"To love and serve our neighbors as ourselves."

In observance of this year's Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by Pope Francis, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has asked all local Catholics to focus on the message of Jesus in Matthew 25:35-40, which ends "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did it for me."

During each week of Lent, the Diocese encourages us to observe various aspects of this powerful message. This week, the week of February 21, we're asked to Shelter the Homeless/Welcome the Stranger.

You can fulfill your observance during this week of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy by supporting Catholic Charities' homeless shelter, the Martha & Mary House, located in Johnstown. Opened nearly one year ago, the Martha & Mary House provides support, safety, and hope to homeless individuals and families in the form of shelter, planning, and caring case managers. The shelter accommodates up to 15 individuals for up to 30 days, giving them time to secure financial stability and more permanent housing.

Click here to answer Jesus' call to shelter the homeless by supporting the Martha & Mary House.

Homelessness doesn't just impact adults. In fact, a growing number of students in our region have no place to call home. 

According to Maureen Bourke, the Region 6 site coordinator for student homelessness through the PA Department of Education, in the 11-county region she serves (Armstrong, Blair, Cambria, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Indiana, Jefferson, and Potter counties), the homeless student population has steadily increased.

“It varies from year to year as far as districts, but there has been a steady increase at least for the past four to five years that we’ve been able to solidify the data and look at the actual numbers,” Bourke said in an interview with The Courier Express.

The article states that the number of homeless students attending public school in Pennsylvania increased by 18 percent between the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years — an increase more than double the national average of 8 percent, according to statistics reported by the U.S. Department of Education.

Johnstown is considered the poorest city in Pennsylvania, according to an article published in 24/7 Wall Street. The city earned this designation due to low median incomes ($25,542 vs. $52,548), high poverty rates (26.8%), and low educational attainment of bachelor’s degrees (11.2% vs. 27.5%).

This offers just a glimpse into the significant need for Catholic Charities’ offerings in Cambria County and the surrounding eight-county area that we serve. 

We've compiled astonishing statistics from within our eight-county service area.

 | Blair 
Cambria | Centre
Clinton |HuntingdonSomerset

For the most part, it’s been a mild winter thus far. But there are still several months to bear before spring is here. While Catholic Charities offers emergency financial assistance to area households that need help in paying their heating bills, we also provide education on how to prepare and maintain your home so that it conserves energy and results in lower utility bills each winter.

Catholic Charities has a rich history of helping neighbors in need, and in recognition of our 75th anniversary this fiscal year, we plan to highlight some of the milestone headlines and photos from our archives.

Click here to read more about the opening of our Bellefonte office in 2006.