The St. John Center for Homeless Men recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a public open house in Louisville. A standing-room only crowd packed the center to hear remarks and take in the historical displays. Congressman John Yarmuth and SCN President Mary Elizabeth Miller were among the speakers.
Sister Mary Elizabeth said, “As Sisters of Charity, we call Vincent de Paul our Patron Saint. As you know he left a wonderful gift to the Church and world- the gift and the challenge of service to those living in poverty.The words that Vincent spoke to the Priests, Sisters and Laity of the 17th century are relevant for us today, four centuries later, as we serve the poor- and so I thought it might be appropriate to share with you a few of Vincent’s words:
“Do whatever is before you.” Is that not what you have done over the past 25 years at St. John’s and still do –day after day- responding to those who come seeking assistance in the form of food, shelter, clothing, a kind word?
“We have to make our occupations holy. We do this by seeking God in them.” We do our work to find God in it, rather than just to get it done.
“Let us… cherish the poor as our masters, since Our Lord is in them and they are in Our Lord.” How often do we see Christ himself in those who come to the door- maybe at the moment of their coming we do not see Christ, but in reflecting back over our experiences, we know that Christ is in each person we serve.
“To leave God for God, that is to leave one work of God to do another greater obligation, is not to leave God.” This St. Vincent said to the Daughters of Charity- counseling them that if they were called from prayer for some work of charity, for some service to the poor, they should realize that it was in fact a call to leave God for God.”
She concluded, “Our gathering this afternoon is also an opportunity to consider new possibilities of serving the homeless more effectively as we go forward. It is a time to look to a future with the hope that could eventually point to new directions for our ministry and interaction with the civic community on behalf of the poor and homeless.”
Executive Director Maria Price spoke to the crowd about the Spirit that is always present at the center. She spoke of her admiration for Kathleen Sheehan, SCN, who was the first executive director whose tenure exceeded 22 years. She also spoke of the connection with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth:”Perhaps because the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth were part of this place from the beginning, we had, at the onset, a Pioneering Spirit. When Sr. Kathleen took the helm as our Founding Director, she was helping to create something new, something that filled a great need that had been identified in the community. Like Mother Catherine Spalding, she was breaking new ground.The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have supported us from day one. Whether through grant awards, or by inspiring others to support the mission, by working or volunteering here, or joining forces with the SCN Associates for a sock and hat drive, the SCNs have made a lasting imprint. We keep good company, don’t we? And we are so grateful!”