In 2018 . . .
The Locks of Compassion display has

moved indoors for your viewing pleasure.
(Mayo Civic Building – Rochester)

This beautiful piece of art; created by both residents
and visitors from around the globe represents all
ages, genders, ethnic backgrounds, and faith traditions.

Each decorated lock expresses the compassion of the
individual and the desire that a spirit of hope ripples
across our nation and world.  We encourage you to
share photos of lock creations and your experiences
at the display on social media.


Considering a lock is often defined as a device that restricts access and confines, you may wonder how it could possibly be associated with compassion. But, did you know a lock can also be a symbol of promise, enduring friendship and love? A lock links and unites one to another.

In many parts of the world “love locks” attached to bridges and even metal trees have expressed uniting one to another. The “Locks of Compassion” project will re-create that symbolic expression of unity in our community this summer by embracing a spirit of compassion!  Locks decorated with signs, symbols, and words expressing compassion will be prominently displayed on the “Locks of Compassion” community display in Rochester’s Peace Plaza.  I have personally witnessed the transforming power of compassion in the lives of the poor and marginalized I’ve served. With a gift of $10 you will be provided a lock package to decorate with signs, symbols, and words of compassion. The gift of necklace with key and medallion is yours to keep as a reminder to spread your compassion—may your key open hearts!

A child recently asked me what it means to have compassion and I explained it in this way. Compassion is a feeling inside of us that says, “I care about others—especially those who suffer and feel sad. In my heart, I want to help them.” Compassion starts in the heart, but what if a decorated lock could express your compassion for a child in need, a homebound senior, a family member, a visitor to our community…and the hope it creates begins to ripple….

This initiative is being embraced by community and civic leaders as a “game changer.” Healthcare professionals in Rochester have expressed delight and support of an interactive display that visitors will see upon arriving to Rochester for care; a display that symbolizes the compassion embraced in this part of the world. We hope the Rochester community display will be a life-changing experience for residents and all those who visit Rochester, Minnesota. Enjoy creating your lock.  Compassion lives here…because of you!

While many of our children have joyful memories of chain link fences surrounding their school playgrounds and sports fields, I’ve seen refugee children arrive with vacant stares and fearful eyes. Their memories of chained fences involve being locked away from safety and joy. I am looking forward to creating my personal lock—a lock in honor of those I serve; one that will replace fear with compassion!

This is a life-changing project for all residents and visitors who come to our great city of Rochester—regardless of age, gender, ethnic background, or faith tradition. No matter where you come from or what you believe…we can all be united around a spirit of compassion!

(Mary Alessio-Director of Advancement/Catholic Charities)  

*For more details regarding the “Locks of Compassion” Project, read more here (project description) and Community Project Link here.

Locks of Compassion Flier

How to Make a Lock of Compassion

Remember to use waterproof sharpie markers!

Creating a Lock with a Child or Youth Group?
Children’s Version – How to Make a Lock of Compassion Flier

Your Gift Becomes the Key to Opportunity!

We serve refugees with a public/private partnership model. We are called to reach out to our community—brothers and sisters of all faiths to provide care and compassion for the refugee children we serve.  Government funding is per capita (dollars per individual served). There is an understanding that government funding alone would never be able to sustain a resettlement program that serves children and families.

Resettling refugees provides an extraordinary opportunity for countless Americans to take an active part in offering a caring and supportive environment for refugees as they begin new lives. Without volunteers and resources from the community and various faith based organizations, USCCB/MRS and the diocesan resettlement offices would be unable to accomplish the tremendous task of giving refugees new hope and the opportunity to begin again.

On average government provides 60% of the funding needed to operate our program.  The remaining 40% is made possible through the generosity of the people of southern Minnesota.  Together, these broad funding sources allow us to empower refugee families as they begin their lives anew in our community.

Shopping/Budgeting Orientation

Shopping/Budgeting Orientation

Refugee staff going above and beyond to tackle challenges with innovation …

  • Multiple home visits to help families trouble-shoot (i.e. individualized training – safety orientations, etc.)
  • Public library orientations
  • Hands on cultural orientations in the community and in classroom environment
  • One-on-one shopping orientations – shopping cart provided to each family
  • One-on-one bus orientations – bus pass provided to each adult
  • Personal Mayo Clinic medical orientations (campus tour, etc)
  • Connect newly arrived refugees with their individual faith communities
  • Assist with opening bank accounts, to promote asset building/banking education
  • Assist in accessing internet and a refurbished computer to ensure one’s ability to complete online job applications.
  • Applying for Energy Assistance and various other programs that will empower families
Financial Literacy Training

Financial Literacy Training

Independence and new beginnings take both dedication and innovation. At Catholic Charities we want to ensure our refugee children and families are not just surviving but thriving in their new home.  When we reach for excellence in resettlement families are not only on their way to self-sufficiency, but they are equipped with the skills to use their unique gifts to empower others in the future! Your gift helps create life-changing initiatives.

How Your Gift Becomes the Key to Opportunity/ Article in full PDF

Updates and Upcoming Events

  • Locks arriving in March 2017—start thinking of your lock design this Spring!—Would you like to donate a basket with  supplies for “Locks of Compassion”…  Supply list here.
  • WSU students from  multi-cultural class embracing  “Locks of Compassion” with a class outreach project this Spring.
  • Locks for decorating this Spring/Summer with your images of compassion arriving!  Leather straps for your necklace/wristband with key and medallion coming soon.

  • Long distance Compassion coming to Rochester – lock creation in Chicago!

  • Your individual lock packages for creation are ready for individual and group pick-up.  Various groups are busy creating locks for opening ceremony June 20th  in the Peace Plaza—Rochester, MN. Details forthcoming.
  • Lock packages will be available at a booth on “Thursdays on First” this summer starting June 22nd or available for purchase at Victoria’s Restaurant,  Tangerine Gifts, and Lasker Jewelers in downtown Rochester daily starting June 20th.
  • We needed donation boxes and Gramercy Park resident Bob Wiebold came to the rescue with compassion masterpieces!  Bob spent the entire month of April in the woodworking shop (and painting in his living room—thank you Mrs. Wiebold!).  He used  his artistic expertise to express what compassion means to him on donation boxes that will be used this summer for the “Locks of Compassion” Peace Plaza Project. Each box is a unique expression of Bob’s compassion. When asked what compassion means to him…Bob gazed intently into my eyes, “ I believe the love of God is all around us and our appreciation of that love, whether it is gazing at the beauty of a bird, a Minnesota lake, a friend’s face, a stranger’s surrounds us and all we need to do is embrace it.” I look forward to sharing more of Bob’s story with you in a future article. When I think of compassion – I see Bob’s face.  Check back in the upcoming weeks. Stop by and see Bob attach his “lock” of compassion along with other residents from Gramercy Park on June 20th!   ~Mary

  • Students from Winona State Multi-Cultural class (Rochester Campus)  embraced an outreach project to instill compassion within our community recently. Check out these remarkable creations that will be attached to the “Locks of Compassion” display on June 20th!

  • Grandma Knows Best!  When it comes to creating leather necklaces with a bow display for lock packages—Kristina’s grandma leads the way.  She is the best “bow tier” and as Kristina would testify…the best grandma!  Heartfelt thanks to Kristina’s grandma, mother, and aunt for all their hard work this week creating lock packages!

  • Teens embrace and express their compassion! Mary presented to the Confirmation class at Holy Spirit parish in Rochester this weekend. These teens lead the way with their unique locks of compassion—they inspire all to be that ripple of hope in our community.
  • Heartfelt thanks for locking into compassion! Rochester helps promote “Locks of Compassion” display in Rochester’s Peace Plaza (opening ceremony June 20th) with small outreach replicas created by Rochester Area Builders young professionals group. Thanks to our replica sights…Merchant’s Bank, Rochester Co-Op, Pasquales Pizzeria, U.S. Bank, Canadian Honker, Rochester International Airport, Tangerine Gifts, Lasker Jewelers, Victoria’s Restaurant, The Loop, and Daubes Bakery.
  • Get your “Locked In” button at our booth on Thursdays on First—starting June 22nd. Heartfelt thanks to Speedy Buttons for your compassionate creation. Get “locked in” this summer… embrace a spirit of compassion!
  • Rochester Area Builders young professionals constructing “Locks of Compassion” display for Peace Plaza!  Come see the final creation at the opening ceremony on June 20th at noon. 
  • Fatema and our friends at St. John the Evangelist Parish are “locked in” to compassion…creating expressions of compassion on their locks for the opening ceremony on June 20th.
  • Our friends at Pax Christi created locks of compassion at their Pancake breakfast and Beer and Brats events. Heartfelt thanks to Sally and Mike Burns for organizing the events and to all our friends at Pax Christi for uplifting our efforts and “locking in” to compassion!

  • Rochester Area Builders Below 40 young professionals are looking forward to assembling the “Locks of Compassion” display on sight in the Peace Plaza on June 16th.  KROC’s Andy Brownell interviewed John Eischen and Samantha Rossi from RAB Below 40 young professionals group along with Mary Alessio today. The city is excited—the snapchats are rippling…don’t forget to share your excitement on social media—along with John, Sammie, and Mary!  (Check out the live Facebook feed of the interview here.)
  • Long distance compassion and support from the Baron family in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  Love and heartfelt thanks Todd, Bea, TJ, Eileen, Ali, and Jeffrey. WE MISS YOU IN ROCHESTER!!  Love your way…~Mary 
  •   “Locks of Compassion” project invited by Mayor Brede to have a display and presence at the 2017 Minnesota League of Cities Conference at the Civic Center (June 14th-16th).
  • SCHEELS!! “Locking In”
  • Locks now available at Lasker Jewelers, Tangerine, and Victoria’s all summer.  Lock creation at Thursdays on First starting June 22nd.
  • An G and Suong Nguyen proudly wear the first “Locked In” event buttons! Get yours at the opening ceremony on June 20th at noon or at our table on “Thursdays On First” starting June 22nd.
  • Construction and Installation Day!  We are getting ready for the opening day on Tuesday, June 20th at noon.  Come down and “lock in” this summer.
  • Bishop John M. Quinn’s inspiring words in support of compassion.  Heartfelt thanks for “locking in” Bishop Quinn!
  •  Opening Ceremony –Mayor Ardell Brede of Rochester, Dr. John Knudson of Mayo Clinic, and Executive Director Robert Tereba of Catholic Charities open the Locks of Compassion Display in Peace Plaza. Thanks to Daube’s Bakery for sweetening the ceremony with their delicious masterpieces! Come to Rochester’s Peace Plaza this summer and “lock in” to compassion!
  • Creating locks of compassion and sharing on social media . . . .
  • Daube’s Bakery–You sweetened the opening ceremony with your gift of compassion!!
  • Executive Director Robert Tereba places Catholic Charities lock of compassion.
  •  Young girl visiting Mayo Clinic stops to add her creation to the display and her beautiful lock and compassion inspires all!
  • Check out KTTC coverage of the Opening Ceremony at Peace Plaza on June 20 here.

  • Come to Rochester’s Peace Plaza and be inspired!
  • Tangerine is uniquely “locked in” to compassion! Thank you for selling lock packages at your store and being that ripple of hope for all…
  • Lock of the Day! People stopping daily and expressing their joy and thanks as they see the expressions of compassion growing. . . . 
  • The “Locks of Compassion” display is growing with compassion. Come “lock-in” this summer at Thursdays on First at our display in Rochester’s Peace Plaza. A final destination for the display will be revealed on August 30th. Your lock will continue to inspire for years to come!
  • Rochesterfest Parade 2017—After a few raindrops the clouds parted and there was nothing but sunshine and locks of compassion!
  • Heartfelt thanks Senator Klobuchar for your kind words of support!
  • Read the June 2017 Courier article on Locks of Compassion here.
  • Display by moonlight . . . growing with compassion!  Come lock-in so we see nothing but your expressions of compassion covering the fence display.
  • If you could express your compassion with one word—what would it be??  Come lock-in your word today at the Peace Plaza in Rochester (locks available at Thursdays on First, Lasker Jewelers, Victoria’s Restaurante, and Tangerine.  
  • Sending our heartfelt thanks to the residents of Charter House – Mayo Clinic Retirement Living for uplifting the “Locks of Compassion” initiative and creating life-changing assistance for the refugee children and families served through Catholic Charities.  We are grateful for assisting us with proceeds from your Annual Sidewalk Sale.  You define compassion to all of us!

(Mary Alessio – Director of Advancement accepts donation on behalf of Charter House residents)

  • People from around the world are uniting around compassion in the Peace Plaza. Be a ripple of HOPE and lock-in this month! 
  • Join us on August 30th for our dedication ceremony in Rochester’s Peace Plaza at noon and an opportunity to create and attach your lock of compassion before the display moves indoors!  Bunnie Cake–$250 Gift basket drawing—Great Reveals!   (Fall Group Projects and locks packages available for creation  through the end of the year—call 507-287-2047 EXT. 23 or 24 ).
  • Houston–we are united with you; we hold you close to our hearts and in our prayers!
  • Dedication Ceremony was a “thumbs up”—Even the statues could not stay away from the display!!  The display overflowing with life-changing messages from around the globe will move indoors to the Rochester Civic Center in late September. Visit the display and be inspired!  (You can continue to purchase and decorate locks through December 31st)


  • To all those experiencing heartaches and loss due to the recent hurricanes—we hold you close to our hearts and pray for your safety. God bless.
  • We remember all those who lost their lives and their loved ones. We hold you in our hearts and in our prayers. God bless all first responders and individuals of compassion who continue to provide help and create hope for those in need of healing.
  • Take a stroll in the September sunshine and check out your “Locks of Compassion” display—located in Rochester’s Peace Plaza until the end of the month.
  • Lock packages available for creations until December 31, 2017—Great group projects, unite all at your family gatherings, life-changing Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts!  (507-287-2047)—your lock creations will be attached to display located at Mayo Civic Center starting in October. Be that ripple of hope for all who view lock creations inspired by your compassion!
  • Locks of Compassion Display is getting ready to move indoors to Mayo Civic Center. Come enjoy the indoor display at MCC starting October 6th.  We guarantee you will leave inspired!  300 new creations will be attached soon.  Individual and group lock packages available for creation until December 31, 2017 (507-287-2047).
  • Moving Day! Now, that’s what I call “uplifting compassion” . . . thanks to John Eichen at Rochester Area Builders , Kraus Anderson Construction,  and  40 Below young professional group volunteers. We are staining the base and getting ready for visitors. Come visit the display at Mayo Civic Center starting on October 6, 2017.
  • Almost ready for the front window of the Mayo Civic Center. Stone by Stone….one step at a time we reach a goal to live compassionately!
  • Dazzling in the front window of the Mayo Civic Center. Finishing touches later this week…take a stroll by sidewalk or through the skyway and enjoy the view. Lock packages still available for creation. Call (507-287-2047) 
  • Students from Rochester Math and Science Academy take a break from studies to create inspiring locks for the display!


  • We are stronger together.  Fatema, Mary, Kristina, and Zina from Catholic Charities are “locked in” and united around a spirit of gratitude and compassion.  Happy Thanksgiving!
  • Community Postcard embraces and cultivates a spirit of compassion and gratitude with residents and visitors this Thanksgiving and Christmas!
  • May you and your loved ones be united around the spirit of compassion this Christmas! The lights and locks are dazzling at the Mayo Civic Center.  You are a life-changing symbol of hope in our lives. Joyous Blessings!
  • To our Jewish brothers and sisters from B’nai Synagogue—Happy Hanukkah wishes!  The children and families of the synagogue attach their inspiring locks of compassion with Rabbi Michelle.  
  • Wishing you and your loved ones a 2018 filled with  hope for a bright future.  Happy New Year!


  • Locks of Compassion Initiative served as catalyst for signing of world charter that recognizes Rochester MN as a City of Compassion!
  • That solo lock will be joined with 500 others very soon.  Cotter High School in Winona MN creates their campus “Locks of Compassion” display.  In collaboration with Catholic Charities—Cotter students, staff, board members, and their families are embracing a Lenten kick-off project starting Ash Wednesday – February 14th . . .  locking-in and spreading the spirit of compassion in Winona and beyond!


*Don’t forget to share your compassion creations and experiences #locksofcompassion.

Cotter High School rippling hope in the Winona community inspired by their “Locks of Compassion” Campus project.