sustain those who are most vulnerable within the Black Belt of Alabama.

The Missions understands that in order to drive long-term change and develop sustainable solutions to the societal deficits inherent to its founding, a networked approach to problem solving must be addressed. A critical component of this networked approach has been maintaining a volunteer program to engage college and university students.

Over the last several years, the Missions has restructured its volunteer program.  The longer-term goal is to engage young people in experiential opportunities that both define the role of the individual in community problem solving and to align their “faith” in light of their search for meaning, purpose and societal impact. As such, this program will evolve into a field site for young people to deepen their understanding and commitment to the pursuit of social justice and civic engagement through the lens of Catholic social justice teaching. 

As nearly all Catholic colleges and universities maintain “social justice” as the heart of their volunteer programs, the Missions will focus on engaging those institutions where there is a formal social justice program with academic content and where supervising faculty are able to shape such experiential education within a social justice and community engagement context. 

In order to grow this program successfully, the Missions must secure sufficient housing for such long-term volunteers, proximate to the work to ensure participant security. That housing must be safe and secure, accommodate male and female volunteers appropriately and include space for supervising professors or group leaders with some amount of personal and professional privacy. 
The Missions envisions that this facility, named The Casey Center for Faith and Community Service, would serve as the heart of a dynamic collegiate internship program, accommodating a growing number of institutions of higher education whose students wish to join the Missions’ commitment to service, social responsibility and moral reflection. Currently, there are no facilities in the proximate area that provides the service that will be provided by the Casey Center. The Missions anticipate that the total number of families that are directly served by the increased number of students supporting the programs will be 6,000 families.  


Past Lenten Social Justice Projects

The 2023 Lenten Social Justice Project marked our 10th since we began in 2014.  Our support this year raised $63,435 for Catholic Extension’s Edmundite Missions in Selma, AL to help fund renovations for the Casey Center for Faith and Community Service. The Casey Center will be the hub for young adults to address social justice issues which are at the heart of Catholic social teachings.  This year’s project was no different.  Respecting human dignity, preferential treatment of the poor, dignity of work and living in solidarity with all people are at the core of our support for the Edmundite Missions in Selma.  Thank you for your generosity and continued prayers.  Holy Family’s support to ultimately provide a hand up instead of hand out is a crucial step in breaking the cycle of poverty.

2022 Lenten Social Justice Project – Mercy Personified – Raised $56,250.
Holy Family Catholic Community is partnering with Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR), located in Chicago, serving the neighborhoods of Back of the Yards/New City and Englewood. Their mission is rooted in the spirituality of the Precious Blood to restore human dignity through radical hospitality, hope and healing. They serve youth, families and community members who are impacted by violence and the criminal justice system. PBMR is mercy personified promoting a restorative justice approach to conflict while building a sense of community. Men and women who are currently incarcerated are also supported by their ministry.

How does PBMR provide radical hospitality, hope and healing? PBMR builds relationships among the youth and families impacted by violence. They create safe spaces where people can process trauma and heal. Most, importantly, they promote Restorative Justice as an approach to conflict – versus criminal punishment or incarceration – as a way to restore relationships.

“What if we could create a place that works to build up a neighborhood impacted by violence and incarceration? It would be a place of healing and hope. This place would work towards a more healthy and restorative community where young people and families could thrive.”
– Father David Kelly

This year our Lenten Social Justice Project raised over $56.000. Thank you to our donors who so generously gave support to PBMR and the valuable work they do in their communities. We look forward to a long-lasting partnership with them in providing radical hospitality, hope and healing. For more information about PBMR, visit their website at www.pbmr.org.


Thank you to countless parishioners that participated in our Lenten Social Justice Project benefitting the Little Sisters of the Poor and the residents of St. Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in Palatine.  Carloads of goods and supplies were delivered to the Palatine home from the bins that collected the items outside the church doors as well as direct drop offs and Amazon deliveries.  Diana at St. Joe’s noted that there was a big increase in donations over those three weeks of our Lenten Project.

We also collected a total of $51,204 in cash donations not to mention gift cards, Costco rebates and Easter Holiday Sharing gift cards for each resident bringing that total to almost $54,000!!  THANK YOU on behalf of Holy Family and on behalf of the Little Sisters of the Poor who continue to serve the economically disadvantaged elderly in our community with love and dignity.

We are living in a time that is challenging to our faith practice and our ability to see one another as God’s children. Instead of drawing ourselves to one another in our common goodness, we stand as witnesses to increased divisiveness. Our Catholic social teaching on Solidarity states:

“We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Learning to practice the virtue of solidarity, learning that “loving our neighbor” has global dimensions in an interdependent world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace.” USCCB.org

This Lent, Holy Family will live out the Catholic social teaching of Solidarity more intentionally by supporting The Little Sisters of the Poor at the St Joseph’s Home for the Elderly in Palatine.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are an international congregation of Roman Catholic women religious founded in 1839 by Saint Jeanne Jugan. Together with a diverse network of collaborators, they serve the elderly poor in over 30 countries around the world.

Continuing the work of Saint Jeanne Jugan, their MISSION is to offer the neediest elderly of every race and religion a home where they will be welcomed as Christ, cared for as family and accompanied with dignity until God calls them to himself.

Their VISION is to contribute to the Culture of Life by nurturing communities where each person is valued, the solidarity of the human family and the wisdom of age are celebrated, and the compassionate love of Christ is shared with all.


2019- Kino Border Initiative, Nogales, Arizona/Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and the Holy Family Fund 2019- Kino Border Initiative, Nogales, Arizona/Nogales, Sonora, Mexico and the Holy Family Fund

JUNE NEWS LETTER (click to read)

KBI recently dedicated a brand new building to better serve people fleeing their homeland due to famine or violence.  The dedication began with a Love First moment.  A woman noticed people walking in her neighborhood with white lips.  She knew that meant they were hungry and dehydrated.  She saw so many people that she thought all she could do was pray.  While continuing to see these people, she then wondered, “How much can it cost to offer them some beans and a cup of water?”  That was in 2010. What began with a woman with love for her neighbor in her heart grew to what is now KBI. They began to serve people in a small building holding approximately 100 people at a time.  Since 2010, it is estimated 775,000 immigrants have been served by KBI in that small building. This new building with greater capacity allows KBI to provide additional services such as counseling, sleeping quarters and a clothing room.

Because of our donation to fund support services to their visitors, KBI dedicated the Social Services Room in the new facility in Holy Family’s honor. 

Holy Family Fund

In August, 2019, nearly 700 workers in chicken processing plants in the Jackson, MS diocese were arrested in ICE raids.  Most were of Guatemalan descent.  Catholic Extension, with the assistance of Holy Family Parish, has been instrumental in providing resources and aid to local Catholic churches serving these families whose lives were turned upside down in a matter of moments. I had the privilege to be with a few of these families in November as they told stories of what transpired during the raids and how this experience is currently affecting them, their children and their community. Separating children from a parent has long-term psychological effects.  To make matters more dire, the children are not allowed to speak about their experience or the experience of their parents in school.  The trauma festers with no safe place to talk about fears and concerns.  The Holy Family Fund is currently helping hundreds of people affected in the raids by providing clinical counselors to listen and provide practical steps toward healing.  This compassionate outreach is crucial for these families to begin rebuilding their lives.

Catholic Extension’s Holy Family Fund



2019 Annual Report

 Catholic Extension has long supported ministries to welcome and support immigrants, so it is no surprise that when immigrants endure the traumatic impact of detention or deportation of a breadwinning member of their family, Catholic Extension, through the support of you, our donors, is there to ease their suffering. This past year, Catholic Extension established the Holy Family Fund to assist immigrant families in Extension Dioceses who experience a sudden family separation due to ICE raids, detention and deportations. The title of this program honors our founding partner, Holy Family Parish in Inverness, Illinois, whose generous donations from a Lenten appeal created the fund. The name also honors the Holy Family of Nazareth, Mary, Joseph and the Christ Child. They themselves were a young immigrant family who fled violence and persecution in their homeland. The program provides funds and supportive services to immigrant children and spouses who experience extreme financial insecurity and profound trauma in the wake of these abrupt family separations.

Last August, the largest immigration raid in U.S. history took place in Morton, Mississippi, when 680 residents were detained without notice. Families were shattered. The immigrants, mainly of Guatemalan descent, belonged to poor parishes that Catholic Extension has helped for years. Through the Holy Family Fund, Catholic Extension responded immediately. We provided emergency aid to several parishes, who then reached out to families with humanitarian assistance and eased the chaos. Father Jack Wall, our president, said “Separated families, like the ones in Mississippi, are the human toll of our broken immigration system, which suffers from our nation’s inability to find a common sense legislative solution to this pressing issue.” “Families are the core of our Church and our nation,” he added. “There is no greater thing that we can do for the common good than to strengthen families, including immigrant families. When we break up families, no one wins.”

To date, the Holy Family Fund has extended nearly $125,000 to immigrant families. In addition to donating $80,000 to this fund, Holy Family Parish has extended nearly $300,000 to Catholic Extension from other Lenten campaigns through our Parish Partnership Program. This initiative offers parishes the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of fellow Catholics by connecting them to communities in need.

Jonathan, 8 years old, wrote: “There are many destroyed families, children who are suffering, waiting to see their dad or their mom who are still in detention. We ask you to keep helping people who still have family members in detention. Please do not abandon us. Because we the children are the ones who are suffering the most after the raid on August 7th. Many days have passed and the children still have hope to see their mother or their father come back home. We are very grateful for all that you are doing for us and for the help that you gave to my mom.”

To read Catholic Extension’s 2019 Annual Report, go to https://catholicextension.org/annual-report/pdf/2019-CE-AnnualReport-web.pdf

Father Jack Wall comforts an immigrant family hurt by the raids in Morton, Mississippi.

St. Sabina’s Strong Futures and Catholic Charities Peace Corner Youth Center


Strong Futures

Strong Futures began with 61 young men identified with an unmet need in the community. Since Holy Family’s Lenten financial support in 2017, the Strong Futures has provided transportation bus cards to participants who have taken part in their work force development activities on campus and once they found employment they were able to become self-sufficient in getting to and from work. They were also able to assist participants who were homeless with rental assistance for initial move-in. One of the participants, Emoni Atomah, who was recently a victim of senseless gun violence, was a recipient of initial rental assistance and had become self-sufficient and in the process of starting a new job when he was senselessly murdered.  Our donation also allowed the program to help young men obtain legal assistance that enabled them to overcome barriers to employment.  One young man is now a project manager for The Will Group Inc, a company here in Chicago, and another now works for a company in Wisconsin and is doing well. Our support has also assisted in the rehab of a property that the Strong Futures Program will be moving into in the spring of 2020 to accommodate more young men.

The program was able to service 165 active participants in 2019. As of Dec. 2019, 122 participants or 74% obtained employment and 2 members enrolled in college full time. The Strong Futures program also assisted several individuals with securing permanent housing and is currently looking to expand their participant base, with the goal of 100% full time employment. Producing a positive member to the community and society is what success looks like to Strong Futures and St. Sabina’s would not have been able to accomplish so much since our Project with Holy Family’s help.

The Peace Corner Youth Center

Fr. Maurizio Binaghi of the Comboni Missionaries, saw a need in 2002 and what transpired was the beginning of what is now The Peace Corner Youth Center. It was created as a place where children could be safe to be children. Young people of the neighborhood came to do homework, play pool, and talk to someone about their problems.

Outgrowing its first facility, The Peace Corner began plans for building its permanent home in 2009. The Peace Corner has a computer lab, a fully-equipped classroom, a regulation basketball court, and the respect of the neighborhood under the wing of Catholic Charities.


Holy Family’s financial and in-kind support made it possible for The Peace Corner to update the computer lab, add gaming and purchase new, contemporary furniture in the lobby and craft room.  Continued in-kind support brought Back to School supplies and Christmas gifts later that year.  Holy Family also assisted with food for a Christmas party to celebrate all the students were accomplishing through mentoring and tutoring.  In the future, more innovative programs will be added to continue reaching out to the young people in the Austin neighborhood.  Love First is evident at the Peace Corner which is transforming a neighborhood with many challenges into a place for hope.

2017 – San Miguel Arcangel Church, San Miguel de los Banos, Cuba –

San Miguel Arcangel Church, San Miguel de los Banos, Cuba

Significant work has occurred over the last three years to begin to transform the once-dilapidated building into a church.  Work already completed includes the demolition of the three-floor bell-tower and lateral naves, repairs to the exterior of the dome, partial restoration of the interior beams of the dome, carpentry work of doors and windows, installment of new windows to the north side of the church, repairs to the interior columns, placement of supporting beams, and repair to exterior walls, as well as partial installation of the electric system.

The journey has not been an easy one for San Miguel Arcángel but a journey that began with Love First.  The entire island of Cuba is facing massive shortages of supplies and materials.  Cement and gasoline were at a shortage in the country, a problem which was only exacerbated by Hurricane Irma in 2017. Additionally, the lateral naves of the church had to be demolished and reconstructed due to the bad state they were in. Despite the challenges, the parishioners–true to the resilient and determined spirit of the people of Cuba—were able to finally gain access to cement and transport it to San Miguel Arcángel.  Now, work on the project is moving forward again, as evident in this encouraging photo.  Catholic Extension will continue to monitor the progress of this important project.

It is important to note that this delayed construction process has not been time lost for the people of San Miguel.  The community members continue to meet in people’s homes for liturgy and prayer.  They know that with Holy Family’s support three years ago, their dream of having a church is slowly becoming a reality.  They are patiently waiting in hopeful expectation of the day when they can walk through their church doors again.

Holy Family’s generosity allowed many additional projects to be completed on the island.  The pastor of the Cathedral of San Rosendo in the diocese of Pinar del Ro says: “I want to take this opportunity to express our thanks to Holy Family for your project, your help in the restoration and painting of this cathedral.  We are so happy. We are thankful and we pray that the Lord may keep blessing you and remain with you always.  Many blessings on you and pray for us.  Thank you.” 

Northwest Suburban PADS, Inc. was created in 1989 and eventually merged with HOPE NOW, Inc. in 1992 to address the growing homeless population in the northwest suburbs.  In October of 2001, Northwest Suburban PADS and HOPE NOW legally merged—forming the new agency known as JOURNEYS | The Road Home, a multi-funded, comprehensive service agency with wrap-around services including case management, job counseling, minor medical care, mental health screenings and securing permanent and stable housing.

Holy Family had been PADS site for 16 years at the time of our Lenten project and we understood the importance of reaching out to the homeless population.  Our Lenten project increased our parish’s awareness and increased JOURNEYS capacity to serve their clients.  It just so happened that in 2016, the number of families facing homelessness was on the rise.  This created a new challenge for JOURNEYS to properly serve not only adults, but now the many children caught in the trap of homelessness. Our gift was a huge blessing to the JOURNEYS staff as well as the families being served.

The momentum is continuing as JOURNEYS recently announced they will construct a 3-story, 27,000-square-foot facility adjacent to their current building, which will eventually be demolished. The new structure will have first-floor offices, 42 beds for PADS clients to use overnight on the second level and 11 permanent, affordable supportive living apartments on the third story.

As affordable housing options diminish in our area, JOURNEYS provides the care and dignity to individuals and families facing homelessness during their time of struggle.  Holy Family Parish and its parishioners are a beacon of light to our neighbors, especially our neighbors in need.  For more information about JOURNEYS, go to journeystheroadhome.org.

Fr. Jerry Rogers’ approach brought rich Catholic traditions to the Reservation and merged them with rich Native American rituals.  Since his arrival at Red Lake, the people of St. Mary’s Church and the local community have embraced him for his love and commitment to them through all their ups and downs.

Holy Family’s Lenten Project supported a Pastoral Associate at St. Mary’s Mission and School, which increased outreach to vulnerable children and families.  These positions still exist at the parish. A three-year grant to the diocese supports a Grant Writer position which generated a total of $390,000 in grant funding during that period to ensure greater sustainability of the parish and school. Holy Family’s investment in this position continues to have impact.

Feedback from the school in 2018: “St. Mary’s Mission School has successfully raised the level of reading and math in our students. An area which we lacked in was technology. [With] one of the grants received, we were able to purchase iPad, Chrome books and Smart Boards for the students and teachers. Karen B., one of the parents, remarked, ‘I am so thankful, our students have the technology needed, so when they leave St. Mary’s they are not behind.’ We have done an excellent job in reading and math, and our kids are ahead of the public school when they leave St. Mary’s.”

Here is another quote from a report we received in June 2019: “Our students and the children of Red Lake live in households that are very high risk. They have been exposed to more than the average child should or does experience in their lives. St. Mary’s gives our students consistency, love, guidance along with the education. These children know they are safe and have no trouble expressing this.”

On a sad note, in December 2017, the church was completely destroyed by a fire (the school building was not impacted).  The community is sticking together in spite of losing their worship space.  They are currently working on a plan to rebuild.  Fr. Jerry Rogers is, as always, optimistic and said, “Out of the ashes will rise a new church.”

Rebecca fell in love with the people living in McKee, Ky, especially at St. Paul Mission Church.  She was open to doing what was needed knowing that God uses everyone for something and He always teaches us through others.  Through that lens, she gained a perspective on the importance of diversity in the parish.  It made her want to continue to work in the Church.  She never felt alone and they felt like family.

Rebecca shared: “I never thought about or felt any different as a woman and lay person (doing pastoral work) because Sister Mary had been in charge for so long before there was a pastor.  That is the beauty of St. Paul. They are like family and it’s “everybody’s church.”  Working with Sister gave me a perspective on religious sisters, and I loved the level of care they gave to everyone.  We all carried different roles and experienced God in each one. “

One unique program Rebecca started was to make granola and sell it to visitors coming to McKee as it is a favorite place for hikers because of the sheer beauty of the mountains.  It was a way to create new jobs in a town devastated by the demise of the coal industry.  She has been in contact with a businesswoman in Jackson county, KY that currently runs a cheesecake business.  She is considering taking on the Mountain Made granola product since the license is in Lexington. We hope to learn more about the finalizing of terms soon.

With support from Holy Family, Rebecca increased both social and pastoral outreach to this very poor community. After faithfully serving in the community for eight years, Rebecca Woods made the decision to transition out of the parish.  However, she created a strong foundation for a new lay leader, Rebecca Nixon, to succeed her in this important ministry.  We wish Rebecca Woods the very best in her new role as a case manager with the Indiana Dept. of Child Services and as a new mom.  We look forward to hearing more about St. Paul’s programs and the progress of Mountain Made granola from Rebecca Nixon while keeping both Rebecca’s in our prayers.

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