Great Aspirations: Alum Pays It Forward to the Community
April 29, 2022

Since his high school years at CRSM, Jonathan Catalan has aspired to reach out and give back to the others in Waukegan and neighboring communities.

“I really feel it is my responsibility to contribute to the people in my community,” says Catalan, a CRSM Class of ’14 grad. “It was a dream for myself and for my whole family to have me go as the first person to college and pursue a degree that will allow me to help others just like we have been helped.” His parents, both Mexican immigrants, have faced tough times. His mother has been on daily dialysis for years due to kidney failure, and his father works hard in the construction business to take care of him and his brother and sister. “I’ve always been a person who wants to help others who may be suffering.”

For the last four years, the Loras College graduate has been doing exactly that as a social worker for Mano a Mano in Round Lake Beach. Catalan has been providing crisis intervention, helping to navigate community services through the COVID-19 pandemic and advocating for the needs of immigrant families across Lake County.

This May Catalan will serve even more families through his new role in the Guardian ad Litem office of the Lake County Public Defenders in Waukegan. Specifically, he will serve as the “eyes and ears” for children who identify as being abused and neglected by conducting at-home interviews with the children and their families.

His high school years at CRSM propelled him to aspire to give back to other immigrants like his family and to create opportunities for them. “My family and I have been so blessed to receive so much support,” he says. At CRSM, he was drawn to the campus ministry program and says he was inspired and mentored by Jim Dippold, Director of Campus Ministry.

Catalan was awarded the Spirit of St. Martin de Porres Award for his regular volunteer efforts at Feed My Starving Children, Northern Illinois Food Bank and other work “being a person for others.” The award is presented to individuals who exemplify the spirit of St. Martin de Porres by embracing the St. Martin de Porres High School community and also embracing people in need in Lake County with a “profound love that comes from pure faith and humility of spirit.”

“In so many ways, Jonathan is an example of what we are about at CRSM, forming young men and women who are making a deep impact on the lives of others in our community and helping to build a better world,” says Dippold. “We’re so proud of the work he’s done at Mano a Mano and are excited for the work he’ll do at the Public Defender’s Office.”

When he’s not rolling up his sleeves to care for others, (and his two new kittens) Catalan is digging his hands into the garden of the new home he recently is very proud that he bought for himself.

“I love being able to plant vegetables and watch my tomatoes sprout on the vines,” he says. “I’m very lucky to have a job where I can do what I love, giving back to others and being part of the solution to make Waukegan and the area a better place. Mr. Dippold and CRSM really inspired that in me.”