Written on: September 4, 2014
In Christian scriptures, Jesus makes clear by both word and action that unlike the foxes and the birds, he has “nowhere to lay his head”. His mission, his message is for all; he has to keep moving.
This characteristic of Jesus has become more poignant for me and the Catholic religious community to which I belong, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. In June, four of us learned that our current convent home is a bit tenuous, since it may be sold now that our parish has merged with a neighboring parish.
By next June, we’ll likely have to live elsewhere. In addition, several years ago, my Religious Congregation of 100-plus Sisters decided to sell our Yardley center house and property, which we call our “Motherhouse” in order to provide revenue for our present and future needs. We must relocate all our Sisters who need personal care and adjust to the reality that we will no longer have a “Motherhouse.” Like Jesus who had “nowhere to lay his head” we are suddenly feeling called to more radically imitate him. Many Catholic Religious Congregations are experiencing the same call.
These facts could leave us with a “poor us” attitude were it not for our commitment to live in solidarity with those who are, truly, homeless or marginalized. Consider the Palestinians whose homes on the Gaza Strip are rubble; the Syrians in refugee camps; the Iraqis; the Ukrainians; the children at our border from Honduras and other Central American nations who await their destiny to be decided; and our own homeless in every region of the United States.
Like many people, we embrace a spirituality of solidarity with those made poor. With those who in the name of God or Jesus or Allah, we labor lovingly to welcome the stranger, give shelter to the refugee, or build a home for the homeless.
Just a few examples: For more than twenty-five years, Interfaith Housing Development Corporation (IHDC) of Bucks County has made “home” a real possibility for families who have sent their children to school from a shelter or from a car. Rev. Al Krass (who initiated this interfaith column) was one of the faith-filled activists who dreamed of addressing the need for low income housing in one of the richest counties of Pennsylvania. Sister Rita Margraff, GNSH (with whom I live) was also in on the ground floor of their planning and now serves as president of IHDC. Hundreds of teens, women and men of all ages and all faith traditions have exemplified faithfulness in the hours, days, and weeks they gave to fundraising, building and rehabilitating houses so that another family could have a place to lay their heads, a place to call home.
The Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart have also been among the women and men who teach English as a second language to immigrants or tutor them in citizenship in the Welcome the Stranger project, which also celebrates years of reaching out to newcomers with time and talent that welcome them to their new home.
Hundreds of families near our country’s southern borders have also found space in house and heart for children who have traveled a rough and risky path to come to USA. In addition to advocacy for these immigrants, we pray that fear of having to share too much of the bounty of our country will melt when people imagine the face of the actual child we seem anxious to send back. Yes, this issue is complicated but we can find a way to reduce it to a simpler truth – Just as we want safety, nurturing and hope for our children, so too families in a distant land long for their children to find refuge, safety, welcome and one day, a home.
My religious community, the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, may for a time feel that we “have nowhere to lay our head”, but we don’t think of ourselves as unfortunate compared with all those whose homelessness is quite literal. On the contrary, our new shaky future reminds us of our interdependence, our oneness with all people, with all creation. It reminds us too, that, with all followers of Jesus, we’re called to share the message, so we have to keep moving.
Sister Eileen White, is a member of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart, currently based in Yardley. Sister Eileen ministers at Dawn’s Place with women who have been victims of human trafficking in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area. She has been a Religious Sister for 50 Years.
Sister Eileen wrote this column for From a Faith Perspective, in the August 29, 2014 edition of the Bucks County Courier Times. Used with permission.