Outstretched arms greeted Rashanda Loyd 16 years ago when she entered Lourdeshouse Maternity Home. Pregnant and in high school, she “felt unwanted, unneeded. It was a struggle being in high school and not knowing what to do, not knowing where to go, not knowing who I could turn to.”
She found Lourdeshouse, a residential program of Catholic Charities that gave her support, maternity care a path forward.
Outstretched arms greeted Loyd again at Catholic Charities’ annual Come and See Dinner last month, as she shared her inspirational story and expressed gratitude for those who support Catholic Charities’ programs.
“We need those strong warriors like you in our corner. When you reach out to somebody, you never know how far your arms can reach,” Loyd told the more than 300 people at the event, held Oct. 23 at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg.
“There are a lot of needs out there. Even though you don’t see them, even though you don’t hear from them, we’re out here,” she said.
She said when she found Lourdeshouse 16 years ago, “it was a blessing in disguise.”
I found somewhere to go. With God’s strength and him helping me along the way, it gave me an opportunity to meet some wonderful people at Lourdeshouse,” including the program’s director, Annette Martin, she said.
“Sometimes we go through life and we don’t realize people are watching us. I didn’t realize who was watching me. She saw something in me,” Loyd said. “When God sends people into your life and they see something inside of you that you don’t see, it gives you the strength you need.”
Loyd would go on to graduate from high school and college. She is the mother of two, ages 16 and 10, and has been working part-time at Lourdeshouse since 2015.
“It’s my form of giving back, as they helped me,” she said.
Catholic Charities’ residential programs – Lourdeshouse, the Interfaith Shelter for Homeless Families and Evergreen House for women in recovery – “give a person like me an opportunity to still have faith, and still have hope, and still believe that we can make it and be somebody,” Loyd said.
“Some people don’t have a voice, or aren’t strong enough to stand up and discuss what they’ve been through, she said. “But I asked God to use me; I’m ready. I’m still standing strong. I’m not done, He’s not done.”
As Loyd passed through a standing ovation of supporters – some of whom embraced her as she returned to her seat – the event’s keynote speaker held her up as one example of the work of Catholic Charities.
“Think about the amazing work these three different ministries do. Rashanda shared her story, and it’s already effecting all of us, and this is what we call paying it forward,” said Teresa Tomeo.
The bestselling author, syndicated Catholic talk show host and speaker addressed the three R’s of the Catholic faith – reflecting, responding and rejoicing – and how Catholic Charities’ programs in the Diocese are making a difference by incorporating them into their efforts.
“Only by reflecting do we keep things in perspective. Without reflection there is no learning,” Tomeo said.
With reflection comes action, she said. “Be doers of the Word.”
Tomeo also told the crowd to rejoice in the Church, and in good works.
“What we are doing here tonight is rejoicing with all of the incredible ministries… We could hear story after story of how these ministries have made a difference in a life,” she said.
“We should be joyful, because the joy of the Lord is our strength. How are we going to witness to other people, if we can’t tell them why we are joyful, why we believe in the Eucharist, why we believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church?” Tomeo asked.
“If we have a relationship Christ and are taking advantages of the countless gifts we have in the Catholic faith, we should be joyful. We have everything we need to rejoice: we have Jesus.”
“Continue to do what you’re doing tonight. Respond to the needs around you,” she said.
Catholic Charities’ three residential programs that benefited from the annual Come and See dinner serve residents 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, at no charge.
Lourdeshouse provides maternity care and residential services to pregnant women and their babies, including childbirth education, parenting classes, transportation and aftercare.
The Interfaith Shelter provides 30-day emergency shelter, assistance in securing permanent housing, food, clothing and baby supplies, and referrals for employment, healthcare and child care.
Evergreen House provides a safe and secure environment for women recovering from addiction. The program helps them achieve long-term recovery, find stable housing and learn job skills.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness