The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date: August 1, 2003
East to west, it's off and running
Orange County, Calif., quintessential Nixon and Reagan country, is stereotyped with the image of unending suburbia, Caucasian homeowners and comfortable middle-class living.
As in all stereotypes, theres a germ of validity to it, but St. Joseph Sr. Martha Ann Fitzpatrick knows another Orange County, a place where immigrants, many of them Spanish-speaking, struggle in a strange country.
In the historic city of San Juan Capistrano, representatives of the churchs mission, hospital and Catholic Charities utilized the New Covenant model to address the concerns of the local poor. Fitzpatrick, vice president of sponsorship of Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, explains.
We were trying to respond to what people have identified, she says.
First, with local Hispanic leaders, the team went door-to-door to learn what people wanted. Not huge projects, but one top priority emerged: Local immigrants simply wanted a safe place for children to play. With city help, the New Covenant coalition sponsored a lighted soccer field, now a popular spot, well maintained and largely free of graffiti. The coalition expected a strong demand for English language classes; instead, Mexicans wanted to be literate in Spanish. Spanish literacy classes to supplement English courses were formed.
Then came a neighborhood health center with a nurse who focuses on assisting those without health insurance and educating residents about diabetes and other common ailments.
According to a Catholic Charities USA New Covenant report:
The St. Petersburg diocese has long shown how its done.
Ford N. Kyes, St. Anthony Health Care Center president, has been active in various collaborative projects over the past 10 years. A joint partnership with local Catholic Charities in the 1990s brought federal funds to an AIDS clinic attached to housing for AIDS patients.
Low-cost housing funds for hospital staffers is a joint effort that makes employment at St. Anthonys more attractive.
The New Covenant concept was working in the St. Petersburg diocese before the phrase was coined, said Kyes. But someone noticed: Local collaboration has earned the collaboration special recognition from the Catholic Health Association. New Covenant, he said, is off and running.
-- Peter Feuerherd
National Catholic Reporter, August 1, 2003
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