Family finds fresh start at Samaritan House

Andrea and her three children were out of options.

“I had no money, no car, no credit, no husband, no college education, no job, no financial stability,” said Andrea. “My faith and my children were all I had.”

The lack of necessities resulted from abusive and damaging relationships that left the family on their own.

“I found myself a single mother with PTSD, with two autistic children and a baby,” said Andrea. “I was unprepared.”

Andrea struggled to find work because it required finding childcare for her kids — one that was equipped to handle children with special needs — and she couldn’t afford it.

Unexpected costs and time-consuming issues that come with parenthood made holding down a consistent job tough. The jobs Andrea did take on — from babysitting to housecleaning to working at fast food restaurants — didn’t pay the bills.

“It all wasn’t quite enough to keep our heads above water,” said Andrea.

When Andrea and her family eventually lost their home in Colorado Springs, they moved in with relatives in Denver, where things didn’t go as smoothly as the family hoped.

“All parties involved knew that it was a temporary living situation, but I never imagined we’d be asked to leave so soon and without warning,” said Andrea. “It hurt my heart.”

Living in a new city without a home, Andrea desperately searched online for help.

“These are the circumstances that led me and my family to the Samaritan House.”

‘A blessing from God’

Samaritan House is a shelter run by Catholic Charities that provides a safe environment for people who are homeless. It offers meals, shelter, security, case management and individual guidance to help those it serves get on a path to success.

Samaritan House receives a percentage of funding from the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal, and the lives of families like Andrea’s are transformed through its gifts.

“The new start my family has been able to make here in Denver is a blessing from God — heavily due to the program we went through at the Samaritan House,” said Andrea.

The family that was once overwhelmed by the daunting challenges of life was suddenly overwhelmed by the goodness of mankind.

“Love and compassion were available and obvious throughout the entire facility,” said Andrea. “The children and I always felt safe and protected.”

Andrea worked with a case manager who helped her reach short- and long-term goals related to employment, housing, healthcare and education. She was able to search for jobs, houses and other necessities because of the computers available inside Samaritan House’s resource room.

The Samaritan House is a shelter run by Catholic Charities that provides meals, shelter, security, case management and individual guidance to help those it serves get on a path to success.

Andrea’s kids loved the meals they shared and the activities they participated in — including hiking, swimming, sports camps, birthday parties and youth groups.

“All of my three kids never once felt ‘homeless’ during our time at Samaritan House,” said Andrea. “In fact, they referred to the program as home …”

Daily life in the program also required focus and discipline from the family, which Andrea says has helped them in their fresh start.

“The required sobriety, savings goals, curfew and chores we had to do while in the program made it so much easier for me to establish a healthy structure and way of life in our current home,” she said.

Renewed faith

One of the greatest gifts Samaritan House granted Andrea and her family is a restored faith in God.

“Most importantly, the greatness of faith in our Lord and savior Jesus Christ that has been restored in my children and myself is much due to the faith-based care and guidance we received at the Samaritan House,” Andrea said.

The difference the program made in the family’s spiritual life is apparent.

“We smile more, hold our heads higher, walk with more confidence,” she said. “The strength the children developed through last year’s struggles resounds in their personalities, schoolwork and in their precious eyes when they commit to a goal.

“A spiritual growth in the children is clear to me as well,” she added. “They pray more, read the Bible more, ask questions about it all and seem to have an understanding that was previously lacking. I, too, have a zeal for the Lord that perhaps had been put on hold often in the past.”

Andrea and her family now have their own home. Her children flourish in sports, independence, interest in education and compassion for others. Andrea has hopes for getting a degree to be a music therapist and eventually starting her own nonprofit devoted to serving the community and those in need through art and creativity.

Andrea remains grateful and deeply inspired by those who served her family during a time of dire need.

“I treasure and thank the Lord for my experience at the Samaritan House,” she said.

Support Samaritan House
To donate, visit ccdenver.org/givetoday.

COMING UP: Swole.Catholic helps people strengthen body and soul

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St. Augustine once said, “Take care of your body as if you were going to live forever; and take care of your soul as if you were going to die tomorrow.”

Humans are both body and soul and both must be strengthened. This is the reason for the existence of Swole.Catholic, a group of people who dedicate themselves to nurturing their soul while strengthening their body, and through their ministry, motivate others to do the same.

According to Paul McDonald, founder of Swole.Catholic, they focus on encouraging faithful fitness. “We must take care of our temple of the Holy Spirit, because our bodies are one of God’s greatest gifts to us,” he said.

McDonald solidified the idea of faith and fitness when he was a sophomore in college. While “going through a huge moment in my life, at the same time I was really learning about the gym and learning ethical statements on my own. Both things clicked together,” he told the Denver Catholic. As a young guy, he started bible studies, and in those studies, he always had an analogy back to the gym.

He decided to make shirts for him and the guys in the bible study during his senior year. The shirts ended up becoming good conversation starters, and he decided he needed to do something with it — evangelize and motivate others to take care of their body and soul.

Thus Swole.Catholic was born. “Swole” is a slang term for bulking one’s muscles up from going to the gym, and of course, the Catholic part is self-explanatory — not only because of the Church but also for our faith and how it defines us in all we do. Swole.Catholic launched officially in Jan 2017.

The ministry consists of a website which provides resources to helps people with Catholic gyms, Catholic workouts, Catholic trainers, podcasts as well as workout wear.

The workout wear works as an evangelization tool. The word “Catholic” is printed on the front of the shirts and a bible verse is placed on the back.

“This raises questions or interest in others. It also works as a reminder of the purpose of the workout,” McDonald said. He added, “Most of the gyms we are going to have mirrors and all that, making you focus into yourself.” But the real purpose of the workout, as the members of Swole.Catholic say, is to strengthen your body and soul to live a healthy life.

Swole.Catholic also has rosary bands, a simple decade wrist band that people can wear while they workout and be flipped off at any time to pray a quick decade.

“Because everyone’s faith journey is different and everyone’s fitness journey is different, what we are trying to do is connect people with people [for them] to be able to have the correct support with their faith and fitness,” McDonald said.

That is why Swole.Catholic now has outposts around the country, with passionate Catholic members who love to help and inspire others in the fitness world while pursuing God in everything they do.

“Each one has its own flavor,” McDonald said. “In Florida we have a rosary run group where a bunch of girls meet up and pray rosary while they go for a run.” Among the outposts, there is also a group of guys in North Dakota who do a bible study and lift together. Similar to these two groups, members from other states have formed their own Catholic fitness groups and are now part of Swole.Catholic, including in Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio and Wyoming and more.

“We encourage faithful fitness,” McDonald concluded. “We think your fitness fits in your faith as much as faith fits in your fitness. We are body and soul and we need to be building both.”

To join a group or a workout, visit swolecatholic.com or find them on Facebook.