Every year, the Diocesan Service Appeal (DSA) renews its mission to support and sustain the ministries that serve the five-county area that is the Diocese of Palm Beach. Although hundreds of people in the diocese benefit from the donations collected by the DSA, many might not know where the dollars go specifically.
“One year we got the question, ‘What does the DSA support exactly?’ Instead of telling people what the DSA funds, we decided to show them,” said David Walsh, associate director of development for the Diocese of Palm Beach.
This question served as the impetus for creating the DSA in Action events, which invite donors to learn about the various programs and ministries funded by the DSA in the form of tours, presentations and personal time spent with individuals whose lives have been touched by DSA funds.
“The Catholic Church is the largest charity in the world. We help people every day, right in our backyards and globally,” said Walsh.
The first DSA in Action event occurred Nov. 20 at the St. Francis Center in Riviera Beach, which is home to a majority of the 15 programs and ministries offices of Catholic Charities Palm Beach. “Catholic Charities received approximately $1.5 million of the $9 million that the DSA raised last year,” said Brian Doyle, director of development for the Diocese of Palm Beach. “It’s a flagship program that does tremendous good for our community and, through the DSA, it can continue to be great.”
The first DSA in Action event welcomed a diverse group of donors who gathered for a brief overview of the Catholic Charities programs. “This year marks the 35th anniversary of Catholic Charities in the diocese,” said Frankie Chevere, CEO and executive director of Catholic Charities Palm Beach. “We started off as the social service arm of the diocese in 1984 and have grown to include more than 80 employees and 250 volunteers. Last year, we assisted 16,000 clients and we continue to serve the vulnerable in our community.”
Carol Rodriquez and Alex Stevens, both associate directors of Catholic Charities Palm Beach, highlighted numerous programs out of the organization’s growing list of successful initiatives. “The Counseling Services Program was established in 1984, making it one of the oldest programs that we have,” said Rodriguez. “It serves those who suffer from depression and anxiety, have gone through a traumatic loss and a variety of other issues that contribute to a fragile state of mental health.”
“Birthline/Lifeline Pregnancy Care Centers served 169 clients last year,” said Stevens. “Of the women who come into these clinics turning to abortion as their only option out of a difficult situation, about 45 percent have a change of heart after being counseled by Birthline/Lifeline. We also connect them with adoption agencies, material assistance and offer support through birth and infancy.”
After learning that Florida is the third-ranked state in the U.S. for human trafficking, the newly titled Bakhita Empowerment Program piqued the interest to the donors participating in the tour. “The program was originally called the Anti-Human Trafficking Program but, in efforts to empower our clients in their healing journey from human trafficking, it has been named the Bakhita Empowerment Program, after St. Bakhita, an African woman who was forcibly taken from her village in Sudan and trafficked into slavery,” explained Rodriguez. St. Bakhita later converted to Catholicism and joined the Canossian Sisters in Italy—she is known as the patron saint of human trafficking survivors.
Judy Gomez, a donor attending the DSA in Action event and a parishioner of St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church in Boca Raton, was deeply touched by the Bakhita empowerment program and expressed her amazement at the breadth of Catholic Charities’ community impact. “I’m amazed at how many programs are housed under one roof at the St. Francis Center,” said Gomez. “It really inspires me to give what I can to the DSA so that more people can be helped. Jesus called us to be active participants of our faith, not just to sit at church and let the needs of others pass you by. Through the tour today, I’ve witnessed how we can all put our faith into action.”
To learn more about the Diocesan Services Appeal, visit dsa.diocesepb.org for a video message by Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito and to download an informational brochure on the distribution of DSA funds. Donations can be made online or by contacting David Walsh at 561-775-9590.