Refugee Ministry

RefugeeMinistryHoly Family Refugee Ministry

Holy Family began the Refugee Ministry in 2011 and really gained traction around the fall of 2012. With help from Dick Berka and support from some parishioners we adopted 3 families: 2 from Cuba and one from Venezuela. All our families have obtained jobs and are living independently but I stay in touch and continue to monitor their progress. Currently, we are involved with the Refugee Re-settlement Program as a whole with Catholic Charities and continue to support the program with donations we receive from the Young at Heart Ministry who has adopted and supports our efforts at Catholic Charities. We have also collected furniture, bicycle for transportation, household items. and done job placement with help from the men’s club. I have sent you a series of pictures that tell the story of Holy Family’s involvement with the Refugee Re-settlement program.

“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40)

“Refugees, having suffered great loss, including loss of their homes, livelihoods, possessions and oftentimes families, need assistance starting over in a new country. Their
initial needs are many: food, clothing, shelter, employment, ESL, and orientation to a new community and culture. In partnership with its affiliates, USCCB/MRS resettles approximately 30% of the refugees that arrive in the U.S. each year. Resettling refugees provides an extraordinary opportunity for countless Americans to take an active part in offering a caring and supportive environment for refugees as they begin new lives. Without volunteers and resources from the community and parishes, USCCB/MRS and the diocesan resettlement offices would be unable to accomplish the tremendous task of giving refugees new hope and the opportunity to begin again.”

Holy Family is one of a three parishes in the Diocese of St. Augustine that has begun a RefMinistry-240x150Refugee Ministry working in conjunction with the Catholic Charities Jacksonville Resettlement office. Our goal is to help a refugee family assimilate into Jacksonville. Each parish group/ministry will be asked to help in some small way to welcome our ‘adopted’ family. Refugee families need help: navigating the grocery store, enrolling children in school, getting a library card, establishing a bank account, going to/from doctor appointments, going through their mail, learning how to ride the bus from place to place, getting a job, and so much more! Our help will make all the difference in making a family feel comfortable and welcome in their new homeland.

“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” (Mk 9:37)


Our staff of the Refugee Resettlement Program (RR) and POWR Coordinator from Jacksonville office appreciated for the generous donation of coats that we received from the Men’s Club. All in all Dick Berka delivered over 85 coasts and some much needed pots and pans. We have been able to give every refugee, Cuban Haitian and ESOL client that walks into our office a warm coat who needs one. We are very grateful for our partnership with the men’s club and the Holy Family refugee ministry. When we have a need, we have been blessed with having somewhere to turn.

We would welcome even greater participation from the men’s group in our program as our arrivals numbers in all our RR programs are already at 60% of those projected for the entire year and our case workers are overwhelmed. We find this increase in work is partially due to the fact that the refugee program may be in jeopardy with the atmosphere of uncertainty in the world and the political climate in the US at this time. However, Cubans continue to walk through our doors and we remain functioning as usual but at faster pace than normal and with less funding.

We are in constant need of people to assist with school enrollments, medical appointments, airport pick-ups, acquisition of household items, fund raising and friendship for our clients to stay on our mandated targets and benchmarks.

Again, thank you to you and the men’s club for hearing our call… and in a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first…and you did!

Leviticus 19:9-10
A portion of the harvest is set aside for the poor and the stranger.


View our Volunteer Documentary here.

Refugee Ministry Clothes 2 Refugee Ministry Clothes

We would like to express our gratitude to Holy Family and Parishioners for your ongoing support to our Refugee Families. So far, families from Central Africa, South East Asia, Middle East, as well as, Latin America have received your donation throughout these years. May God Bless you.
Peace, Refugee Department Team

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Refugee celebrated First Thanksgiving

Jacksonville, Fl. – Nearly 180 refugees arriving in Jacksonville last year celebrated for the first time Thanksgiving, a feast unknown to them in their home countries.

The invitation took place last Saturday November 19 in the Catholic Church of the Holy Family, organized by the Refugees Resettlement Office of Catholic Charities (RR) of the Saint Augustine Diocese.

Educating new immigrants in American tradition and culture was the purpose of the party, which included refugees from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Caribbean.

The dinner was prepared by the chef Robert Tulko, with the help of his team and volunteers.

“We have been working for days to prepare dinner for almost 200 people” Tulko said. “We are going to serve people of different nationalities to show them how turkey and other foods are prepared” said the chef proudly, who conducts a cooking segment on a local television channel.

Ursula Alonso is a retired Cuban who volunteers in Catholic Charities for a decade. She receives the refugees and moves them to her new home. For the vast majority, especially those who come directly from refugee camps, everything is new and we have to explain them what the toilet paper is, how to use the coffee pots, pots and how prepare meals, she explains.

“I do this job with great satisfaction, in part, in retribution to what the Catholic Charities did for my family in 1967, after leaving Cuba” she told HOLA.

The Roman-Yedra family arrived from Cuba less than a year ago thanks to a family request. Happy to participate in the party and learn from the traditions of their new residence country, they thanked God for the how this country received them.

“In Cuba this tradition is not celebrated and the turkey almost does not exist. We do not tire of thanking for the opportunities of this country, where our children will have a better future” said the couple.

The Refugee Resettlement Program Director, Michelle Karolak, expressed her satisfaction with the activity.

“We have been resetting people since 1945, at the end of World War II. In 1975 we received thousands of people from Vietnam, but the wars and conflicts are not yet over. That is why we receive between 150 and 200 refugees every year” Karolak said.

The event included entertainment activities, where each country was able to show music, dances and traditional costumes.

The Refugees Department of Catholic Charities helps immigrants from various countries to resettle in the city, providing them with apartments, furniture, transportation to medical services, English classes, documents applications, translations, job search and school enrollment, among others.

Co-Chairs: Pat Nelms (H) 217-4360 or (Cell) 240-888-1924 & Dick Berka

Related Links of Interest: Catholic Charities, Jacksonville, FL United States Conference of Catholic Bishops USCCB Resettlement Services