Caritas Luncheon Fades into History
Catholic Charities Auxiliary No Longer Able to Manage Annual Spring Luncheon
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
May 3, 2018
ROCKFORD—Something was missing in April on Administrative Professionals Day — invitations to the Caritas annual spring luncheon.
The fundraiser, organized for some three decades by the Catholic Charities Auxiliary, indeed is “Missing In Action” this year. 
The dozen or so active members of the auxiliary realized they could not provide the manpower necessary to organize the event this year, due to health changes and other reasons.
‘There are not enough (active) people to pull off a big event. ... Unless we get some real enthusiastic supporters, we’ll never get to the point we were before.’
— Jean Nosek, Caritas officer
“We’re not going to be able to do something like (the luncheon),” says longtime auxiliary member and officer Jean Nosek, “but we hope to do small things that are not as work intensive.”
Although the organization had about 220 people sign up and pay annual dues at the latest membership drive, she says, “Our leadership is dwindling. There are not enough (active) people to pull off a big event.”
Patrick Winn, director of Catholic Charities, says the 31-year-old auxiliary originally focused on
providing assistance to foster care children served by Catholic Charities. 
Agency changes in the past decade or so prompted a shift by the auxiliary to serve the children of St. Elizabeth Catholic Community Center.
“They’re in love with the (center’s) children, the staff and the facility,” Winn says. “In their fourth decade of service, they are looking at how best to keep focus — and direct their attention and fundraising to the current needs.”
Those needs, he says, are primarily technology-based (computers and computer programs), as well as special programs such as reading improvement and the Boy and Girl Scout troops at St. Elizabeth Center.
Nosek describes a recent Hero Night for the kids, funded by the auxiliary. Funds raised supplied a gift card from a local restaurant, which provided pizzas for all at the event. 
The auxiliary has provided funds for four special activities for the youngsters, some still to come.
Winn notes that the Caritas members “see St. Elizabeth Center (and Catholic Charities) as unique institutions in Rockford. (The auxiliary is) looking to distinguish their efforts from other organizations that also do great things. 
“They’re looking to get creative in fundraising for the needs of St. Elizabeth Center,” he said.
An end-of-year donation drive by the Catholic Charities Auxiliary last year brought in about $8,000, says Nosek, who lauded efforts by Terri Hill, program director at St. Elizabeth. 
Hill “does such a good job, and we think (her efforts deserve) the support,” Nosek says.
Instead of designating an auxiliary president and other officers, she says, “We’re working as a group committee and thinking of low-energy efforts to still support St. Elizabeth Center. We want to keep going, but at a smaller pace. 
“Unless we get some real enthusiastic supporters, we’ll never get to the point we were before,” she says.
Caritas luncheons of the last few years each raised between $24,000 and $25,000, Nosek says, adding, “We started slow those first years. It kept increasing as time went on.”
She notes the irony of the timing of the end of the Caritas luncheon. 
The woman who first envisioned the luncheon and fashion show was Lisa Rubin Johnson, who died just last year.
“It’s a sign of the times,” Nosek says. “People are so busy. Young women are so busy.” 
She reflects on her own life when her grandson is present, when “you’ve got their activities to do and their homework. It’s time-consuming.”
Winn has ideas for how the auxiliary might help with some fundraisers being planned for Catholic Charities in the relatively near future.
“Organizations need to go through a rebirth every now and then,” he says. “This is Caritas’ time.”