Looking for Angels

[A version of this story is in the June issue of Christ is our Hope magazine]

Catholic Charities’ main mission is to help others. But, in this time of economic belt-tightening, it also needs help, as well, in order to be effective in its mission. In a recent interview in the magazine, Glenn Van Cura, Catholic Charities’ executive director, talked about how the economy – and the Illinois state budget stalemate – have adversely affected his agency. “It’s been tough,” he said. “The state budget has wreaked havoc on many social service agencies.”

But, there’s always hope. And, for the purpose of this article, hope has come in the form of an anonymous donor who is willing to help out in a generous way. For every dollar donated to a special Angel Fund set up by Catholic Charities, the donor – or “angel” – will match it up to $50,000.

The donor agreed to be interviewed by the magazine, but wanted to remain anonymous. Here is what the person said:

“I have contributed to the Angel Fund for the last several years as a part of my larger support and participation for the Joliet Catholic Charities’ efforts. I particularly like the matching aspect of the Angel Fund as it hopefully encourages others to begin giving back as they can. As for myself, I believe my faith gives me direction in all aspects of my life, and so that is my starting point as I try to help those in need. Just as importantly, I want to feel confident that the resources contributed are effectively utilized and the maximum benefit is provided to those in need. No one does this better than Catholic Charities, and I’m proud to be able to support their work. I’m not quite sure of the definition of an angel but am convinced that to get closer to that we need to do more, however we can.”

This blend of generosity and humility is impressive, and as Kathleen Langdon Catholic Charities’ director of Development and Communications, will tell you, it’s also greatly appreciated.

“As a child, the first prayer I learned to recite was, ‘My Guardian Angel,’ ” Langdon said. “At that time, I was taught that angels existed all around us ‘to light and guard, to rule and guide.’ I was told you could not see angels, but that they were always present. Now, my work with Catholic Charities has me seeing angels in a whole new light. Angels surround me every day, and I can see them; I can touch them! These angels are men and women, young and old. Some are wealthy, but most are not. I watch angels support the homeless, comfort the sick, feed the hungry, protect our seniors, counsel the struggling, and educate our neediest children. These messengers are ambassadors who are clearly working for God. Many angels work alongside staff to support our clients with their gifts of time and talent, while other angels find ways in which to financially support the plight of the poor. Some are able to contribute thousands of dollars each year; others manage to sacrifice what they can afford. All angels play a critical role as collectively they inspire those around them to selflessly support the most vulnerable.  An angel’s goodness is infectious. So now Catholic Charities is calling on all angels near and far because when you think about it, God gives everyone an opportunity to be an angel on earth, living and sharing God’s message of love… and I ask you, how cool is that?”

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Recently, the magazine asked several Catholics to talk about the impact of angels in their lives. Here are two responses. (To read other responses, go to http://faithdigital.org/joliet/JOL0516/) 

Being beside my dad at the hospital every day for over a month, there were countless opportunities to receive, because we were dependent on others to care for him in ways we could not. In all honesty, it was humbling to constantly feel at the mercy of others, since we were helpless. Daily, when medication after medication was pumped into his body through IVs, a loud alarm was triggered when they were empty. Sometimes, when the nurses were especially busy, we would listen to the sound for 10 minutes because we weren’t allowed to turn it off. It needed to be done for us. So much of the time, I felt as if we were a burden, simply because we demanded so much of others and we always asked so many questions of them, all so that we could ensure Dad was getting what he needed. What medications has he received? When will he have his next CT scan? When is he due to be shifted in his bed? When will the doctors round today? My dad seems uncomfortable — can you please give him something for his pain? When can he be moved out of ICU so that he can actually get some sleep without being poked and prodded every hour? Most of the time I felt like a complete and utter annoyance, until we met an angel named Nelson.

Nelson was a quiet, unassuming, soft-spoken nurse who served on the night shift in the ICU. From the first moment he entered my dad’s room, he imparted a sense of respect to not only my father, but also to our family. First off, he addressed him as “sir.” In a room with sliding glass doors open to the entire floor, he made sure to pull the curtain when he knew my dad was safe with family and gave us privacy. He learned all of our concerns about my dad’s needs and upon starting his shift, without us asking, he would give an account of the medications he would be administering during his shift and for what ailment each one was given. The morning we walked back into the hospital room after Nelson was on the night shift for the first time, we found my dad clean shaven and bathed. Nelson had taken care of it-without anyone asking. Shaving Dad’s face was a simple task that didn’t need to be done, yet this is a man who shaves daily and seeing him disheveled was so upsetting to us. Going the extra mile to take a few minutes for a shave meant more than words could say. I will never forget the feeling of seeing Dad’s face that morning; of seeing him look like my dad again. It was priceless. My spirit was filled with hope and joy of seeing what was familiar at a time when everything was chaotic.

We have met so many incredible nurses on this journey. Yet on the road to healing, Nelson was truly an angel sent from God. Never once did he make it seem as if we were a burden for wanting to care for our father. On the contrary, he joined our team and took care of Dad as he would his own father. He gifted all of us with a sense of worthiness by the way he served. He restored dignity to a man who was down on his luck and had to rely on others to take care of him. Nelson went the extra mile.

— Lisa Gilligan, who grew up at St. Mark’s Parish in Wheaton

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I carry with me little angel pins. When I see someone being an “angel,” I give them one and thank them for being an angel. I especially enjoy the children’s faces. There are angels all around us, sometimes working through mortals.

— Nora  Waliczek, a parishioner at St. Bernard’s Parish in Homer Glen