Catholic Charities’ Health Guardian, Meagan Relle, shares how her experience working with the most vulnerable in our community informs her faith and calls us to see the individual in need.
By Meagan Relle, Guest Blogger
“Respecting the dignity and potential of each human person, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans collaborates with the wider community to serve those in need. Impelled by the love and teaching of Jesus Christ, we offer life-giving programs, advocate for the voiceless, and empower the poor and vulnerable to foster a more just society;” these words are made familiar to us by the Catholic Charities mission. But, what does this mean- really?
Catholic Charities USA held a regional conference in October. Leaders in ministries from across the Gulf South participated in unraveling the deeper message within our mission deriving it to a point of sensibility. “Respecting the dignity and potential of each human person…” To respect the dignity and potential of each person, our systems must be structured around the individual, their unique needs, and their unique potential – a challenging job for such a large entity like the Catholic Church.
I found myself asking, how do we as Catholics create systems to honor that mission to meet individual needs with life giving programs, advocacy for the voiceless, and empowerment for the poor with limited resources?
In the first few weeks of my work with Catholic Charities, I found myself overwhelmed at times. Overcome with the number of calls for rental assistance and bill pay without resources to distribute directly. The predicament- common across Catholic Charities in the nation- gave me a sense of hopelessness.
Fortunately, just after beginning work with Catholic Charities, St. Louise De Marillac received a three year grant to pilot a new model of care delivery-called Health Guardians. The idea funded by the Louisiana Public Health Institute was to begin projects in the New Orleans area that were innovative approaches to integrate behavioral health, social services, and healthcare. It all made sense. This was a way to tailor programming to individuals needs with limited resources, advocate for the most vulnerable, and give dignity to people by respecting their individual abilities. I was no longer overwhelmed, no longer felt hopeless, and could see the ministry of Christ in its true light.
Through my experience with the Health Guardians project God has shown me an opportunity to change the way we as Catholics carry out Christ’s teachings, care for the most-needy, and create a more just society. As Nick Alberes so explained so eloquently in his post,
“In order to realize the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven” we must give aid directly and also call for the transformation of systems, structures, and laws so they better respect human dignity and promote the common good.”
Catholic Charities USA’s Regional Conference confirmed my thoughts on the subject. A common theme throughout the conference was about changing the way we manage resources in social service agencies to better fit the needs of the community and Christ’s mission- a theme that fits with the Health Guardians approach. Dignity, respect, and realizing the potential of each human person with individual care plans while managing limited resources is a great task, but one that can be accomplished if we focus on the heart and meaning of the mission.
Meagan Relle is a Patient Navigator with Health Guardians of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. Health Guardians offers an integrated system of intensive medical and behavioral care navigation for high-need patients with chronic physical and mental illnesses. The program incorporates the many health and social services provided by Catholic Charities and community partners to help patients achieve a better quality of life. Patient Navigators work with individuals and their families to map out a complete care plan that leads to improved self-sufficiency in accessing care and managing their diseases.