We are one body striving to serve many parts

| March 3, 2011 | 1 Comment


Mary Streiff, 17, is a junior at Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield and a member of Our Lady of Peace in Minneapolis. She previously attended St. Helena School in Minneapolis, where her principal, Jane Hileman, told her about the tuition assistance available through funds from the Catholic Services Appeal.

“At St. Helena, I had teachers, classmates and a principal who convinced me that anything is possible.  They challenged me in a new way every day. I read several books in eighth grade beyond the requirement because I wanted to challenge myself. These included ‘Hamlet’ and ‘Night,’ both of which I just read again this year as a junior. St. Helena placed a great emphasis on learning, and it’s where I acquired my passion for it.

“[Tuition assistance] opened the door for me to go to Holy Angels. Without it, it would have been very difficult, maybe impractical, for me to have attended. With the help of the Catholic Services Appeal tuition assistance, I’ve been able to go to Holy Angels and learn things about my faith and myself that I never in a million years would have thought to learn.

“At Holy Angels, I have dozens of opportunities open to me to cultivate my passion for learning, including a wide array of advanced placement classes and dozens of fine art classes — the only limit is the number of class periods in the day. In fact, even this doesn’t stop the most passionate — independent studies are also available for students who are willing to come before school a few days each week.

“I plan to acquire an advanced degree, but I have yet to narrow my search. These schools have given me such a love of learning and such a depth of knowledge in so many areas that I feel anything is possible. All things, in fact, are possible, through Christ who strengthens me. My experience at Catholic schools has empowered me to do and become the impossible and the future is nothing but bright.”

St. Helena principal Jane Hileman got to know Streiff when she transferred to St. Helena in sixth grade.

“My daughter and I coached her in basketball. When her grades got in the way of her athletic eligibility, it just did not make sense. Mary was reserved, but sharp and quick witted. Something else was getting in the way of her success. When it all became apparent, St. Helena provided her the support that she needed.

“The Catholic Services Appeal is dedicated to promoting the Catholic faith and to education. Any time Catholic schools have someone helping to raise funds for our students, the whole community wins. St. Helena also receives a tangible payback monetarily from the Appeal. Any money that the parish receives touches all of us at the school. The support of all parishes for Catholic education is imperative. The future of our Catholic faith lies in our children.

“Day-to-day I watch children succeed at St. Helena when the odds are against them. Whether it is standing up and taking responsibility for actions, learning how to be assertive or finding out the mystery of getting all of your homework assignments completed and handed in, I see big and small successes each day. Success happens on a daily basis because of the generous hearts of those who give to St. Helena and to the Catholic Service Appeal.”

Academy of Holy Angels principal Heidi Foley works with staff and students such as Streiff to create an environment where students can thrive.

“Mary’s academic and social gifts complement the student body of AHA. We want to advocate for and support Mary, and students like Mary, to excel in a rigorous high school education, so that she is able to realize all of her dreams and become a vital person in our community and society at large.

“Each year, Holy Angels receives financial aid dollars from the archdiocese. Funded, in part, by the Catholic Services Appeal, these dollars help ensure access for students with the highest financial need. Over the past five years, these funds have helped 30 to 35 students attend AHA each year.”


Himanot, 28, was considering an abortion when she first sought help from Catholic Charities Seton Services. She was pregnant with her now 7-year-old son, Abel, and Catholic Charities helped her get signed up for Medical Assistance. The agency also gave her diapers, food and other essentials, including school supplies, clothing and Christmas gifts for her son. She told Margaret Sapp, her social worker at Seton Services, that the emotional support of staff and the clinic helped her through three pregnancies. “I love it,” Himanot said of Catholic Charities, which, she added, treated her “very good.”

Margaret Sapp has worked about 10 years with women such as Himanot in the prenatal program.

“I was drawn to Catholic Charities because of their great reputation in providing high quality services. But the longer I remain here, I feel Catholic Charities is grounded in the belief that we are all created in the image of God and that this work is very spiritual work.

“I am inspired every time a woman gives birth, even if I cannot always see the baby or hold it. It is such an incredible experience helping these women bring forth new life.”

Dawn Petroskas is the health services manager at Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where she has worked about two years.

“I started working here part time as a nurse in the clinic while I was going to graduate school. I decided to stick around . . . because I fell in love with the clients that we serve, the committed staff, and the strong leadership within the agency.

“I am inspired by the new immigrant women we serve. They face many barriers in their lives and in receiving care, but they overcome them with resiliency and courage. I am inspired by the women who, though they may not be excited at first by their pregnancies, eventually fall in love with their babies and take on the responsibilities and challenges of motherhood with joy and grace. Lastly, I am inspired by Catholic Charities mission of social justice. Leadership and front line staff have demonstrated an amazing commitment to the vulnerable in our society and actively believe that healthcare and housing are human rights.


Father Doug Pierce studied for the priesthood at the St. Paul Seminary and was ordained in 2010. Today, he is an assistant pastor at St. Odilia in Shoreview and chaplain at Totino-Grace High School in Fridley.

According to the Catholic Services Appeal brochure, “He skis with teens, texts their parents and sings the Mass parts. Parishioners rave about his voice.” Father Pierce also paints watercolor landscapes, practices his Spanish and works on developing good relationships with parishioners and students.

He told The Catholic Spirit: “I love my time at Totino-Grace. Being a part of that community is certainly one of my greatest joys since being ordained. I feel like I am still learning how to effectively minister to our young people, but what I have become convinced of is that we can’t leave them out. We need to explain the Gospel to them in a way that makes sense and is life-changing, otherwise it won’t be attractive to them.

“The main thing I have learned [from serving at St. Odilia] is also a confirmation of what I have learned elsewhere in ministry — it’s important and essential to get to know the community. Without having a connection to people, it will be hard to be heard; and if you don’t know where people are at, it will be difficult to minister well to them.

“I love being a priest and I’m grateful for all the help and support that I have received that helped me on the path to becoming a priest.

“[The assistance from the Catholic Services Appeal] made it financially feasible to enter the seminary when I did.”


Category: Catholic Services Appeal