Church is committed to helping the poor Print
Thursday, Jun. 11, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

With the recent announcement of the closing of the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) in Madison, some people have been quoted in the media as questioning the Catholic Church’s concern for the poor. They are certainly misinformed if they think that the Church does not care for the poor.

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In the Diocese of Madison, there are countless ways that the Church, its agencies, parishes, schools, related organizations, and members help the poor. They are following Christ’s commandment to “love your neighbor” and the Beatitudes, which call upon all of his followers to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, and help the poor in spirit.

Diocese’s financial woes

Here's how to help:

Show your support for the Catholic Multicultural Center in Madison by:

• Sending donations with checks made out to Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish earmarked to the Catholic Multicultural Center to 401 S. Owen Dr., Madison, WI 53711.

• Volunteering to help by calling Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish at 608-231-4600 or going to the parish Web site at for more information.


The Diocese of Madison closed the Catholic Multicultural Center because of severe financial problems. As is explained elsewhere in this week’s Catholic Herald, investment income was severely reduced by the current economic downturn. Many of us are experiencing these investment problems ourselves in our personal finances.

The diocese decided to start a new Annual Catholic Appeal, in addition to the diocesan tax. Although a valiant effort was made by the diocese to get this appeal launched in a very limited amount of time, the results so far have not been enough to fund all the diocesan services. Staff members have been eliminated in many departments and remaining staff have taken cuts in salaries and benefits.

A study was done in 2008 on the Catholic Multicultural Center, revealing that it needed to make some changes in its operation and funding. Those suggestions were by and large not implemented, although at that time no one knew that the economy would be so severely affected in a short time period. 

Many others provide services to poor

It must be noted, too, that there are church and community organizations providing some of the services to the poor which were available at the CMC. The week the CMC was closed, the new Vincentian Center for Christian Charity was dedicated on Madison’s south side, not that far from the CMC. This center has the largest food pantry in Dane County and provides many services to the poor.

Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Madison also serves the poor in many of its programs, including providing emergency help, mobile food pantries, and counseling services. Catholic Charities has offered to help with the CMC, as has the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Both have a great deal of experience in helping the poor, not only in the Madison area but throughout the 11-county Diocese of Madison.

Center provided unique services

However, I must point out that the Catholic Multicultural Center did provide unique services, particularly on the south side of Madison. Its free meal program is the only one of its kind in this area. It offered a free hot meal every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and the last Tuesday and Thursday of every month, when individuals and families often run out of Food Stamps.

The CMC also housed a relatively small food pantry, English as a Second Language classes, Spanish classes, Masses in English and Spanish, and other religious services and educational opportunities. The building, built by Bishop William H. Bullock, was dedicated in 2002. It replaced St. Martin House, erected in 1946 after the Diocese of Madison was established. The building had badly deteriorated and needed to be replaced.

People offer to help

Many people in the Madison community and beyond were devastated by the closing of the CMC. A group of over 100 concerned people met last week to discuss what could be done. Representatives of church and civic groups talked about possibilities for the future. Among those attending the meeting were representatives of city and county government, Edgewood College, and St. Mary’s Hospital. 

But it was Msgr. Kenneth Fiedler, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish in Madison, who decided to step up to the plate and offer to take a lead role in mapping out the future of the CMC. He offered to assume primary responsibility for the operation of the CMC, with the support and collaboration of neighboring pastors and parishes. Bishop Robert C. Morlino accepted his offer and the diocese announced on June 5 that the parish would take over the CMC.

Taking this great leap of faith, Monsignor Fiedler told his parishioners last weekend that he didn’t know exactly where the Holy Spirit would lead him and others. But he is hopeful that people in the community and beyond will rally to support the CMC in continuing its mission.

Monsignor Fiedler emphasized that his parish is acting as a coordinator/facilitator of this effort. He will invite other priests in the diocese to help (some have already said they would lend their assistance). His parish welcomes monetary donations and volunteers to support this effort. 

God does hear the cry of the poor. I encourage people to offer their support and prayers so that the CMC can reopen stronger than ever.