|Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery, Rock Island, Illinois
Discerning your path in life
|Recipe for a Do-Over: |
Hot Meals, Warm Beds and Lots of Hope
Although our corporate
ministries are prayer, foremost, and Benet House Retreat Center, the
Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery also serve as parish ministers,
educators, social workers and volunteers, running food pantries, praying with
Hospice patients, calming families in hospital waiting rooms. This story comes from a volunteer ministry of Sr. Bobbi Bussan, our vocation director, and Sr. Germaine Cupp. Additionally, the Benedictine Sisters provide financial support
for it.Cheryl Miller sits at the dining room table with her
23-year-old daughter, Shakira (above, right and left, respectively). A cool breeze blows the lace curtains nearby as
they discuss their plans for the day. There are supplies to buy - they are low
on paper towels and dish soap - a computer to repair and plenty of chores to do
around the house.
Purple petunias lead up to the door of St. Joseph the Worker House, Rock Island, Ill.
St. Joseph the Worker House
The house is St. Joseph the Worker House, a residential
facility for homeless women and children located in Rock Island and supported
in part by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Mary Monastery. Cheryl and Shakira
are the housemothers, but they came to the place the same way every other woman
comes: homeless and hopeless. After three years here they are back on their
feet, willing to share their own story as witness to the hope they impart to
those who come now, seeking help.
"My little sister's dad hurt my mom," Shakira says. "She was seven
months pregnant with Bianca (who is now six) when he picked her up
and slammed her into the sink. He broke her back, actually. And then he stole
the house and left us with nothing."
Cheryl sits quietly, nodding. It's painful to relive that
chapter of her life.
"We went and stayed with my brother for a month, and then I
found us a house," Shakira says. "Mom had Bianca and tried to go back to work,
but she was in constant pain with her back. Then I lost my job and we couldn't
pay rent so we had to move again."
Panicked about where they would go - Cheryl called dozens of
places looking for help - they finally connected with an agency that put them
in touch with the Benedictine Sisters and St. Joseph House.
A kids' grocery cart is parked inside a family room.
A blessing for everyone
"It was devastating to go from our own home to a single
room," Cheryl says. "But we were so grateful to have a place at all. Within a
few weeks, we were asked to step up to the position of housemother and of course
we said yes. It was such a blessing. I tell everyone I've been to the school of hard knocks and
graduated from the university of adversity. We've learned a lot and can offer
that to the other women."
The other women come - as Cheryl and Shakira before them -
devastated, ashamed, frightened. One recently showed up after dark with four
kids and the clothes on their backs. A state agency had called with a plea: either
you take everyone right now or the mom will lose her children permanently.
A doll is one of many toys in the playroom.God's do-over
Cheryl and Shakira opened their door, fed the children bowls
of cereal and held Jessie (not her real name) as she wept. Five months later,
Jessie had her GED and a good job that allowed her and her family to move into
their own apartment. They keep in touch with their former housemothers.
"Most of the women who come here have made bad choices in
men," Cheryl says. "They've lost their self esteem and their spirit. They've
lost their home. They are desperate. St. Joseph House is a do-over for them. I
tell them, God's giving you a chance to do the coulda, woulda, shoulda that
you wished you'd done the first time. You're on the right path to a better
life, to becoming the person you always was but couldn't be before."
Volunteers - including Sr. Bobbi - paint the house baby blue.
Getting what they need
The house was recently repainted baby blue by a crew including
Sr. Bobbi Bussan (who also serves as St. Joseph Board President and computer
repair person). The resident families clean, cook and eat together.
Their children play and do homework together. They offer one another the
support that has been lacking up till now.
"This is a 90-day program, although we often extend it to
make sure families can support themselves again before they leave," Cheryl
says. "We put them in touch with all the support agencies. We encourage them
and treat them with respect and compassion. Everyone has a story. Everyone
wants to be heard and not judged."
At St. Joseph House, they get the respect
they need along with hot meals, warm beds and lots of hope.
We are called to pray unceasingly...
We pray together
in the morning...
and at night.
|Join us for a visit!|
|To give you a chance to learn about Benedictine Sisters and our way of life, we welcome you for a visit. Call (309) 283-2300 or e-mail Sr. Bobbi to set up a good time. Or join us and other single Catholic women for a Benedictine Experience Weekend October 2-4. No matter when you come, there is no cost to you. We look forward to a morning, evening, weekend or week with you! And visit our Web site at www.smmsisters.org.|