Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Green Bay makes a difference in many lives every day.
For Judy Turba, a mental health counselor with Catholic Charities in Green Bay, Catholic Charities is the diocese's hands-on way of spreading the Gospel.
No two days are alike, Turba said. Her first client may be a seven-year-old, the next 83, and they may be followed by a couple working through marital difficulties. She also leads group counseling for court-referred abusers. "We are one of two or three places that offer services for men who are violent," she said.
When a person is committed to turning away from life as an abuser, counseling can be successful, Turba said. "We just had a guy finish last week who would tell you how great his life is and his family will tell you that," said Turba, who two years ago moved to Green Bay after working at a Denver area residential treatment facility for 200 girls.
Turba said she wanted to get closer to her native St. Anna (in the "Holyland" area near Fond du Lac) and to work for Catholic Charities.
"It felt like it would be a good fit for me because I've been active in the church," she said. "My parents brought us up Catholic and I've always stayed active in the church, but I've always been interested in helping people ... bringing more equity to society."
It was Turba who selected her client Anna Ortega to represent the important work Catholic Charities does as part of the 2007 Bishop's Appeal video for parishes.
Ortega well represents many of the people Catholic Charities sees who are weighed down by hurts and changes in their lives, Turba said. Ortega was depressed, even suicidal, but with nine months of counseling sessions she became "a success story," Turba said.
Ortega, a native of Mexico, had been in a relationship for 12 years with a man with whom she had a child. When the relationship ended, Turba said, Anna was devastated.
Turba also learned that the man had been very abusive - mentally, verbally and physically. "That had done a number on her self-image," Turba said. "If you spend 10 years hearing that, you start to believe that."
Turba said their goal was to help Ortega remember what her life had been like before this relationship and "how remarkable she is."
At first Turba saw Ortega twice a week because of her depression. When clients are suicidal that's important until "we get them out of the woods," she said.
Ortega said her journey with Catholic Charities really began the night her relationship ended with the man she had expected to marry three weeks later. It was a dreadful evening and a police officer was her "angel," Ortega said. For nearly two hours they talked and he consoled her, "'You don't want that kind of man,'" she said he told her.
She was so overwrought she knew she couldn't be alone that night. Her son was on a planned overnight at a friend's, so she went to the Crisis Center. "I told them I needed to talk with somebody right away because I was in a very big pain," she said. "I was very thankful for that girl (at the Crisis Center)," who recommended that she talk with Catholic Charities.
That was two years ago. "I learned how I can bring myself out of that situation. It's really hard, but it's not impossible," Ortega said.
Ortega, 40, has lived in the United States for 23 years. She grew up as one of 10 children, living with her parents in the mountains of central Mexico. Ortega said she has always been driven to succeed and at age nine she asked her teacher - a single professional woman - if she could work for her. She walked three hours each week to her teacher's home, where she taught her how to iron clothes and shine shoes.
When she was a young teen, Ortega's father told her she must leave home to find her own way in the world. And so she did, working as a housekeeper for a family who in return sent her to school.
When Ortega was 17, she went to the resort community of Cancun, planning to work. Instead she landed in Tijuana and eventually in California.
Ortega, lost and alone, showed up one day on the doorstep of Mrs. Lee, a Korean woman who owned a dress shop, and asked for work. That day turned into seven years. "She became my second mother," Ortega said.
Ortega said she has always been nurtured by special people who helped her on life's journey.
"I learned that life is about choices," Ortega said. "I choose the good and not the bad."
That's why she has chosen to tell her story - to show how Catholic Charities helps people grow through their tragedies and challenges.
"You need to know who you are. That's what I learned (and) to be strong," Ortega said of her counseling with Turba. "If I didn't find who I am again I would never have made it."
Ortega has been working toward a business degree at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College. She also took the Urban Hope business entrepreneurial program founded by Sara and the late Reggie White and started her own business, One Touch Cleaning Services, LLC, which does cleaning for several area businesses. She recently hired her first employee.
And one day, she said, she'd like to open a boutique and restaurant that serves Peruvian food. She also would like to open an agency that offers counseling services for the Hispanic community.
"I feel that I am so happy," said Ortega, who encourages anyone facing a personal crisis to ask for help - and to do it right away.
As for Turba, she said people sometimes ask how she as a mental health counselor handles helping people sort through their many personal challenges. Turba said she always focuses on the good that's accomplished. "People have these problems all over the world. I always feel grateful that people come in ... to share this," she said.
Support of the 2007 Bishop's Appeal is so very important, Turba said. "The money that we get from the Bishop's Appeal really helps to support all of these programs that are God's tools through us."
Catholic Charities has offices in Green Bay, Appleton, Oshkosh, Manitowoc and Marinette, with outreach offices in Sturgeon Bay, Waupaca and Wautoma.
Don't be shy about asking for help from the diocese Turba said. "Just call and let somebody know that you'd like to come in for counseling."
For more information contact Catholic Charities at (920)272-8234 or, toll-free, 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8234, or go to the Catholic Charities section on the diocesan Website at www.gbdioc.org.
© Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
1825 Riverside Drive | P.O. Box 23825 | Green Bay, WI 54305-3825
Phone: 920-437-7531 | Fax: 920-437-0694 | E-Mail: [email protected]