In the Midwestern U.S. state of Indiana, individuals with special needs discover that a view from atop a horse opens a path to confronting fears and insecurities. In South America, Peruvians with little opportunity find connection, strength and courage through the study of Scripture. In the U.S. East Coast state of Maryland, exhausted caregivers gain much-needed respite from the daily challenges of tending to a loved one.
These are just a few of the ways the Sisters of the Holy Cross help better the lives of those who are marginalized, forgotten or without resources. Such work is possible only through your donations to the Ministry With the Poor Fund. With our Christmas Appeal now underway, the Sisters of the Holy Cross invite you on a virtual journey to these three ministries. Come along and see how your support helps transform lives.
We thank you for all that you have already shared with us in the past and invite you to continue walking with us.
Indiana: Taking the ‘Reins of Life’
Taking the reins of a horse can help a person with special needs take the reins of their own life. In South Bend, Indiana, Sister Theresa Diane Streif, CSC, is a 20-year volunteer at Reins of Life, a nonprofit organization that serves children and adults with disabilities through equine-assisted activities therapy (EAAT).
The organization supports participants in more than just learning to ride horses: The horse is a strong motivator for accomplishing the rider’s goals. EAAT benefits children and adults who live with varied diseases and syndromes or experience cognitive, sensory or physical impairments.
For individuals with impaired mobility, horseback riding gently and rhythmically moves their bodies in a manner similar to regular human walking. For those with learning disorders, or mental or emotional disabilities, the unique relationship formed with a warm, responsive horse has special healing properties. Sister Theresa regularly sees growth and development of many who receive therapy, as they grow from self-conscious individuals to confident members of society.
This year, donors to the Ministry With the Poor Fund have enabled Sister Theresa to support the rider assistance therapy program. Donations cover the fees for those individuals unable to afford the cost. Dorota Janik, the executive director of Reins of Life, says Ministry With the Poor donors have helped the organization provide access to many riders.
“The driving force behind every action we take is a deep conviction that everyone deserves a chance to live a life with dignity and each and every one of our participants has untapped talents,” says Dorota. In total, more than 400 individuals with special needs benefit from this unique therapy opportunity. One mother of a child with cerebral palsy reflected on the transformation therapy her daughter received: “Reins of Life has given Maggie self-confidence as well as determination. As soon as we walk through the door at Reins, Maggie is Maggie, not a girl in a wheelchair.”
Peru: Reading Scripture gives meaning
The reality of poverty grips the people of Peru, depriving them of every opportunity while encumbering them with malnutrition and hopelessness. Yet in the Word they find hope.
In Lima, Holy Cross Sisters Mary Josephine Delany and Patricia Dieringer conduct biblical reading courses for people who have little. These transformational small-group discussions bring people together to read the Bible, reflect on God’s Word, and consider how God is calling them to be voices of positive change in their own life and in others’. The Scripture readings are attuned to the struggles and injustices encountered by participants, and they create a culture of accompaniment that follows the Good Shepherd model embodied by Christ. Sisters Mary Josephine and Patricia strive to help individuals see themselves and their struggles within a scripture context. In this way, they gain the ability to lead a more dignified existence for all based on love.
Donations to the Ministry With the Poor Fund allow the sisters in Lima to accompany their sisters and brothers through God’s Word, which provides hope for so many as they envision a better life for themselves.
From exhaustion to energy in Maryland
It may seem odd that a gesture made in love can also be exhausting. But when the gesture is a long-term commitment to care for a loved one who is elderly or ill or injured, it is only human to get worn down among the myriad challenges and unexpected situations that arise.
Holy Cross Hospital Medical Adult Day Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, provides care for adults, giving their caregivers a much-needed respite from daily demands. At the center, clients have access to memory care, disease management, socialization, social work services, and even physical therapy. But sometimes the cost is prohibitive. What, then, do exhausted caregivers do?
Sister Kathleen Weber, CSC, addressed this issue when she requested Ministry With the Poor funds to help fill the gap between other available funding and the limited financial means of some participants and their caregivers. The daily cost of the center is $83, which is out of reach for many families. But Ministry With the Poor has made a difference.
Sister Kathleen shares the story of a young man with autism.
“He lives with his mother, his sole support, and receives a subsidy from the county to attend Holy Cross Medical Adult Day Center two days a week,” she explains. “Ministry With the Poor funding has made it possible for him to attend a third day. His mother is extremely grateful. This extra day allows her to have some respite and to be able to take care of things at home. She says he is much happier the days he attends the center as opposed to days he is home with her and refuses to get out of bed.”
Older individuals, including those suffering from dementia or Parkinson’s disease, attend the center and benefit from the socialization inherent in its programs. The staff includes a nurse and two social workers who strive to ensure all patients are treated with dignity. The rest supplies caregivers with the the energy to continue to meet the demands of work while providing the love and care their family members need. Caregivers, many of whom work full time, use this time for sleep, medical appointments, exercise, lunch with a friend, or even classes at local senior centers.
Your support brings many families peace of mind knowing their loved ones are engaged and cared for during the day.
In 2020–21, you made it possible to support more than 50 ministry projects in seven countries. The stories shared here are just a small sampling of projects taking place this year. In total, you were instrumental in our awarding $345,000 to implement these life-enriching projects. Every dollar—100 percent—goes directly to the sisters’ ministries:
- 28 percent for education
- 16 percent for social outreach
- 12 percent for basic necessities
- 12 percent for health care
- 11 percent for training/empowerment of women
- 11 percent to outreach with immigrants
- 10 percent for faith and spiritual formation
These sweeping impacts on the lives of our brothers and sisters are possible only with your generosity. We hope you will continue to journey with us to help the sisters meet the needs of the people they serve. Please consider a gift to Ministry With the Poor this Christmas season; select Ministry With the Poor in the “My gift is for” section. Thank you, and blessings to you.