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.

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COMING UP: Past 25 years remembered, next 25 anticipated at More Than You Realize conference

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“Be not afraid!”

This was the rallying cry at the Aug. 11 More Than You Realize conference, echoing the very same call St. John Paul II gave exactly 25 years ago when he visited Denver for World Youth Day in 1993.

Over 5,000 faithful from across the Archdiocese of Denver filled the seats of the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland at what was the largest Catholic gathering in Colorado since WYD ’93. The all-day conference was presented in both English and Spanish tracks, featured a dynamic lineup of renowned Catholic speakers, and culminated in a powerful commissioning Mass.

The name More Than You Realize and consequently, the logo resembling an eyechart, stems from the idea that almost everything may appear a certain way at surface level, but upon closer inspection, it can be more than one realizes and seen in a different light. This is especially true when it comes to the Catholic Church.

Over 5,000 gathered at the Budweiser Events Center Aug. 11 for the More Than You Realize conference, which celebrated the last 25 years since World Youth Day in Denver and looked to the next 25. (Photo by Jason Weinrich)

In planning for nearly two years, pastors from each parish of the archdiocese hand-picked those parishioners and members of their community who they wished to attend the conference, which revolved around the idea of discipleship. Through engaging videos and talks given by speakers such as Chris Stefanick, Luis Soto and Dr. Edward Sri, attendees were invited to join a new movement of discipleship within the archdiocese, echoing the one sparked 25 years ago at World Youth Day.

“[I] had a great rejuvenating time at the More Than You Realize Conference,” said Alex Martinez, a parishioner at St. Pius X Parish. “I am excited to see the MTYR movement take shape.”

Brenda Garrett, a parishioner of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception said, “It was an amazing event, so blessed my pastor Father Ron from the Cathedral Basilica sent me. I am so proud to be part of this movement.”

The key to evangelization

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford spoke before Mass began about the impact of World Youth Day 1993 and the challenges the Church faces today.

“What does the summer of ’93 teach us about our present circumstances in 2018?” the cardinal asked. “The Holy Spirit was sent out in a special mission to our Church in 1993. The power of that sending was unexpected and disorienting to me as archbishop and to most others.”

Cardinal J. Francis Stafford speaks during the More Than You Realize conference. (Photo by Jason Weinrich)

But despite urban violence, threats of boycotts, organized protests and other issues prior to World Youth Day 1993, “a fundamental change took place in the Church of Denver,” said Cardinal Stafford, “but not only here — among the young people who came throughout the world, [and] even the Holy Father.

“Above all, our Church was transformed,” he said.

Cardinal Stafford said that to evangelize those who don’t know the Gospel, we first need “…a deep awareness of the delight of the Father taking in each of us as baptized men and women,” he said.

“I would urge you to think deeply and to pray deeply about realizing how delighted God is in you — each of you — because you are received by the Father as being [part of] the body of his Son, who is beloved.”

‘Jesus is much more than you realize’

In his homily given in both English and Spanish, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila also touched on what World Youth Day 1993 means for us today.

“The world likes to tell us many things about ourselves,” he said, “and not many of them today are good or uplifting. Just look at the distorted image of beauty that is prevalent today, let alone the distortions of what it means to be a human person…

“The devil is certainly having a field day in a world that has abandoned God, and even in some members of the Church who have a weak faith in Jesus,” he said.

But despite similar issues taking place in 1993, the pope brought to Denver a message of hope.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila celebrates the commissioning Mass that closed out the conference. (photo by Andrew Wright)

“When St. John Paul II spoke to the youth gathered for the prayer vigil on Saturday night at Cherry Creek State Park, he reminded them that God and a much bigger role for them to play in history,” said Archbishop Aquila.

That message is just as important today, within an archdiocese and Church that stand at a crossroads, the archbishop said.

“We have an opportunity to make a major impact for Jesus Christ, even as the surrounding culture is becoming less Christian.”

The pope opened the doors for those who attended to become greater disciples of Christ — not just directly after World Youth Day, but forever.

“St. John Paul II believed in retrospect that a revolution had taken place in Denver,” said the archbishop. “We, today, are the inheritors of this spiritual revolution, and we must not be afraid to put out into the deep to let our nets down for a catch.

“Jesus is much more than you realize. The Church is more than you realize. And your role in the plan of God is much more than you realize or [can] even imagine,” he said.

“And so, I beg you as your shepherd today to open your hearts to Jesus and speak heart-to-heart with him who loves you most.”

Aaron Lambert, Moira Cullings and Vladimir Mauricio-Perez contributed to this report.