Sister Janice Richards SCN serves God’s poor and works for justice. 

Submitted by Christiana Hofmann, SCN

Sister Janice Richards has been in ministry with Sacred Heart Southern Missions, Walls, MS Social Service Program for 10-1/2 years. The purpose of Social Service Program is to provide services (financial/basic needs and supportive) to low-income households. In recent months, the program has experienced an increase in new clients due to the continuing growth in the population and the depressed state of the economy (layoffs and less work hours). Families and individuals are struggling to make ends meet because of low wage jobs coupled with the high cost of living in DeSoto County. High cost of housing, health care, child care, and transportation are some of the issues facing the program’s clients. Sister Janice’s ministry goes way beyond providing assistance for basic needs. Although a financial crisis is what usually prompts a client to seek help at the program office, other services are available including advocacy, information and referrals, and planning and problem solving.

Clients are encouraged to address some of the issues they face in order to improve their quality of life. The staff of the program serves as an advocate when, through an assessment process, they learn of a problem that the client appears to be unable to resolve. Only then do they offer assistance. Advocacy at its best has a component of empowerment (not simply doing for the client, but working with the client)

One area of advocacy requiring a great deal of effort and time is assisting clients in filing disability claims with the Social Security Administration. Applying for disability is a very complicated process. Taking on all the responsibilities of the Appointed Representative is very time consuming, but well worth the efforts.

Sister Janice receives many rewards from her ministry. “I believe that it is my passion for justice that keeps me going. My ministry provides me with an opportunity to serve God’s poor and work for justice. The work is not easy and occasionally (bad moments) I feel weary of the challenges. However, I do believe much has been accomplished and we certainly have made a difference in the lives of many whom we serve. Frequently I will receive a card or note from one of my clients letting me know that their situation is much improved and that they are grateful for our assistance ” Recently  Sister Janice receive the following note:

Sister Janice, Thank you for your caring and generosity in helping out my family and me in our time of need. 1 have finally had my surgery and if all goes well I should be able to take on a normal life again. Work included. I continually thank God for looking out for all of us. Please continue to keep me in your prayers for a quick recovery from this surgery. May God bless you always!