Nun holds prayer card at the canonization Mass for St. Teresa of Calcutta, celebrated by Pope Francis on Sept. 4 in St. Peter's Square.
Daniel Ibanez/Catholic News Agency
Mother Teresa, now St. Teresa of Calcutta, once said, "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." The spirit of Mother Teresa is alive and well in Corpus Christi, where scores of volunteers came together on Sept. 14 to add their drops to the ocean of caring for the homeless.
Matt Lohmeier interviews with KRIS-TV Channel 6 at Project Homeless Connect held at Mother Teresa Day Shelter Sept. 14.
Mary Cottingham, South Texas Catholic
Civic and religious leaders, Bishop Michael Mulvey among them, came to the Mother Teresa Shelter to lend a helping hand to some 250 homeless persons. They escorted them to service agency booths set-up to assist them in a one-day event called Project Homeless Connect.
Ten days earlier, on Sept. 4, Pope Francis had declared Mother Teresa of Calcutta a saint of the Catholic Church in front of thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square. Throngs of pilgrims flooded the Vatican to celebrate the highly anticipated canonization, an event that Catholics and non-Catholics alike have looked forward to since her death in 1997.
The canonization fell during a special Sept. 2-4 Jubilee celebration for workers and volunteers of mercy, of whom Mother Teresa is widely considered one of the greatest.
Such "workers and volunteers of mercy" were on hand in Corpus Christi—at the Shelter named in Mother Teresa's honor—for an event, likened to a job fair, organized by the Homeless Issues Partnership. The occasion provided a forum for homeless people to get help they need and give leaders insight into the lives of those living on the streets of Corpus Christi.
Matt Lohmeier, a member of the board of Catholic Charities, explained that the event is a step towards trying to resolve the homeless problem. "The board is hoping to do more conscience raising events that would have a collective impact in the future," he said.
Mattie Darnley was visiting with area agencies and the homeless people she remembers from when she was homeless in 2011-12. Now she does part-time temp work and has had her own apartment for three years.
Darnley said she lost her job, lived in her car, used a friend's shower, got a job, lost it and was homeless again. "The only way I do so well is I don't drink, I don't smoke and I don't do drugs," she said.
When she was homeless, people with so many different attitudes and illnesses were always around. "You have to keep yourself focused, stay positive and make sure you want to do better for yourself. Only you can help yourself. People can throw all kinds of free things at you, but you got to want to do it yourself," she said.
Bishop Mulvey helped a man who had seen him at one of the prisons the bishop visits. He said the man was searching for a place to live. Having been incarcerated for a period of time, he was having a hard time. He had been turned away by several places.
"My impression is that these are people who go through a period in their life which is difficult," Bishop Mulvey said. He added that the individual he was escorting admitted that he had been involved in wrongdoing, but wanted to set his life straight.
"I think he was very sincere about that," the bishop said. "You know when you meet a person one-on-one instead of in a group it's more personal, different, so I was very grateful for the experience and I hoped it helped him as well."
Police Officer Sam Mitchell, who is on the city's bike patrol, interacts with area homeless everyday. Mitchell said he could name 30 people at the event by their first names and about 10 by their birthdates.
While at the event Mitchell received a message from his supervisor, Officer Joe Hickman: "tell Officer Mitchell, thank you. Tell him Perkins got a full time job."
Mitchell said he remembers the man named Perkins; Mitchell had to arrest him on several occasions. "He was from Georgia and he was a plumber, but he got addicted to synthetic marijuana," he said.
"I'm very stern, but I'm also fair and I'm very human. I understand that not everybody is at the best time in their life. From a brother to a brother, a human being to a human being, we want to pick them up by saying, 'Hey you got here, but you didn't start off this way, you were somewhere better and you did that thing–you can still do it now'."
"At some point it hit home to him (Perkins) and he was able to pull himself up and do good," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the key to getting people to want to help themselves is repetition; by always making contact with them. "When they are at their low point, you can get them to hear you," Mitchell said.
Bishop Mulvey said a person of faith in the Catholic and Christian tradition is called to see people the way God sees them. To see them as children of God made in his image.
"That's what St. Teresa of Calcutta did. She saw the face of God in every person no matter who they were, no matter what the situation was, so it's a change of lenses—the lenses of our hearts," Bishop Mulvey said. "There's a beautiful psalm, 95, that says, 'Harden not your hearts, as at Meribah….' and I would say to people today, harden not your hearts toward any brother or sister no matter who they are, what they've done. See them as God sees them. He sees them as his children and as Pope Francis says so often, we have to have the same 'tenderness' toward everyone."
Bishop Mulvey said that sometimes, "tough love, direct love, straight-forward talk is what people want and need." Mercy does not mean that there are no boundaries that cannot be crossed.
Among the many agencies offering assistance at Project Homeless Connect were Corpus Christi Hope House, Catholic Charities Representative Payee Program and the Mother Teresa Shelter.
In addition to Bishop Mulvey, a number of priests from the diocese took part in Project Homeless Connect, including Msgr. Louis Kihneman and Father Frank Martinez.
"We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty," St. Teresa of Calcutta once said. "We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty."
Social workers and volunteers at the Project Homeless Connect took a step in that direction.
(Alfredo E. Cárdenas and the
Catholic News Agency
contributed to this article.)