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"the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." - MLK 

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Note: The ideas and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the authors' and should not be ascribed to the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes or its members. On August 5, 2021, we archived old blog posts. You can find the archive by clicking here.


Archive for the "Homelessness/Inequity (UNANIMA International)" Category

Film Screening of “The Invisible Class” October 9

September 21, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

Fond du Lac offers a free screening of a documentary that explores what it is like to be unhoused in America and will address systemic causes and challenge stereotypes.

According to a recent literature review article from Self.Inc., homelessness in the U.S. has increased by 42.5% between 2018 and 2022. In terms of the number of people, this meant there were at least 582,642 people experiencing homelessness nationwide on any single night.

If these numbers are not staggering enough, in 2021, there were 15.6 million empty homes in the U.S. This equates to an average of 27.4 empty homes in the U.S. for each person experiencing homelessness. In Wisconsin, that number was much higher than the national average with a ratio of 75:1 empty properties to one person experiencing homelessness. Read the full report here

What is going on?! The documentary “The Invisible Class: The Story of Homelessness in America” explores what it truly means to be  homeless in America, challenging stereotypes and examining the systemic cause of mass homelessness in the wealthiest nation in the world. 

You are invited to attend a screening of "The Invisible Class" on Monday, October 9 at 5:30pm in the Marian University Stayer Center Auditorium. This event is co-sponsored by United Way Fond du Lac, Holy Family Catholic Community, and the Congregation of Sisters of St Agnes (CSA).

Following the film, attendees will engage in conversation about homelessness in Fond du Lac and will have an opportunity to learn how they can support the new warming shelter opening November 15th. No registration required. 

Watch the trailer for The Invisible Class:

Back to School Fond du Lac Supply Team thanks YOU!

September 07, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

This year’s back to school drive served 2,061 youth in Fond du Lac County.

CSA Motherhouse was one of 50 supply drive sites for this year’s Back to School Drive. 215 community volunteers served 775 hours in total. The Back to School Fond du Lac Supply Team thanks all of its sponsors, donors and volunteers.

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Grant Writing: Systemic Change for the Poor and Marginalized

August 17, 2023
By Sister Julie Ann Krahl

I volunteer in an organization well-known for attending to the needs of the poor and marginalized, the Society of St. Vincent DePaul- Fond du Lac Council. I write grants requesting monies to support activities reflecting the mission of SVDP. In Fond du Lac County that translates to operating the St. Katharine Drexel Homeless Shelter for 36 single persons and 15 families; managing the community SVDP Thrift Store; supporting a myriad of home visitors who advocate for and assist the poor with food, rent, utility, and transportation expenses and connections with additional community resources; conducting the Getting Ahead Program, a transformational self-sufficiency program for persons experiencing poverty; sponsoring community interaction and legal assistance for immigrants.  We need grant money.

I balance two perspectives in grant writing. The charitable organization needs the grant money to successfully address its mission-based goals whatever they are. The business, organization or donor has the grant money and needs it dispensed to accomplish their philanthropic goals, whatever they are. A grant provides both grantor and grantee an opportunity to achieve their organizational goals. The grant writer’s role is to match their mission-based goals/needs and provide evidence to convince both that they can help each other successfully fulfill their goals.

It’s getting tricky to find a grantor or donor who would give you money to simply pay someone’s rent, buy groceries, or get toys.  Those that do acknowledge that your charitable organization has the proven intention and ability to recognize need and respond with integrity. They want their money to help people and trust that you can do that.

Today grantors are pursuing systemic change for the poor and marginalized and more. They want to support efforts that encourage transitions to improved lives, lives that are better able to participate in the community’s well-being. And they are going further into complex systemic change goals that utilize multiple resources to build relationships among community and societal components. Thus, individuals, the local community entities and, wholistically, society and the environment change for the good. They are looking for evidence that the charitable organization has the intention, the successes, the understanding, and the capacity to stimulate complex systemic change.

The homeless need shelter and an advocate for vibrant, robust neighborhoods with affordable housing and worthwhile employment. People are hungry. We should be quick to give them food and develop programs promoting sustainable, healthy, locally grown/sourced foods. Children should always have toys and processes to build their communication and thinking skills, social well-being, and knowledge that serves to improve our world. Successes are individual and systemic. Success depends on the ever-widening circles of inclusive relationships.

Yes, this is like the old proverb: “give a fish…; teach how to fish…;” but today’s proverb holds a third directive: Improve fishing so the lake and the fish and the community all live happily encouraging each other into the future. I’m delighted there is grant money for that. I’m glad I volunteer in an organization that understands fishing.

Julie Ann Krahl, CSA, is vice-president of SVDP-FDLC.
She is a grant writer for SVDP-FDLC and their Getting Ahead Program.

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Farm Bill Food Security

August 03, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

670 million people are experiencing hunger worldwide, including more than 34 million people (9 million of them children) in America. As Congress writes the 2023 Farm Bill this summer, urge them to ensure protection and funding of key food security programs in the 2023 Farm Bill.

Support for several food security programs in the Farm Bill is essential to prevent and end hunger for millions of people here in the United States and around the world. Advocacy is ongoing in support of these programs, and we invite you to include your thoughts and personal experience. Lift your voice today in support of these lifesaving programs by contacting your members of Congress. 

Please read the recent letter to learn more about the USCCB’s advocacy on the Farm Bill.
Be sure to include a short personal story to increase the effectiveness of your message.


Fill the Bus with School Supplies

August 03, 2023
By Dusty Krikau

On August 5 & 6, Fond du Lac residents can help support youth education by dropping off school supply donations in the Walmart parking lot from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Look for the school bus in the parking lot to drop off supplies. 

Back to School Fond du Lac provides school supplies to all children who reside in Fond du Lac County and are eligible for free or reduced lunch, which includes households whose income is at or below 1.85 times the Federal poverty level. In Fond du Lac County that means more than 5000 students are eligible to participate with more than 1,800 students in the Fond du Lac school district alone. Last year’s supplies were able to serve 1,579 students. 

Donations and volunteers are what make this program a success. Opportunities to volunteer for sorting, stocking, and distribution are still available. You can sign up here.

Learn more about the history of Back to School Fond du Lac, including their humble beginnings in serving 100 students in 1995 and how they got to where they are today, by visiting the about us section on their webpage: 

CSA Sisters and Associates donate and volunteer for this program annually. We hope to see you join the effort!


C.H.A.N.G.E. Amory: “Y’all Really Help”

July 06, 2023
By Sister Mary Christine Fellerhoff, CSA

“Y’all really help” was the testimony of an early client of C.H.A.N.G.E. Amory, a local community charity. With little more than one thousand dollars; a few pledges from local churches, individuals, and a business; and a whole lot of faith, C.H.A.N.G.E. Amory (simplified to CHANGE hereafter) opened in March 2014 to help to pay rent or utility bills for low-income people living around Amory in Monroe County, Mississippi. CHANGE was founded by Sister Mary Christine Fellerhoff, the first Executive Director, with the encouragement and help of Sister Lael Niblick, the Lay Ecclesial Minister for St. Helen Catholic Church. CHANGE held its nonprofit status as a special project of the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo, Mississippi, until it received its own 501(c)3 designation in 2018.  It was envisioned as a complement to Amory’s excellent Food Pantry. CHANGE sees clients and distributes funds one day per week. In late 2022 when ministry changes called Sisters Mary Christine and Lael back to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Mrs. Nancy Bridges became the second Executive Director of CHANGE. The following is based on a recent interview with Nancy.


In describing her vision of the mission of CHANGE today, Nancy said that it goes beyond assisting clients with utilities or rent to meeting their needs of learning to live with what they have. She is aware that many people in the Monroe County area are “living substandard lives” and she would like to expand the geographical boundaries that CHANGE reaches. “I’m amazed, really, at how many different people we serve,” she says. Seeing more and more new people coming as they learn about the existence of CHANGE, Nancy concludes, “There’s a great need here – it’s ongoing.” 

As Executive Director, a volunteer role as are all CHANGE staff, Nancy interviews clients, oversees the volunteers whom she “thoroughly enjoys,” guides the Board with a hope to inspire them, and maintains contact with donors. With most of the current board members ending their terms, Nancy began in January 2023 with mostly new board members. To help them have a greater sense of participation and commitment, she has established three active board committees: public relations, finance, and by-laws. She expects their work to advance the effectiveness and outreach of CHANGE. 

Passion for Mission

Nancy’s passion for the mission of CHANGE has deepened as she meets the clients and hears their stories. “It tears at my heart,” she said, “to see that there is so much more need than what we can provide.” She recalled a case of one young girl who was embarrassed to ask for help (like many clients). She worked as many hours as she could. When her employer increased her pay, he cut her hours so that she’s making less money. Now she’s looking for another part-time job. This scenario is not uncommon. Nancy is also touched by people who are mentally challenged, have no family to rely on, and have few personal resources.

About her experience as Executive Director, Nancy said, “I’ve had, I think, more disappointments than successes.” One of her biggest disappointments is that most clients are in a cycle of dependency because they don’t know how to help themselves. CHANGE tries to assist clients by requiring a budgeting basics class for all. The two one-hour sessions are taught by CHANGE free of charge. That effort has mixed results. While the class seems to make no difference for some, other clients report better planning for their use of money. The staff is heartened by those who report specific ways in which they attempt to follow their budgets. 


Dependent on donations, CHANGE, like its clients, must ask for funds. Nancy commented on the difference between running a nonprofit and running a business. “I’m not selling anything to get the money to operate. It’s hard for me to ask, even though [the money’s] not for me.” Nancy went on to say, “We have very small committed [pledged] funds to spend each week” and wondered how CHANGE could continue. Nancy noted excellent management of funding before she came. “We have monies that can be used, but the need is so much greater than what we’ve got.” 

Nevertheless, CHANGE makes a difference. Nancy gave an example of the community efforts to help those affected by the March 24, 2023, tornado. Not being a charity, the utility company, which receives the largest payouts of CHANGE money, could not help those unable to pay their bills. It did, however, send clients to CHANGE. Other agencies like the Amory Food Pantry and the Amory Housing Authority have also referred clients. 

Nancy looks forward to making CHANGE and its work better known to the public: both those in need and potential donors and volunteers. “Those [board members] on the PR committee, they have their work cut out for them,” she says with a laugh. Nancy hopes that donors will “feel a part of the community and have a positive experience.” She encourages board members from the various churches to reach out to members of their congregations to consider volunteering at CHANGE. Making connections for clients, donors, and volunteers may be the key to the future of CHANGE Amory. The hope is that clients can continue to say, “Y’all really help!”

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UNANIMA International News from the UN and Around the World

May 18, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

The May 2023 Newsletter UNANIMA International (UI) is now available and can be accessed through the website: You can also sign up to receive these newsletters in your inbox every two months in one of four different languages. 

The staff LOVE to hear from its members. Please feel free to drop Jean, Eliza or Lara a message to complement the amazing work they are doing. Emails can be sent to

REMINDER! Please consider nominating a woman for the annual Woman of Courage Award. Each year UNANIMA International presents this award, which honors women from around the world who have exhibited exceptional courage and leadership to make a difference in their communities, especially for the betterment of the lives of women and children. Nomination guidelines are here.

Little Free Library Celebrates 11 years

May 18, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

The nonprofit, Free Little Library, celebrated its 11th year on May 17th. Most likely you have seen a library in your neighborhood. If not, you can view this World Map to locate one near you.

You can also join the network of more than 100,000 libraries and start your own! Watch this 30-second Introduction to Little Free Library. 

In April 2022, CSA put up their own Free Little Library just before Earth Day. Several Sisters and Staff gathered to bless the library and add their first donation of books. The books have been continuing to be replenished ever since by donations made to the JPIC Office, books shared from the Motherhouse Library, or just random passersby wishing to take a book and/or share a book. Some are making donations to celebrate their personal birthdays. Books for children and youth are very popular with St. Mary's Springs Academy right across the street.

We are dedicated to furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion with the books we share. By providing greater, more equitable book access in our neighborhood, we work to strengthen our community and influence literacy outcomes.

The Free Little Library is available year long. Next time you’re in the area, please bring a book to donate, or feel free take a book. You will notice the beautiful way the library is painted by Sister Doris Klein, CSA.


Executive Actions Taken to Strengthen the Care Economy

April 19, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

Tuesday, April 18, 2023, President Biden announced the most comprehensive set of executive actions any President has ever taken to improve care for hardworking families while supporting care workers and family caregivers.

The Executive Order includes more than 50 directives to nearly every cabinet-level agency to utilize existing funding to:

  • Make childcare and home care more affordable.
  • Make it easier for caregivers to access federal programs.
  • Improve access to care for veterans.
  • Ensure care jobs are good jobs.
  • Lift up Black, Indigenous, and other women of color who are most affected by the care crisis.

Read the full statement here or watch the video below.

Thanks to those of you who have fought for this kind of transformative action to a better care future for all of us. Continue to urge Congress to pass the budgets and laws that continue to support the dignity of others.

Call your Senators—find yours here.

Call your House Rep—find yours here.

CSA joins Network’s Thriving Communities Campaign

April 19, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

Pictured at right are Sisters Jean, Sue, Julie Ann, Clare and Eddie at a tour stop in Madison in 2016. 

From now through the end of May, NETWORK’s “Thriving Communities Campaign” is advocating to ensure that Congress rejects cuts to Medicaid, housing, and food programs—or the implementation of new bureaucratic hurdles to these programs—in any budget negotiations, and we need all hands on deck to make sure that all lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike, hear this message.

CSA joins these efforts. We call for federal policies that dismantle systemic racism, eliminate wealth and income gap, improve the wellbeing of our communities, and allow all people to thrive - especially those most often left out: women, people of color, people on the economic margins, and those at the intersections of these identities.

We encourage others to consider possible actions they can take to participate from this Thriving Communities Toolkit. There are call-in scripts, sample Letters to the Editor, social media graphics and sample posts, resources for a prayer vigil, and so much more!  

We know that we cannot balance a budget on the backs of poor people. We also know that if corporations and the ultra-wealthy paid their fair share of taxes, and if the Pentagon cut wasteful spending, we would have more than enough money to provide health care, housing, and food for all those in need. Join NETWORK today in calling on Congress for a moral budget that promotes the dignity and flourishing of all of us…no exceptions! Visit for more information.

NETWORK advocates for Catholic Social Justice. One of their most notable efforts is Nuns on the Bus. CSA Sisters and Associates have been involved with Nuns on the Bus for many years, speaking up for justice and advocating for adequate federal policies. Pictured here are CSA justice promoters at a tour stop in Madison, WI in 2016.

Sister Eileen Mahony, CSA, also recalls a bus stop near her home in Tucson and her meeting with Sr. Simone Campbell, former Network Executive Director who has been instrumental in the Nuns on the Bus movement. Sister Eileen shares: “From approx 2010 to 2015 many Church groups in Tucson had study- action groups to reflect on justice issues largely related to economics. When Sr Simone and the Network team visited Tucson, representatives of these many groups gathered to learn from the Network team and to learn how to reinforce each others’ good efforts.  The team’s broad US perspective helped strengthen, broaden  and deepen our efforts. 

My particular Tucson parish about that time expanded to include immigration and sanctuary issues as well as preparing and serving food to the homeless nightly from October through April.”


UNANIMA International’s Woman of Courage Award

April 19, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

CSA is a member congregation of UNANIMA International (UI), an NGO that advocates on behalf of women and children experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness / displacement, and bring the voices of refugees, migrants, the homeless, and victims of human trafficking to the United Nations, with the aim to educate and influence policymakers at the global level. 

Since 2008, UI has presented an annual “Woman of Courage Award,” which honors women from around the world who have exhibited exceptional courage and leadership to make a difference in their communities.

We are very excited to share that UI’s 2018 Woman of Courage, María Herrera Magdaleno, has been selected by Times Magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2023! You can read the Times article here.

We would also like to share that UI’s 2023 Woman of Courage Award goes to Sr. Anna Balchan, a theologian, therapist, and social activist who stands up for the rights of survivors of human trafficking. Anna is a Sister in the Congregation of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate, working in Katowice, Poland. Sr. Anna has over 19 years’ experience working with victims of human trafficking— working on the streets, and helping the homeless, addicts, and sex workers. She is one of the founders of the Association and Care Centre, where she helps victims of human trafficking and domestic violence.


Criteria for Selection
Awardees are selected annually according to the following criteria: 

  • That the awardee be a woman
  • That she has demonstrated courage in the face of adversity (e.g., from government, popular opinion, leaders) 
  • That her actions reflect and support the values and principles promoted by the UN 
  • That her display of courage relates to one of the major areas of concern for UNANIMA International (UI) 
  • That she be nominated by one or more of the UI member congregations 
  • That awardees collectively represent diverse geographical regions 
  • That she can be from a UI member congregation, but must be nominated by a member of a different congregation 


Please email for a nomination form.

You are invited to subscribe to UI’s newsletter and follow them on social media for updates on the Woman of Courage and more. Visit:

UNANIMA International Needs Your Grassroots Stories

April 06, 2023
By Tracy Abler, Justice Coordinator

The Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes (CSA) is one of 22 congregations worldwide who belong to UNANIMA International (UI). Tracy Abler, CSA JPIC Coordinator, represents the congregation on the UI Board of Directors. At the February 2023 Board Meeting, Tracy was elected to the Executive Committee and serves as Secretary. Tracy provides UI updates and writes of her experience:

“It is an absolute honor to represent CSA at UI. I continue to be in awe and wonder of the work that the very small staff (of three) do from their tiny office in the Church Center building overlooking the United Nations headquarters in New York City. With the amazing leadership of Executive Director, Jean Quinn, DW, UNANIMA International has a high public profile at the United Nations. Jean and her Executive Assistant, Lara Hicks, are very active with other NGO working groups and committees. Please take a moment to read Jean’s latest (and very impressive) newsletter here.

Image of Tracy with St. Agnes statueA highlight of my recent trip to New York, for a UI board meeting, was touring the United Nations. While walking through the wing dedicated to the Permanent Disarmament Collection, I was shocked to discover a statue of  St. Agnes that stands in the center of the collection. The damaged statue was found in the ruins of a Roman Catholic Cathedral in Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. The Cathedral was completely destroyed when the atomic bomb exploded half a kilometer away. While I did not get a picture of the back of the statue, the charring and mottling were an astonishing result of the intense heat and radiation.  

UI advocates on behalf of women and children experiencing extreme poverty and homelessness/displacement, and brings the voices of refugees, migrants, the homeless, and victims of human trafficking to the United Nations, with the aim to educate and influence policymakers at the global level. UI gets the attention of UN leaders because of their knowledge and expertise that comes from research and grassroots stories of their members. With a current focus on homelessness/displacement, I am urging anyone who has a story, or knows someone with a story of homelessness, displacement, migration, or trafficking to please consider sending it to me at 

You can get a good idea of the types of stories we are looking for by viewing any one of the many UI publications on homelessness and trafficking. These and more can be found on the UNANIMA International website.  While there, please also consider signing up for their e-newsletters, which are published once every two months.“

TAKE ACTION: Submit a story idea on the topics of homelessness, displacement, migration, or trafficking to 


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