Catholic Charities’ Kinship ministry serves grandparents, others cast into parenting roles

Makena Clawson

Every month, a Catholic Charities program called Kinship Caregivers serves over 60 families where the primary caregiver is not the child’s parent, but another family member, often a grandparent. For the last 20 years, this ministry has been walking with these families to help provide resources, stability and support.

“I’ve been fortunate to work in the program over 8 years,” said Carrie Savage, Manager of Kinship and Senior Services at Catholic Charities. Savage has witnessed children get their Eagle Scout, graduate from higher education and other achievements as they’ve gone through the program. Savage works closely with Kerry Lutz, Bilingual Program Coordinator for Kinship Caregivers, to serve those families and children who are cast into this type of situation.

“Once they have that safe and stable home, they just really blossom,” Savage said.

In order to provide this safety and stability, the kinship program has eight different support groups each month, with four in the Denver metro area and the others in Arvada, Thornton and Castle Rock. They also have a Spanish speaking group.

At these meetings, caregivers can share their experiences, stories and struggles and also learn information about an applicable parenting topic. Children are welcome at the support groups, and have time to be kids, rather than another therapy session on top of what they might already be receiving, Savage said.

Other services include working with families on an individual basis, providing referrals to different resources they need, and also on a larger scale, having events for the families to come together for fun or for an educational purpose.

“We serve everybody across all faiths and backgrounds,” Savage said.

Their highest demographics for caregivers they see are single grandmothers, mostly in their 60s. They also serve great-grandparents raising children, aunts and uncles, and psychological kin: a godparent or a family friend.

These caregivers are raising the children for a variety of reasons, Savage said. Some parents have passed away, others have physical or mental health issues, substance abuse problems, are incarcerated, or lack the financial means or the skill set to parents.

New caregivers are always welcome to attend a group, and there is no waitlist. Sometimes a new caregiver will be unsure about attending their first group, Savage said.

“They come and really just feel like they’re not alone,” she said. The caregivers present “understand, they’ve been there. They’ve been through a lot and can offer a lot of wisdom.”

Savage has seen fruit from the program not only in the achievements the families have made, but in the relationships they’ve built with each other. The kids in groups come from similar backgrounds and form friendships that make them want to keep coming back, she said. Caregivers also support each other through loss and difficult times. Some even want to give back and become donors to the program.

Savage got her start in the program as an Americorps volunteer for Catholic Charities. She studied sociology and psychology and was interested in family dynamics and how these dynamics arise.

If you or someone you know is a caregiver for a relative’s child and are interested in learning more about the services Catholic Charities provides, visit their website at ccdenver.org/familyservices/kinship-caregiver-program or call (720) 799-9254.

COMING UP: St. Scholastica parish in Erie has served community for well over 100 years

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For more than a century, St. Scholastica Catholic Church has served the faithful in the northern community of Erie, Colo. Over time there have been many changes to the structure of the parish, but it still stands on the same foundation that Benedictine pastor Father Cornelius Enders set in place in 1899.

Vibrant, spiritually alive, and welcoming is how St. Scholastica can be described. For years, the church formed part of a circuit assigned to one priest of different parishes and missions, but four years ago, Father Robert Wedow was assigned to St. Scholastica as its first full-time pastor in history.

Since day one, Father Wedow knew there was a lot of work to do for the growing community: “To do what Jesus told us. To go to the ends of earth and baptize all the nation,” said Father Wedow to the Denver Catholic about his mission.

In order to accomplish that mission, he and the pastoral council came up with a parish plan that consists of three goals for the church.

“One of the goals is what we call our spiritual needs, to understand and begin to use our resources to meet the spiritual needs of the people of Erie. The second one is the evangelization of ourselves and others. And the third one is the development of our parish so that we will put ourselves to be able to have a brand-new parish,” he said.

The altar at St. Scholastica was recently renovated and blessed by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila. The Erie parish has served the community for over 120 years. (Photos by Brandon Young)

When he first became the pastor of St. Scholastica, Father Wedow noticed things in the church that required maintenance and renovations in order to keep serving the community in Erie. Among those renovations were the floors, the carpet and the altar of the church that was starting to break apart. On Oct. 13, after months of hard work and dedication, parishioners and friends attended a special ceremony in which Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila dedicated the new altar at St. Scholastica, one of the biggest renovations.

For a parish of approximately 200 families, St. Scholastica offers a wide range of ministries to meet the needs of the whole family. From youth groups, bible study and the Knights of Columbus, the community stays involved and keeps growing bigger and stronger.

To serve the community and continue evangelizing, the church holds a variety of fun events throughout the year where parishioners have the opportunity to help others while having a good time. Among these events is St. Scholastica’s Annual “Cookies and Caroling,” where the community gathers to make delicious cookies, then goes door to door and hands them out to the neighbors while caroling and wishing them a Merry Christmas.

“I personally think what’s unique about my parish is the powerful love of the volunteers and the way in which they show their love for God and for their neighbor,” Father Wedow said.

Although there is still much work to be done in the 120-year-old parish, Father Robert continues to work hard and does everything in his hands to meet the needs of his growing community.

“It’s a great privilege for me to be able to serve the people of Erie and to be a part of this growing community. May the joy of seeing the face of God overwhelm us all, as we celebrate the true gift of Christmas at Christmas night mass,” concluded Father Wedow.