Catholic Charities and its partners thanked for ‘being Christ for others’

Leaders of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Peoria pose with Bishop Louis Tylka following a Mass for staff, volunteers, partner groups, and other supporters at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on May 18. From left are Suzie Meismer, ministry coordinator and senior case manager; Sister Michelle Fernandez, SCTJM, executive director; Bishop Tylka; Jan Blaney, coordinator of the Tolono Food Pantry; and Angelica Toliver, Champaign outreach ministry coordinator. The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody

The Catholic Charities “family” in the Diocese of Peoria gathered for a day of prayer, thanksgiving, and fellowship on May 18.

“It’s so overwhelming to see all of you present today,” said Sister Michelle Fernandez, SCTJM, executive director, prior to a luncheon at the Spalding Pastoral Center recognizing staff, volunteers, and others who partner with Catholic Charities to serve those in need throughout the diocese.

Following the Mass, the Catholic Charities group gathered for an appreciation lunch at the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria. In the foreground is a table of volunteers from the Tolono Food Pantry. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“I feel like crying when I look around the room,” Sister Michelle told the more than 75 in attendance. “This is who the Lord has sent. All of you have truly become my family. We partner together and the Lord works it out. It’s amazing.”

The luncheon followed a Mass celebrated by Bishop Louis Tylka at St. Mary’s Cathedral at which the bishop offered his “heartfelt gratitude for the work you do and for the witness of faith that you bring to those who are our brothers and sisters who come to us and need our help.”

Reflecting on the Gospel passage of Jesus as the vine and his followers as the branches, Bishop Tylka said many organizations do good work in serving the needy.

But because the efforts of Catholic Charities are connected to Jesus and the church, it “reveals the compassion, the love, the mercy, and the care of Jesus himself.”

“Catholic Charities, in a very real, tangible, and beautiful way, bears the fruit of the Lord’s compassion in meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Tylka. “I thank you for that, and ask God to bless you for that, and for the Holy Spirit to continue to guide all your efforts so that you may continue being Christ for others, bringing them the love of the Lord.”


At the luncheon, Sister Michelle explained the various outreaches of Catholic Charities and recognized those present who support them. Those programs and services include the St. Nicholas Charity on Wheels; the Guardian Angel Outreach for Mothers in Streator; the food and diaper pantries at the Bessette Center in Peoria; the food pantry at St. Patrick Parish in Tolono; the Christmas and backpack programs; and the Wounded Healers grief support group.

Also recognized were those who partner with Catholic Charities, including OSF HealthCare; the Society of St. Vincent de Paul; the Catholic Care Packs project that began in the Quad Cities; the “Loving Bottoms” diaper bank based in Galesburg; the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women; and supportive parishes.

“Our greatest identity is love,” said Sister Michelle. “Each of you have chosen to allow love to triumph in your hearts by allowing yourselves to be open to volunteering and serving others. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”




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