Archbishop Schwietz reminded and inspired us to ‘do our part’

Christmas is fast approaching and as we prepare to celebrate this joyful holiday, we are also rejoicing in the installation of our new archbishop. Catholic Social Services welcomes Archbishop Paul Etienne to Anchorage and we look forward to working with him. We also celebrate our work and cherished partnership with Archbishop Emeritus Roger Schwietz.

Archbishop Schwietz leaves an indelible mark on Catholic Social Services. In thinking of his many contributions to Catholic Social Services I am reminded of a discussion he had with our staff and board. He spoke to us of parishioners at St. Patrick Church who took it upon themselves to provide mentorship for individuals experiencing homelessness and financial challenges. Archbishop Schwietz was inspired by those parishioners and reminded those of us gathered that “we should all do our part” in the community. All of us, as members of this community, need to do our part to help each other. The words of Archbishop Schwietz still inspire me, and bring to mind a story of a family we have worked with through our Homeless Family Services program (case managers who support those in homelessness to move into permanent housing).

Zoe is a military veteran doing her part by volunteering to protect and serve our nation. Our staff met Zoe during a low point of her life. She worked for many years, in addition to caring for her husband (also a veteran) suffering from chronic health issues, as well as her 90-year-old mother. Zoe’s husband died after years of suffering, and in dealing with that and getting her mother into care in another state, Zoe lost her job. Then she, and her three children, lost their housing. That’s when Zoe connected with Catholic Social Services. She is a smart and capable person. A tragedy turned her world upside down but she has grit and resolve. She just needed support. Zoe connected with Sarah, her case manager here, and according to Zoe, “within days I had a roof over my head, a bed, food and household items … Sarah is like a flower that grows out of concrete, no matter what she comes right through.” Sarah does her part to change our community by helping to improve lives like Zoe’s, one family at a time.

Around the same time Zoe came to us, a local landlord contacted us and offered one of his units at a reduced price for a veteran in need. He was doing his part to improve our community by offering an apartment, and that gift gave Zoe and her family a home. Shortly after that, Sarah arranged for Zoe to interview for a job at a local dentist office. She got the job, and she continues to work still. Zoe and her family pulled themselves up, aided by help of many people in the community, with their own hard work.

At Catholic Social Services, we work every day to do our part, and to be the instrument of so many of you in doing your part, to help our neighbors in Anchorage through donating and volunteering.

Thank you, Archbishop Schwietz, for inspiring us. You will continue to inspire us with your words and deeds for many years to come. As we end the Year of Mercy, I was reminded of the specific call to shelter the homeless as a part of the jubilee celebration. I end with a prayer and a wish for Christmas blessing for everyone reading this, and everyone touched by homelessness.

The writer is executive director of Catholic Social Services in Alaska. For more information about CSS, call 222-7300 or visit

'Archbishop Schwietz reminded and inspired us to ‘do our part’'
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