Judy* wheeled herself off the elevator, freezing, dirty and hungry. She had slept outdoors in a tent the previous night, despite temperatures in the low teens. Fortunately, Judy was now at St. Margaret’s House in South Bend, Indiana. Here she would find relief from the streets, and friendship with people who would come to know her and love her. They would help her get what she needed to take her next step forward in life.
*The guest’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
Finding respite from troubles
Fighting back tears, Judy explained to the greeter that she didn’t feel safe sleeping anywhere but outside, away from others. The greeter asked her what type of relief she needed right away. Judy replied, “First, I need a hot shower so I can warm up. Then, I need clean clothes to change into. Then, I need to eat something because I haven’t eaten in several days.”
She immediately got into a hot bath. Then staff provided her with a complete change of clothes, a new jacket and blankets. Some of the previous day’s food was heated for her, and she ate it with gratitude. By the time she finished, the noontime meal was ready, and Judy ate that too. After her second lunch, she said, “I am clean, warm and my belly is full. Now I am going to sleep.”
Feeling safe enough to accept a couch for a bed, Judy fell fast asleep. While she dozed, a St. Margaret’s House staff member began calling around to locate a used, temporary wheelchair. The one Judy came in with was partially broken. It was a struggle for her to get around. A better wheelchair would be a big relief. In the coming days, staff members assisted Judy with the tedious process of securing replacement copies of her identity documents. Such a task is difficult when one doesn’t have proof of identity. It is further complicated without the money to pay for the transactions or a phone to receive return calls. Upon arrival of the replacement ID, staff would help her request a new wheelchair through her Medicaid benefits.
Finding refuge in South Bend
Judy’s story is just one example of what happens every day at St. Margaret’s House. A day center for women who are challenged with poverty, St. Margaret’s House provides a continental breakfast and hot lunch. Each day, they serve approximately 80 women and children. Once guests experience the community and companionship of St. Margaret’s House, they are open to receiving other immediate-need services. These include showers, laundry and computer access. Guests also become more willing to receive one-on-one help with individual issues.
St. Margaret's House also offers programs ranging from parenting to preparation for job interviews, from art as therapy to entrepreneurship. Associate Executive Director Mary Fran Brandenberger, a licensed social worker, leads a program called SELF (Safety, Emotions, Loss and Future). It is a psychoeducational curriculum that helps women understand the trauma they have experienced. It helps them move into their future in healthier ways. The curriculum is more relevant than ever as women struggle with the effects of the pandemic on their lives.
Fruits of Holy Cross
Every month, Fruits of Holy Cross shares the good news of the ministries of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Our “fruits” are nourished not just by the sisters’ labors or the seed of faith planted by our founder Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau, they are watered by our many prayer partners, donors and benefactors—by you.
Finding relief from difficulties
The Sisters of the Holy Cross have a long history of supporting St. Margaret’s House. They have supported the day center both in-person and by way of Ministry With the Poor funding. Through the fund, donors also have an integral part in extending a hand of hope to women like Judy.
Another fun way to help is the annual Winter Walk fund raiser for St. Margaret’s House. On Sunday, February 20, 2022, Sisters of the Holy Cross leadership members, other sisters and staff once again happily took part.
Angelica Healy is the director of marketing and development at St. Margaret’s House. She said, “Our women come to us with a lifetime full of wounds and disadvantages that have left many layers of complexity in their wake. But even in the most difficult situations … we can at least make a difference in the moment, by offering a hot meal, a safe, warm place to spend the day, a listening ear, and help [in] taking the next best step, no matter how small that step may be.”
To those who give of their resources, thank you for your support of the Ministry With the Poor Fund. Whether your support is via time, money or prayer, it allows us to witness God’s love for all creation. Would you like to start contributing to Ministry With the Poor or add to your current giving? Please consider supporting us.