Community: José’s Story

In celebration of communi-TEA, José shared stories of how he first relied on others when he came to the United States and how he now helps his friends and community thanks to skills he learned at the Center.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. My name is José Hermosillo, I’m originally from a small town in Jalisco, near of Guadalajara, Mexico. In Mexico, I studied animal science, and my family and I ran a farm there. Many of my ancestors were farmers.

I would like to introduce my family: my wife, Margarita, my daughter, Fernanda, and my son, Christopher. Right now, Fernanda is a sophomore at Xavier High School, and Christopher is attending 5th grade at St. Joe’s in Marion.

I first came to the US because I needed to work back in 2003. When I first came everything was difficult. For example, at that time I had a car. I knew how to do maintenance and some repairs, but I don’t have the knowledge to order brake pads. To get the pads I need to have a friend to go with me to the auto parts store. He ordered the parts for me. I was always asking for his help when I needed something.

Later another friend of mine recommended to come to the CMC to enroll in the English classes. I decided to come to CMC because I needed to learn English and be more independent and self-sufficient.

When you first start learning a different language you are afraid to do some things. People might start laughing on you, and you are afraid to ask some things. The community at CMC is very helpful and friendly. My teacher Linda back in 2003 invited me to dinner at her house. She is from Wisconsin and her husband is from Brazil. We had a good dinner. We started a friendship. CMC also helps me with other issues like immigration, health insurance questions, and other concerns.

José reflected on how learning English at CMC has empowered him to live more self-sufficiently and help his friends do the same.

José reflected on how learning English at CMC has empowered him to live more self-sufficiently and help his friends do the same.

I started work at a dairy farm in Marion in 2003. When you work on a farm you don’t need high level English. But back then if I don’t know some word, I asked my boss with a translator or a white board to write the word and tell me how it sounds. That way I learned a lot too.

Now things are more easy than back in the past.

I have met different people from other countries at the CMC, and now they are my friends. They are from Brazil, Congo, Vietnam, Syria, and my actual tutor is from the UK. Over the years, I’ve also worked with different tutors and several staff members. I have nearly completed 4 books. Learning English at CMC has given me much more confidence in my daily living in this country.

Now I’m helping other immigrants to find a job, taking them to apply or to interviews, look for a car or apartment. I help them with the same problems I had in the beginning. And all these things thanks to the English I learned here at CMC.

I want to say thank you to all the community at the CMC for the great job they’re doing transforming lives one at a time.

100+ Corridor Women Who Care- about CMC!


We are very excited to announce that the Catherine McAuley Center has received a generous donation from the 100+ Corridor Women Who Care organization. 100+ Corridor Women is an organization of women who support the growth of our local community by pooling resources to make focused, effective contributions to local charities. The mission is to bring together 100 or more women, each willing to contribute $100 four times a year to help the community and local charities.

The generous donation on behalf of 100+ Corridor Women Who Care will go to support the needs of the growing Adult Basic Education program, which proudly serves more than 400 adult learners who are working hard to brighten their outlook for the future by learning English, studying for the U.S. citizenship exam, or improving other basic academic skills. Many thanks to Kim Hillyard, CMC board member and volunteer tutor, for sharing about the CMC mission with the 100 Plus Corridor Women Who Care!

Because we were selected as the beneficiary of this quarter’s 100+ gifts, CMC will receive 40% of proceeds of the products sold through the 100+ Corridor Women’s One Mission fundraising campaign!  One Mission is a local business based in Mount Vernon devoted to “changing the world, one mission at a time”. Browse their online shop for soaps, candles, graphic prints, apparel, home décor and more—and be sure to click “Support this Cause” on the 100+ Corridor Women Who Care page so that your purchase benefits the students of the Adult Basic Education program!

one mission

Remembering Sister Mary Cephas

Sr. M. Cephas WichmanIt is with sad hearts that we share with the Catherine McAuley Center community that board member Sister Mary Cephas Wichman passed away on May 6.

Sr. Cephas was a long-time supporter of the Catherine McAuley Center. She generously shared her time and talent and served in many roles at CMC. Her extensive service includes serving as Board President and on the Fundraising, Planned Giving, and Catherine’s Tea Event Planning committees. She was instrumental in creating an endowment for CMC and served on the Endowment Committee in addition to the Board of Directors.

Sr. Cephas was an integral part of the Catherine McAuley Center community and knew the names, faces and stories of many CMC donors and volunteers. Beyond lending her direction and guidance to the Center, she generously baked hundreds of the famous scones served at Catherine’s Tea each year.

Sr. Cephas was active throughout the entire Mercy community and served 25 years as the VP of Development and VP of Planned Giving at Mount Mercy University, as well as many hours at the Sacred Heart archives and front desk. She has also served in leadership roles at Mercy Medical Center, Mount Mercy University, Discovery Living, Girl Scouts, and Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center.

Sister Shari Sutherland, CMC board member and former Executive Director shared of Sister Cephas with Mount Mercy University, “Sister Cephas filled many lives with a friendly smile and good things to eat. She always had words of encouragement and was willing to be involved and help others be involved. I am so grateful for her wisdom, knowledge and guidance throughout my years in ministry.”

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Sr. Cephas’ friends, family, and fellow Sisters of Mercy. We are grateful to have known such a strong and giving woman and will miss her tremendously!

Stuff for Stuff, Etc.!

Spring cleaningAhh, springtime!  The trees are budding, the flowers are blooming, the windows are open, and the bunnies are scurrying about…dust bunnies that is! For many of us, as we emerge from hibernation, we find ourselves rubbing our eyes in disbelief at the dust, stacks of papers, and sheer amount of clutter that has somehow accumulated during the long months of winter. Fresh and inspired by the warm spring air and the sound of birds singing outside our windows, we busy ourselves with washing curtains, airing out our bedding, and finally, finally tackling that overflowing closet whose door won’t close.

CMC staff have done some spring cleaning too!Does that dress no longer spark joy? Is that box of dishes in the attic just gathering dust? Secretly want to sneak out that well-intentioned birthday gift from Aunt Mildred? Is it finally time to 86 the orange recliner that’s messing with your feng shui?

As you embark on your tidying marathon, consider making your clutter count by consigning it at Stuff, Etc. under the Catherine McAuley Center’s name. Last year, CMC received nearly $500 in proceeds from Stuff Etc. consigners, funding which helped support CMC’s Adult Basic Education and Transitional Housing Programs.  The life-changing magic of tidying up can contribute to life-changing programming for CMC students and residents too!

To consign at Stuff, Etc.:

  1. Make sure your items will be accepted by Stuff, Etc. Take a look at things they need  and things they don’t accept.
  2. Call 319-373-2380 (Cedar Rapids location) or 319-545-8404 (Coralville location) to make a drop-off appointment. Walk-ins are usually accepted but we suggest calling before in case Stuff, Etc. isn’t taking drop-offs that day. You may be restricted to a 1 or 2 tote minimum.
  3. At the drop-off counter at the store, let them know you’re donating your items on behalf of the Catherine McAuley Center. On the form you’ll fill out, please write “Catherine McAuley Center” in the name field and list our account number, #19579 (Cedar Rapids) or #43814 (Coralville).
  4. Your donation is tax-deductible! Ask Stuff, Etc. for a donation receipt to use for tax purposes.

As a friendly reminder, CMC does not accept used clothing, bedding, personal care products, or TVs/appliances directly. Please consider consigning eligible, gently-used items to Stuff, Etc. However, if you have new, unopened items that are on our wish list, give us a call!

Thanks for supporting the Catherine McAuley Center mission. Happy cleaning!

December Declared Human Rights Month

Human Rights Month proclamationLast week, the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) was proud to stand with the Cedar Rapids Civil Rights Commission and other local leaders to receive a proclamation from the Cedar Rapids City Council declaring December as Human Rights Month.

At CMC, we believe that our future depends on inclusive communities that welcome, respect, and support a diversity of individuals and ideas.

A transcript of the proclamation, signed by Mayor Ron Corbett, follows:

Whereas, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948 thereby recognizing each December as Universal Human Rights Month; and 

Whereas, the Declaration states in part that the “Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world”; and

Whereas, the Declaration continues that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood”; and 

Whereas, the City of Cedar Rapids values dignity, fairness and diversity; and protects citizens from discrimination based upon their age, color, creed, familial status, gender identity, marital status, mental disability, national origin, physical disability, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or association with members of those protected classes; and

Whereas, in efforts to create safe and secure communities, the City recognizes that all people deserve the chance to chart their own destiny, free from any form of discrimination and all citizens should work together to ensure that all people can gain equality, dignity, and freedom. 

Now Therefore, I, Ron Corbett, Mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, do hereby proclaim December 2015, as “Human Rights Month” and encourage all citizens to observe this month by striving to treat everyone with dignity and respect for the betterment of individuals and our City as a whole. 

CMC thanks the City of Cedar Rapids and Mayor Ron Corbett for the invitation to receive the proclamation and for its encouragement of all Cedar Rapids citizens to exhibit a recognition of universal human rights in their daily lives.

Library Reaches Out to Refugees

Bhutanese classBy Erin Zaputil of the Hiawatha Public Library

The Hiawatha Public Library has been a proud partner with the Catherine McAuley Center since 2014 to provide English language classes for a group of Bhutanese refugees. Since August 3, 41 Bhutanese students have studied 1,217 hours at the library.

These refugees, who speak Nepali, were forced to flee Bhutan due to violence and persecution stemming from religious, cultural and political issues. Many have spent decades living in camps in Nepal without sufficient food, clothes, health care, shelter and education.

Many of the students live within walking distance of the Hiawatha Public Library, and do not have transportation to travel to another destination. Katie Lanius, Education Program Coordinator at the Catherine McAuley Center states that if they didn’t have the space at the library “they would never be able to get downtown to the Center, they would never have an opportunity to work on their language skills.”

library giving treeProviding space for English language classes is an important part of library’s long-range service plan. Library Director Jeaneal Weeks says, “This is really important to me personally because I believe that our community is a welcoming one. We hear so much about immigration in the news these days. I’d like to focus on what we all have in common, which is striving for a good life. Our Bhutanese patrons are eager to learn English and to learn how to function here. We should welcome that initiative and hard work. These people are part of our community, we will try to serve them and meet their information needs just as we do for all in our community.”

Many of the refugees come to their new homes with very little, and many are ill-prepared for the coming winter. The Hiawatha Public Library is hosting a “Giving Tree” to gather donations of needed items for the students and their families. If you would like to participate please stop by the library, take a leaf from the tree, and bring the donated item back to the library. If you are unable to stop by please call the library for a list of needed items. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration!

This post first appeared on the Hiawatha Public Library’s Facebook page and was published here with permission of the author. Please show your support of their partnership with CMC by liking their page!

Preserving a Heritage of Immigration

GlobeCMC is blessed with volunteers who are active across the community, and we love it when they find ways to spread the word about our mission! Thanks to Rich Patterson for his article in the October 18 issue of the Cedar Rapids Gazette for highlighting CMC’s work to help new immigrants adjust to life in the U.S. by offering English as a Second Language instruction.

As Rich describes, immigration isn’t a new trend in the U.S.; it’s a part of each one of our family histories. The Corridor is blessed with several ethnic museums that preserve this heritage of immigration and remind us of our past, thereby encouraging acceptance of the individuals who are working hard to establish a new pattern for their own families after recently immigrating to the U.S.

To learn more about CMC’s Adult Basic Education Program and how you can get involved in offering hope and opportunity to the immigrants and refugees who study at the U.S. click here.

Birthday Blessings

Transparent quote buildingTwo incredible young ladies have graciously supported the Catherine McAuley Center this week by asking that friends and family donate to the Center in honor of their birthdays.

Rizzo poses with the big haul of supplies donated for her 7th birthday.

Rizzo poses with the big haul of supplies donated for her 7th birthday.

Rizzo, 7, asked the friends she invited to her dance studio birthday party to bring an item that she could donate to the women in CMC’s Transitional Housing Program. Her selflessness provided CMC with baskets full of paper goods, bedding items, and many other supplies that are always on our wish list.

Ella at the 2015 Women's Equality Day celebration

Ella and her mother, Jennifer, at the 2015 Women’s Equality Day celebration

Ella, also age 7, revived the “Ice Bucket Challenge” with her friends to benefit CMC. She donated a portion of her own savings to the Center, which was then matched by Ella’s mother. Ella’s support of CMC is ongoing, as she has attended the Transitional Housing Program’s Women’s Equality Day celebration for the past 5 years!

Please join us in wishing a cheerful “happy birthday!” to these girls who have embodied Catherine McAuley’s charge that “our charity must be in our hearts and from our hearts.”

Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer 5K

Especially for YouThe Catherine McAuley Center is looking for individuals to join the CMC team for the 25th Annual Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer 5K Run/Walk! The event will be held on the morning of Sunday, October 4, and CMC is hoping to have a 25+ member team in honor of the walk’s anniversary!

In the past, CMC clients have received free mammograms resulting from the funds raised through the walk, and we are excited to continue showing our gratitude and support!

If you are interested in joining our team or would like more information, please contact Tina at Registration is $30 for adults and $20 for youth 15 or younger, and forms are due to CMC by September 8.

If you are unable to participate, you can also sponsor a CMC client to participate with the CMC team! Contact Tina or visit the Especially for You Facebook page for more information.


Celebrating the Sisters of Mercy

Former CMC Executive Director, Sr. Shari Sutherland, RSM, in front of CMC's current building shortly after it was purchased in 1993.

Former CMC Executive Director, Sr. Shari Sutherland, RSM, in front of CMC’s current building shortly after it was purchased in 1993.

In yesterday’s issue of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, three local leaders, including CMC Executive Director, Paula Land, reflected on the impact the Sisters of Mercy have had on the Cedar Rapids community since they began their ministry here 140 years ago this month. Here at CMC, the Sisters have been instrumental in helping to build the Center into a welcoming and inclusive community dedicated to transforming lives since its founding in 1989, when a small group of Mercy Sisters established the Catherine McAuley Center for Women to help “economically disadvantaged women in need of help with basic skills to complete their GED.” The Sisters named CMC after the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, Catherine McAuley, who believed that education was the ultimate answer to the struggles of those in poverty.

Since the first year when the Center helped 16 women to improve basic skills, CMC has grown to serve a larger population through two programs: Transitional Housing and Adult Basic Education. To date, Transitional Housing has provided safe housing and skill building to more than 600 women, and Adult Basic Education serves over 350 men and women from over 50 countries annually who come to CMC for basic skills, English as a Second Language, and assistance with preparation for the U.S. Citizenship exam.

The Sisters of Mercy were the first volunteers who shared the Vision of what the Catherine McAuley Center could be, engaging the community, serving on committees and the Board of Directors, and more. The Sisters have consistently provided financial support, naming CMC as one of their sponsored works, and have demonstrated great creativity in fundraising through events including a Spelling Bee, Quilt Sale, Catherine’s Tea and even a business called Catherine’s Comfortable Tea. Why tea? Catherine McAuley reportedly offered this deathbed declaration in 1841: “Be sure you have a comfortable cup of tea for them when I am gone.”

On behalf of the clients and staff of CMC, we thank the Sisters of Mercy for their vision, leadership and nurturing support over these past 26 years!