By MARNIE McALLISTER | The Record
Sister of Charity of Nazareth Rebecca Miles, director of the new Doors to Hope ministry at Holy Name Church.
Sister of Charity of Nazareth Rebecca Miles, the former leader of Sister Visitor Center, has come out of retirement to serve the people of Holy Name Church in South Central Louisville.
She’s helping the pastor, Father David Sánchez, with liturgies and by being pre-sent to the senior citizens who belong to the parish. She’s also getting to know the immigrant population in the parish whom she hopes to serve through her community’s newest local ministry — Doors to Hope.
The ministry, which opened in June, focuses on Hispanic immigrants. It operates in the former rectory next door to the church on South Third Street near Churchill Downs.
Doors to Hope is in its infancy and Sister Miles, the director, said the sisters are beginning with a small, but important first step.
“We’re trying to establish a rapport with people,” she said during an interview in her new rectory office. “You can’t just come into a place and say we’re going to do this, this and this. You need to get to know their needs.”
The sisters already know generally the need in the area, she said. Sister Mary Boyce, director of administrative projects for the SCN’s Western Province, researched immigrants in Louisville a few years ago and determined that the Holy Name area had an under served immigrant population that could benefit from education.
To begin with, the sisters are creating a computer lab in the rectory where they can teach English and help people earn a GED. They also hope to tutor children after school.
For all of this they’ll need plenty of volunteers. Sister Miles said a handful of sisters and students at Presentation Academy are expected to lend a hand.
The ministry will focus in large part on women, Sister Miles said. She said the goal is to use education to “break the cycle of poverty and violence” that can especially affect women and children.
Education is critical for Hispanic women who are learning to cope with life in the United States, said Father Sánchez, pastor of Holy Name and St. Joseph Church in Butchertown.
“First the women have to be empowered to know the resources they have in the community,” he said. “They have to be trained in responsible parenthood — especially with older children. When they (the children) reach 13 or 14, that’s a big issue.
“Many (women) think they are just (intended) to be mothers, there is no other role — that you can’t even be educated,” Father Sánchez said, noting that’s often part of their culture. “They need to know that they can move forward, because many of them are separated from their husbands and there’s nothing for them to do. That’s a big challenge for them.
“The sisters are a very good example for the women — to imitate the leadership of the sisters,” he added.
The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have a long history at Holy Name, having operated the now-closed parish school for decades. “This is a way to maybe resume some of that,” said Sister Miles.
She added that the sisters don’t intend to duplicate any of the parish’s work, but rather to collaborate with and complement it. She noted that the parish has a thriving religious education program with about 120 students.
Holy Name has 288 registered families — that’s about 765 people, said Father Sánchez, adding that the parish serves many more who are not registered. Most parishioners are from Guatemala — many work at the track — and some are from Mexico.
The parish also has a small community of senior citizens who have belonged to the historic church for decades.
“Everyone is excited,” said Father Sánchez of the sisters’ new ministry. “Sister (Miles) comes to daily Masses and she’s helping with Sunday liturgies. The seniors are very happy with her.”
Holy Name recently had a new roof put on the church, which was established in 1891. Now it’s raising funds to paint the interior. The parish has raised part of the money, but needs about $10,000 to have it painted by Christmas.