How Paul Chol survived war, nights in the jungle, refugee camps and then found the strength to build a new life in Erie.

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Three ways you can help the refugees

  1. The Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services-Refugee Resettlement Program is looking for parishes and companies willing to participate in the warm clothing drive this fall. If your organization would like to organize contributions to this major event, please contact Deacon John Brophy at or by cell at 814.528.3623. Refugees and other poor people in need benefit greatly from this outreach.
  2. Volunteers are needed to help with the refugee cultural orientation training program that is offered Tuesday-Friday from 10 a.m. to noon at the former St. Stan’s Elementary School, 516 E. 13 Street, Erie. Retirees and others who are available during the timeframe are encouraged to contact Deacon John Brophy (information above) to help mentor refugees through a structured program. Commitments range from once a week to daily, and the program starts over after each four-week session. 
  3. Volunteers are also needed to help facilitate a refugee employment class offered Tuesday-Friday from 12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. More volunteer help is also needed to facilitate a self-pacing Rosetta Stone language training course from 12:30 p.m. - 2 p.m. Tuesday-Friday for mentoring focused on practical skills. “Anyone with a positive attitude can do this,” says Deacon John. Staff guides all classes. New volunteers should contact Deacon John (as above) to schedule an orientation and background check.

Bedroom dressers needed

That’s correct … Catholic Charities Counseling & Adoption Service – Refugee Resettlement Center in its resettlement contract with the USCCB, must provide every refugee client with a bedroom dresser for each refugee living in the home. Seems reasonable…doesn’t it?

We must rely on donations from people like us to meet our furniture responsibility. However, for some reason, dressers are just not donated in sufficient numbers for each refugees to have their own dresser. So, here is a note to let you know of our/their needs.

Shortages results in inefficiencies, a “back log” for us, a return visit (hopefully) to the home to fill the need, and for refugees living with ‘make-do’ situations, etc. Perhaps you could tell others about our needs and be our eyes to assist us with our continuing dresser shortage?

Please call Nancy at the CCCAS Offices, 814-456-2091 to schedule a “pick-up”. Please contact Deacon John with any creative ideas you may have about how we might address this continuing need? Please call 814-897-8327 or email Please be assured of our gratitude for you.

Can you help?

If you have some free time and want to help really poor people in a meaningful way, Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services — Refugee Resettlement (CCCAS) has just the volunteer opportunity for you! Here are several ways you can help:

Furniture Pick-up and Delivery — If you are a student, or in between jobs, why not help us pick up donated household goods? Our driver needs a strong “crew or two” to help him “pick-up and deliver” from the donors home to the refugees new home.

Apartment Set-up — We need several volunteer homemakers to join the CCCAS ladies apartment preparation team. Don’t be bashful! You will do the impossible! You will help change refugee’s apartments into new refugee homes. Duties include light cleaning, bed making, kitchen & bathroom stocking, curtain hanging, etc.

Refugee Liaison — We need caring people of any gender or age to be our “liaison” to an individual refugee or refugee family. In only 1-2 hours a week you will improve some life as never before. You will become a friend of someone who is new to the USA and be our eyes, ears and heart to help us meet their needs.

Special Event, Transportation, or General Volunteer — Maybe you can’t commit to any of refugee specific needs, but might be able to help refugees on an “occasional purpose like, holiday celebrations like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, purchasing for us, driving refugees to appointments, etc.

Won’t you please contact Deacon John at H-814-897-8327, C-814-528-3623 or for more specifics and training information. You are needed now! Thank You for considering this plea & making contact SAP!

Could you teach newly arrived refugees about American culture?

Your Opportunity/Our Need
We are seeking several volunteer teachers and others who can help us part-time over the coming weeks or months. We offer you the opportunity to help refugees learn about American culture. Whether you have a few hours or days available to help, we would like to talk to you. This is a personally rewarding volunteer opportunity.

Brief Details
Catholic Charities Counseling and Adoption Services (CCCAS) Refugee Resettlement Program has begun a rotating, cultural orientation experience for newly arriving refugees. The orientation lasts four weeks, Tuesday-Friday, 10 AM -12 PM. It is taught completely in English, and serves as an immersion experience for refugees. They will be learning everything they need to know about American culture, such as home safety, proper parenting, and American culture, through the services CCCAS provides.

Our Goal
… is to create and grow an environment where clients are comfortable learning to speak and communicate. Some small examples of teaching topics are: proper ways of greeting people, telephone practices: leaving a voicemail, etc., writing your name, address, and phone number, having useful discussions, acting out important events, etc. We are seeking motivated teachers, classroom assistants and people who can help in other ways … Have an Idea? Please contact us!

Your Next Step
Refugees arrive continuously over the summer and beyond. Our training is also ongoing. Have questions? Please contact deacon John at Cell 814-528-3623 or Home 814-897-8327 or email or RSVP to this email.

Why volunteer with refugee resettlement?

Are you an outgoing kind of person whose faith calls them to care for the local poor in a meaningful way? Are you looking for a safe yet supported ministry, as part of a team that can change lives? Can you be open to encounter God's most poor right here in Erie? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then we want to speak to you. We offer some important, one-time ways to help and ways to help over a longer time.

Here are some examples of helping you (or your group) should call us about:

  • Teach refugees to shop for food and household items
  • Fill out paperwork for Social Security and welfare office applications
  • Make sure all children have school uniforms
  • Make sure all kids have backpacks and school supplies
  • Take refugees to St. Martin Center and to The Caring Closet
  • Assist caseworkers with routine duties
  • Drive refugees to appointments (doctor, clinics, etc.)
  • Routine office work using MS ACCESS and/or EXCEL P/C software
  • Become a family friend to a newly arrived refugee family
  • Help with apartment set-up
  • Furniture pick-up/delivery: We especially need able bodied people to work with our furniture team. You can also donate good, used furniture that you think might be helpful in a new refugee's apartment.

Questions? E-mail volunteer coordinator, Lisa Ripper

(814) 456-2091

Click here to visit our CCCAS web page

About the Refugee Ministry

The number of refugees in the world is growing. More than fifteen million people have fled war, terrorism, torture, slavery, starvation and oppression in their homeland. Most languish in camps with no hope of a durable solution to their plight. Because of humanitarian concerns, a Presidential Memorandum has given approval for up to 76,000 refugees to the United States during Fiscal Year 2012.

In response to the growing presence of refugees throughout our nation, our bishops invite us to see refugees as sisters and brothers in Christ—no matter what their faith tradition—and as people with needs we can help fulfill and with gifts to share with us.

Welcoming the Stranger Among Us—Unity in Diversity is a pastoral statement published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2000. 

The Catholic Diocese of Erie offers a multitude of services through its many organizations—Diocesan Offices, parishes, Parish Care and Concern groups, religious education. The Office of Catholic Refugee Ministry serves to connect refugees with appropriate Diocesan resources to enable them to attain self-sufficiency and to become actively contributing participants in the life of our religious and civic communities.

Although most of the refugees in the Diocese of Erie reside in the city of Erie, the goals of the Catholic Refugee Ministry are to:

  • Educate people throughout the Erie Diocese about the ideas found in the U.S. Bishops pastoral letter, Welcoming the Stranger Among Us—Unity in Diversity.
  • Coordinate pastoral outreach efforts to serve the religious needs of refugees.
  • Involve parish staff and volunteers in reaching out to welcome refugees.
  • Recruit, screen and train volunteers to help refugees.
  • Appeal for the material  needs of refugees. (The “Kitchen-in-a-Box” project asks parishioners to donate various kitchen items to be given to newly arrived refugees. Special needs appeals are sent out to parishes on occasion.)
  • Celebrate a monthly Mass for the Sudanese and the Vietnamese in Erie
  • Conduct a pastoral needs census for Catholic refugees so pastoral ministers may provide religious education and sacramental celebrations.
  • Motivate Catholics to advocate for the rights of refugees.
  • Assist refugees to identify with a  Catholic parish (or a congregation of their own faith tradition) 
  • Encourage faith communities (parishes, schools, religious communities) to be extra-hospitable in loving outreach.
  • Facilitate catechesis, sacramental preparation, marriage validations, worship experiences
  • Assist native-born Americans to know refugees personally
  • Develop a “traveling choir” of refugees to visit some of the large suburban parishes in Erie
  • Conduct group meetings for the “Lost Boys” of Sudan to deal with life issues.
  • Organize an inter-faith celebration of the annual National Migration Week. (This nationwide event is sponsored by the USCCB every January).
  • Organize a Thanksgiving Day dinner and a Christmas dinner for refugee groups.
  • Solicit free summer educational and recreational opportunities for refugee children.
  • Provide a forum for refugee leadership groups to meet and plan for their communities.
  • Participate in an ecumenical group of  volunteers serving refugees in order to coordinate efforts.
  • Facilitate housing arrangements through HANDS (a Catholic Charities agency) for refugees.
  • Reinforce the connection of refugees with agencies that serve their special needs (International Institute of Erie, Multicultural Community Resource Center, ESL & GED programs).