Lisa Aquino, Chief Executive Officer

Opinion Piece by Lisa Aquino published by Catholic Anchor, April 2020

“I don’t think of all the misery, but of all the beauty that remains.”– Anne Frank

Right now, this quote speaks to me. As I am writing, we are amid a pandemic. When this article is published, I don’t know if we will be past this pandemic, or if we will be at its worst point. Wherever we are in the “curve,” this quote reminds me that even in the most horrific of times, more horrific than now, a young girl found beauty and found hope. Anne Frank is my inspiration right now, because despite what she endured, she found hope, and she left the world an inspiring gift, her diary.

It is a gift to be able to see the light, even in the darkest of times. This is something I believe we can practice now. The grief of the world and the challenges that lay ahead can seem almost too much to bear; we must find the light or the beauty that remains. There is light, and there is beauty. We must make sure to open our eyes to look for it. Whether that light is with God, with a newborn family member, or the beauty of nature, it is there.

At Catholic Social Services, our amazing team has continued to be the light for so many. We have continued to practice our tradition of providing help and creating hope. Catholic Social Services has worked harder than ever throughout this challenging time, adapting to new health recommendations and guidelines, while providing an essential service. The programs and services provided at Catholic Social Services are critical – they provide a safety net, so no one is alone, and no one is without basic needs.

There are many compelling stories of hope through those served by CSS. Our shelters have remained open and have adapted quickly to serve the most vulnerable at this challenging time. At Brother Francis Shelter, we are serving the aged and those experiencing physical disabilities. At Clare House, we have used every room and every space to assure that families can remain at a safe distance in a safe space. At St. Frances House Food Pantry, we have converted our entire operation to provide boxes of food at our door, to better assure the health and safety of the families in need of food. So many adjustments, small and large, that make such a difference.

At this time, to create hope and beauty for our future, Catholic Social Services has committed ourselves to housing. We know in this crisis, we are called to action. We must get as many people as we can out of dangerous mass shelter situations and into housing where they can safely isolate and move forward to find stability.

When this crisis began, we reassessed to assure the safety and health of our staff, and then we doubled down. We expanded to move more people into life-saving housing. In the first three weeks of March, more than 61 people were moved to safe housing or supported to stay in safe housing, thanks to the support of CSS and the hard work of case management staff. These 61 people include families with children, individuals who lost their jobs, and seniors who have been in homelessness for many years. Thanks to the support of each of you who support us, these people are in safe housing and their chances of becoming victims of COVID-19 are dramatically lower.

As we move to the next phase of this crisis, we will continue to commit ourselves to the people we serve and to find the beauty in every moment. In these dark times, there is still so much beauty and light around us, and by following the guidelines provided to us by experts, and prayer and hope, we will come through this. We are grateful to Anne Frank and others who inspire us to remember even in the bleakest of times we can find light and beauty around us and within our hearts.

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