A Legacy of Health and Wellness

In 1906, a group of women from St. Luke’s Parish in St. Paul banded together to form a philanthropic organization they called the Catholic Women’s Guild. For more than 106 years, the 200-member Guild served the poor and immigrant populations of Saint Paul.

The Guild of Catholic Women sew for the poor in Jan. 1932. The group also supported Mexican immigrants at the time, by organizing a Spanish- language chapel in a West Side storefront. That evolved into today’s Our Lady of Guadalupe parish. The Guild also supported the Red Cross, Little Sisters of the Poor and others in the 1930s.

In 2011, citing difficulty in attracting young members, the board of directors voted to dissolve the Guild — but they also took steps to ensure that the work they had done for more than a century would continue.

One of those steps was creating a $270,000 endowment fund with the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF) for the purpose of “Building healthy communities in relation to mental health, health care, women and children in need, veterans and military personnel, and support for immigrant needs.”

CCF made its first grants on behalf of the Guild in 2013. It has recently funded three organizations that epitomize the spirit of the endowment’s intent: Salud Mental at Santo Rosario (Church of the Holy Rosary), St. Mary’s Health Clinic, and Westminster Counseling Center.

Salud Mental at Holy Rosary
Eliminating Barriers, Building Bridges for Mental Health

CCF made a grant of $10,600 to Salud Mental on behalf of the Guild in December 2016. For more than 10 years, the parish has been offering mental health services offered in Spanish primarily to Latino immigrants living in poverty and unable to get insurance.

“The pastor asked me to help establish a practice that could eliminate some of the access barriers that Latino immigrants had in terms of mental health care,” explains Dr. Deb Organ, licensed social worker and pastoral associate for Holy Rosary.

Since one of those barriers was cost, Holy Rosary decided to house the practice within the church, which helped overcome two additional barriers. “Many people were under the impression ‘you had to be crazy’ to need therapy.” says Organ. “Having a pastor make the referral and coming to therapy in a familiar church setting helped normalize the process.” It was also easier for women experiencing domestic abuse to get out of the house by saying, “I’m going to church” instead of “I’m going to therapy.”

The practice has grown steadily by word of mouth from existing patients and referrals from other churches. It now has four Spanish-speaking therapists.

As a result of the grant from the CCF, Holy Rosary has been able to provide direct, face-to-face counseling services to 120 Latino individuals, couples, and families, many suffering from complex traumas that can take anywhere from months to several years to resolve.

“I’m very grateful to CCF and the Guild for funding us during a crucial time when many of the Latino individuals and families we see are under a great deal of stress.”

St. Mary’s Health Clinics
Providing Primary Care in Low-Income Communities

St. Mary’s Health Clinics (SMHC) received a $5,850 grant from the Guild of Catholic Women’s endowment fund in June of 2017.

In 1992, with seed money generated from the sale of St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis (now part of the University of Minnesota Medical Center Fairview campus), the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Carondelet founded SMHC to provide primary care services in low-income communities.

“That vision remains entirely relevant today,” says Executive Director Melissa Gatten. “The Sisters’ mission, supported by Catholic social teaching, connects the Sisters, SMHC, the Guild of Catholic Women, and CCF.”

Funds donated to SMHC achieve particularly high impact because patient care is provided by a network of licensed physicians and nurses who volunteer more than 10,000 hours of service each year. Care is provided free of charge unless the patient is eligible for insurance. Patients who qualify for free or affordable insurance are helped to apply.

With the help of grants from CCF and other major foundations, St. Mary’s Health Clinics provided more than 4,200 patient visits to just over 1,600 people in 2017.

Westminster Counseling Services
Dedicated to Transforming Mind and Spirit

Last year, Westminster Counseling Services received a $5,800 grant from the Guild of Catholic Women endowment fund. According to Business Manager Jennifer Aden, that grant helped an additional 100 patients receive free or reduced-cost counseling services.

The Westminster Counseling Center integrates the spiritual and psychological dimensions of human experience to promote hope, strength, growth, and inherent self-worth through counseling, education, and mental health awareness regardless of ability to pay.

“Our mission really has two key pillars,” says Glenace Edwall, president of the board. “One is that nobody will be turned away for their inability to pay. The other is a desire to unite, rather than divide, spirituality and mental health.”

Affordability remains an issue despite the Affordable Care Act and mandated parity for mental health coverage. Even with insurance, many people are unable to afford the multiple co-pays associated with getting therapy. That’s particularly troubling given that financial insecurity is a known factor in depression and anxiety.

“We do get insurance reimbursement and try to maximize that whenever possible,” explains Edwall. “But we also need community partners like CCF to ensure that we’ve always got an adequate fund for people who do need support.”

Perpetuating Healthy Communities

More than 100 years later and through the power of endowment, the work of the Guild of Catholic Women continues. Thanks to the faith and foresight of this visionary group of women, a perpetual stream of financial generosity will exist to build healthy communities long into the future.

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