There was a time when Sisters of the Holy Cross were seen just about everywhere in South Bend, Indiana. They were teachers and principals, nurses and administrators, community board members and volunteers for nonprofit organizations. Holy Cross sisters may not be as visible as they once were. But a small group of 90-something retired sisters is getting out in the community by volunteering with Hope for the Hungry in South Bend.
When a sister retires from active ministry, she can remain engaged in many ways. These include participation in the ministry of prayer and presence. Their prayer lives are beautiful and sacred. Still, some sisters feel a need to do more. “Prayer is good — it’s essential,” says Sister Carmel Marie (Sallows), CSC. “But it’s the doing I like. I want to get on my two feet and help others.”
“... it’s the doing I like.
I want to get on my two feet and help others.”
Sister Carmel Marie (Sallows), CSC
In the fall of 2022, the group knew they wanted to engage in a ministry beyond the convent. Exploring volunteer opportunities, they selected one whose mission aligns with the Congregation’s. This nonprofit, called Hope for the Hungry, was started in 2020 by a local woman from a large family that knew hunger.
Today, founder LaQuisha Jackson is a respected chef with a catering business called Soulful Kitchen. With Hope for the Hungry, she strives to alleviate hunger in the food deserts and low-income neighborhoods of South Bend. She is aware that poverty can become a generational mindset. So she also works to empower people to lift themselves “out of poverty and into prosperity.”
But tackling the bigger issue starts with providing food; that’s where the Holy Cross sisters come in. Regularly, they visit the Near Northwest Neighborhood community center in South Bend. There, Hope for the Hungry has space to distribute food. The sisters chat with patrons and help them fill their food baskets. “We joke with the guests, and we talk with their children and grandchildren,” says Sister Carmel. A kind word exchanged, a laugh shared, a comforting hand on another’s arm. These are small gestures that speak volumes and let people know they are seen and loved.
The sisters admire LaQuisha’s business model for Hope for the Hungry. She partners with businesses, organizations and individuals who help provide and distribute food. Other partners offer counseling for financial education and life skills. In this way, patrons learn about becoming financially independent. It is a well-rounded model similar to ones used by sisters in their ministries. In fact, impressed by LaQuisha’s efforts, Sister Frances B. O’Connor, CSC, was able to secure a grant for the nonprofit through the Congregation’s Ministry With the Poor Fund.
LaQuisha praises the contributions of the Holy Cross sisters. “They have been most critical to our success by providing guidance and direction to help support us. We are blessed to have them.”
Hope and encouragement grow
With the strength of God behind them and their never-ending desire to be of service to others, the sisters will carry on with Hope for the Hungry as long as they are able. They are proud of LaQuisha’s plans to acquire a vehicle for delivering food to residents who are not able to get to the pantry’s location. Hope for the Hungry also is working toward a plan to deliver prepackaged cooked and fresh ingredients. The goal is to help the most vulnerable low-income families learn how to assemble healthy meals at home.
LaQuisha also dreams of taking a mobile unit to low-income neighborhoods. She wants to set up a mini-kitchen and demonstrate how to prepare fresh healthy meals.
With Hope for the Hungry, the sisters are active agents in alleviating hunger — physical and spiritual. They hope their presence motivates and encourages others to support the nonprofit through donations and action.Sisters are fewer in number in the South Bend area. But their good works are still leaving a legacy that will feed minds, bodies and souls far into the future.
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