We continued our interview with team members from Catholic Charities to gain greater insight into how Catholic Community Connection (CCC) supports its community partners. Here’s what Heath Rosenberger, Director of Migration and Refugee Services, had to share from the frontline:
Heath Rosenberger, Director of Migration and Refugee Services
Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland
How have you helped those in need?
We’re helping refugees every day, and this is truly the Catholic Church in action. The refugee experience is one of great loss, but also great hope. Catholic Charities is here to assist refugees on their path toward new lives here in the United States, giving people who have lost everything the opportunity to rebuild.
It’s important to remember that life isn’t easy for new arrivals, but I’m amazed by the resiliency of the refugees coming to Cleveland. In welcoming generations of immigrants coming to this country, I’m witness to their hard work and dedication to their families. We have people that are business owners. They are essential workers. They’re evaluating their degrees and sending their kids to college, really making an impact here on our local community.
How do you and your team “Serve the Lord with gladness?”
When working with immigrants and refugees, it’s important to see Christ in each person that you come across. That’s really what we do here at Catholic Charities. And in our department, we are open to welcoming the stranger on a daily basis.
It’s also important to highlight the parish support we receive here in the Diocese of Cleveland. We have many parishioners that become family mentors and build lifelong bonds with refugee families. We have a parish that collects and furnishes all the homes and apartments for new arrivals. It really shows that Cleveland is a welcoming city, and that the Catholic community plays a major part in the success of our efforts.
What are some lessons you’ve learned in working with refugees?
I remember this family that we assisted about ten years ago from Iraq. The father was an interpreter for the U.S. military, and he risked his life to serve with soldiers. Eventually he had to flee the country and come to the United States. Catholic Charities helped his family resettle.
From Day One, he kept asking what he could do to help his fellow refugees, and he eventually became one of our interpreters. He serves as a family mentor for new arrivals and his children went on to earn advanced degrees. He also got a job at the Cleveland Clinic and saved enough money to buy a home here. Then he purchased rental property that he rents to other refugees at an affordable rate.
That’s just one example of the many stories we come across in our work that teach us about compassion and how to care for others, especially in the face of extreme hardship.