Monsignor Michael M. Boland

Committed to serving our veterans

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Each year on Veterans Day we honor the men and women who have bravely fought for America’s freedom. This year — Catholic Charities’ centennial year — Veterans Day takes on special significance for us because veterans and their families were one of the first groups Catholic Charities served 100 years ago.  
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago was founded within days of the United States entering World War I. As men went off to battle, Catholic Charities was there for the women and children left behind. 

In these early days, help often came in the form of food and short-term financial assistance, but as wounded soldiers came home or women were widowed, the needs grew more complex. Catholic Charities evolved to help with the long-term psychological and employment needs of veteran families who had been devastated by the war.  

Since then, Catholic Charities has been privileged to continue to serve veterans and their families. Veterans have made tremendous sacrifices on our behalf, and it is our duty to serve and protect them, just as they have served and protected us. 

Given the traumatic experiences that veterans have faced, it is amazing that most return home and make a transition to civilian life without additional help. However, far too many end up jobless, homeless or facing untreated mental health and substance abuse issues. It is for this group of veterans that Catholic Charities provides concrete help and hope for the future.

Today, Catholic Charities serves more than 18,000 veterans of all ages across our programs in Cook and Lake counties, providing such things as food, counseling, child care, job training or legal assistance. Catholic Charities also operates a wide array of senior services that are available to low-income aging veterans, including the Bishop Goedert Residence on the Hines VA campus. This facility, targeted specifically to senior veterans, has 70 one-bedroom apartments, beautiful common areas and close proximity to VA medical care.  

One of our most comprehensive programs for veterans is Catholic Charities St. Leo’s campus in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood. This facility was developed in partnership with the Veteran’s Administration and was the first of its kind in the nation.  

The campus combines 141 units of affordable housing for homeless veterans, coupled with supportive services and job counseling. St. Leo’s is co-located with the Auburn-Gresham VA medical clinic, providing convenient access to health care. We have a beautiful veterans’ memorial garden on the campus, as well as an additional building that has apartments for the disabled, including disabled veterans. 

Catholic Charities Supportive Services for Veteran Families program helps both male and female veterans cope with unique issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, family caregiving and lack of affordable housing. A key feature of this program is providing one-on-one navigation through the overburdened and complex VA benefits system, ensuring veterans can access the resources that have been dedicated to them.

Catholic Charities Employment for Veterans program is another excellent service, which helps veterans build a resume, teaches interviewing skills and connects them to employment and job training.  One of the main goals of this program is to educate both veterans and potential employers how military training can translate into civilian jobs. With their tremendous sense of duty, discipline, strong work ethic, quick problem-solving and a variety of cross-functional skills, veterans make excellent employees. 

Catholic Charities has been truly privileged to serve the needs of our courageous veterans for the past 100 years. As we embark on our second century of helping those in need, Catholic Charities remains steadfastly committed to helping veterans achieve lives that reflect the honor and dignity that they so profoundly deserve.


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