Lutherans in Minnesota

Catholic, Lutheran providers coordinate service delivery

When Southwestern Minnesota Synod ELCA Bishop Jon Anderson and Diocese of New Ulm Roman Catholic Bishop John LeVoir signed a covenant of cooperation in May 2009, no one at the time realized how quickly this agreement would affect real people’s lives. But this “pledge to work toward greater unity” created space for Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota (LSS) and Catholic Charities of the Diocese of New Ulm (CC/NUD) to evaluate how to maximize their common impact in needy communities.

Lutheran and Catholic social services providers meet to coordinate some programming. From left: Sister Lois (CC Project Rachel), Leah Michaelis (LSS Financial Counseling), Cherrish Holland (LSS Financial Counseling), Walt Zimmermann (LSS Guardianship Options); Tom Keaveny (director, Catholic Charities for the Diocese of New Ulm).

Lutheran and Catholic social services providers meet to coordinate some programming. From left: Sister Lois (CC Project Rachel), Leah Michaelis (LSS Financial Counseling), Cherrish Holland (LSS Financial Counseling), Walt Zimmermann (LSS Guardianship Options); Tom Keaveny (director, Catholic Charities for the Diocese of New Ulm).

Independent of this covenant, Walt Zimmerman, LSS service development officer, had contacted many congregations in southwestern Minnesota about program changes. Soon he received a phone call from Tom Keaveny, director of CC/NUD.

“We recognized that there were some services that overlapped in areas where there was no doctrinal conflict.”

With the covenant in the back of his mind and the opportunity to work with Zimmerman in the front, Keaveny worked with Bishop LeVoir and his pastoral leaders to make clear that there was a good partnership developing between LSS and CC.

“LSS and Catholic Charities both have limited resources,” said Zimmerman. “We recognized that there were some services that overlapped in areas where there was no doctrinal conflict.” With that recognition, the two groups identified ways to refer vulnerable people for help.

Due to budget cuts, LSS had cut some services in Marshall and Hutchinson, both in Minnesota. CC/NUD has been available to accept referrals and provide services who otherwise would have been without.

Recently Keaveny included in a new diocesan brochure two LSS programs for referral — the LSS Guardianship Program, which works with vulnerable adults, and LSS Financial Counseling. “It’s not just a photo op,” Keaveny explained. “People are getting served more effectively and efficiently through this cooperative effort.”

Zimmerman explained the benefit to both organizations: “We each can increase our density of services, becoming more cost effective, perhaps allowing expansion in new areas.” For Zimmerman this helps LSS accomplish its mission to help people live and work in the community with dignity, safety, and hope.

Anderson has said that this is groundbreaking work. He is not aware of such a working relationship in other areas, said Zimmerman.

Zimmermann and Keaveny agree that this is a good start to a relationship that could increase the visibility and impact of faith-based service provision in Minnesota.

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