| By Fred Afflerbach | Correspondent

Catholic Charities stands ready to help those in crisis

When Brianna Luck found herself alone and pregnant at age 35, plans to finish her bachelor’s degree in science and psychology were up in the air. She was already juggling school with part-time work at a major retailer. Money was tight. With a baby on the way, and with no help from the father, she found herself with nowhere to turn.


Until she called Catholic Charities Central Texas.

Luck, who lives 25 miles east of Austin in Cedar Creek, said Catholic Charities provided her with diapers, shampoo, formula and an array of baby products that saved her money. Also, she took parenting classes through their St. Gabriel’s Pregnancy and Parenting Program, the worth of which can’t be measured in dollars and cents.

“I was able to take off from work and focus on school, and take care of my son … He was home with me the first year and two months,” Luck said. “I was able to do that with the help of Catholic Charities. I don’t think I would have been able to take that time off and focus on school without them.”

25 years of service

This March, Catholic Charities celebrates 25 years helping folks like Brianna Luck overcome various financial, social and spiritual hurdles. The non-profit offers seven avenues to help people overcome unforeseen challenges and setbacks, regardless of what religion they practice.

Success stories at Catholic Charities are not hard to come by. An Ethiopian man reunited with his family here in the U.S. through the Immigration Services program. A husband and father who hurt his back at work and fell behind on bills with the possibility of eviction looming gained help through the Financial Stability Program. And a young couple struggling with their marriage, who have two little boys, found peace through the Counseling Service.

Catholic Charities welcomes people from all faiths and backgrounds, yet the organization is unabashedly Catholic. As their mission states: People of faith serving anyone in need by strengthening families and promoting respect for human dignity and life.

Executive Director Sara Ramirez said poverty comes in many forms: financial, spiritual, social and educational. Although Catholic Charities is there to help in a crisis, it’s also important to address the problem’s root cause.

“Our goal is to not create repeat customers. We want to surround you with everything you need, the tools and the resources, and when you exit, you can self-manage from there and we can serve the next family,” Ramirez said. “Crises don’t stop ... We’re constantly trying to stay ahead of that curve. And every year our community rises to the occasion. I cannot express enough that there is a higher demand … Families are struggling.”

Growing need

Catholic Charities serves 25 counties across Central Texas with offices in Austin, Bryan-College Station, Killeen and Waco. Many services are offered online. Funds come from local, state and federal agencies, corporations, foundations and individuals. Events such as natural disasters, inflation, the pandemic, and a flow of immigrants looking for a new life have pushed Catholic Charities’ budget to maximum efficiency. In 2013, it served 4,000 clients. In 2023 that need grew to 18,000.

Allison Cavazos, Catholic Charities’ director of Advancement, has worked for the agency for 12 years. With burgeoning demand for services, she has witnessed the non-profit’s exponential growth.

“Our job is to know the needs of the Diocese of Austin and where we can fill in … We need to be nimble and adapt,” Cavazos said.

If they can’t help, Catholic Charities has a network of other providers to tap into and ensure that the family or person does find help.

Full circle

In December 2022, Brianna Luck walked across a stage and received her diploma from Louisiana State University. She now works as a case manager for a community health clinic in Austin. And when a pregnant client is looking for additional resources, where does she send them?

“I refer them to Catholic Charities. So it’s come full circle,” she said.

Celebrating 25 years, Catholic Charities asks donors to join their 25 Club, contributing $25 per month. Out of every dollar in their $11 million budget, 89 cents goes directly to client services. The non-profit welcomes volunteers, no experience is necessary.

Visit the Catholic Charities website at ccctx.org or call (512) 651-6100.

Fred Afflerbach is a freelance writer living in Cedar Park. He is a 26-year member of the Knights of Columbus Council at St. Margaret Mary Parish. His work has been published in several daily Texas newspapers and he has published two novels.

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