Family finds fresh start at Samaritan House

Moira Cullings

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: Thomas Fitzsimons: The unsung Catholic Founding Father 

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As our nation celebrates the day of its independence and subsequent founding as a country on July 4, a look back some lesser-knowCatholic history of this historic event seems warranted.  

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin: these are names every American knows. Pull out your wallet and you’ll likely see at least one of their faces on the money you carry aroundAnd while this nation was founded on principles rooted in Christianity, none of these men were Catholic. In fact, of the men history calls the Founding Fathers of America, only two were. 

Many may already be familiar with Founding Father Charles Carroll, a Catholic and signer of the Declaration of Independence, and whose brother John was the first Catholic bishop assigned to what would become the United States. However, Carroll was not the only Catholic who played a role in the founding of our country. The other was Thomas Fitzsimons, a name that is not mentioned much (if at all) in U.S. history classes but deserves to be recognized nonetheless.  

The unwieldy named Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, published in 1887, paints a vivid picture of Fitzsimons and the way his faith informed his character. While the other Founding Fathers were meeting and deliberating about the Declaration of Independence, Fitzsimons joined the Continental Army anfought on the frontlines against the British army. 

Captain Fitzsimons commanded his company of militia until 1778, when France entered the war. British troops withdrew from Pennsylvania and began to focus on the southern states. It was at this time that Fitzsimons became more involved in politics at the state level. In 1782, he became a delegate at the Continental Congress. In 1786, he was elected as a Pennsylvania state legislator and served for three terms until 1789. In 1787, he was selected to represent Pennsylvania at the Constitutional Congress, where the United States Constitution was written and ratified. He, along with Daniel Carroll, were the only two Catholics to sign to Constitution. 

Born in Belfast, Ireland in 1741, not much else is known about Fitzsimons’ family. He had three brothers – Nicholas, Andrew and John – and one sister, Ann. He and his family immigrated to America as early as 1760, where they became residents of Philadelphia. It was here that Fitzsimons would stake his claim as a businessman and politician. 

In 1763, Fitzsimons married Catharine Meade, whose brother, George Meade, would later go into business with Fitzsimons and build one of the most successful commercial trade houses in Philadelphia. Throughout his life, Fitzsimons was in close correspondence with Bishop John Carrollthese letters revealed insights into the Catholic Founding Father’s personal life. In a letter to Bishop Carroll in 1808, Fitzsimons wrote of being married to Catharine for 45 years. Additionally, local baptismal records show that he and Catharine stood as sponsors at the baptisms of three of Meade’s children. 

In 1774, Fitzsimons began his first foray into politics when he was elected as one of 13 Provincial Deputies who were given authority to call a general meeting of the citizens. It is believed he was the first Catholic to have ever held public office in the budding United States. Even so, anti-Catholic bigotry was common at the time and did exist within some of his fellow statesmen, such as John Adams, who once said in an address to the people of Great Britain that the Catholic faith was “a religion that has deluged your island in blood and dispersed impiety, bigotry, persecution, murder and rebellion through every part of the world.” 

Fitzsimons’ first stint in public office was brief, only lasting from May to July, but it was a foreshadowing his future involvement in state affairs. As the Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, Fitzsimons formed a company of soldiers to fight against the British army. He was assigned to the Third Battalion under Col. Cadwalader and Lieut. Col. John Nixon, who was the grandson of a Catholic. Behind the scenes, as George Washington and the like organized committees and framed what would become the Declaration of Independence, Fitzsimons ascended to the rank of Captain and continued to serve his country as a soldier and patriot.

In addition to his tenure as a commanding officer and politician, Fitzsimons also found success in other ventures. In 1781, he helped found the Bank of North America, the United States’ first de facto central bank, and served as its director until 1803. The latter years of his life were spent primarily in private business, but he maintained a consistent interest in public affairs; even Fitzsimons wasn’t exempt from the old adage, “once a politician, always a politician.” 

Through all of these endeavors, and even after befalling troubled financial times in the early 1800s, Fitzsimons remained a diligent philanthropist. He gave immense support to St. Augustine’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia and was invested in the improvement of public education in the commonwealth. As one of his contemporaries wrote after his death in 1811, “he died in the esteem, affection and gratitude of all classes of his fellow citizens.” 

Fitzsimons was buried in the graveyard of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Philadelphia, which is now part of Independence National Historical Park. His name may not be a household one like Washington or Jefferson, but Fitzsimons can be remembered as something of an unsung Founding Father of the United Statesa man whose life of quiet faith, humble service and admirable patriotism exemplifies the values that this country was founded upon in a simple yet profound way.