In 1992, I started working at Rachel’s Women’s Center in Washington, DC. I had a dream but it took a few years to know where I would be going. I read the book, “We Make the Road by Walking”, by Paulo Friere. In the book, Friere and Myles Horton had wonderful conversations about education, and in my work with Catholic Charities Homeless Services I realized that all of us-staff, volunteers and clients-were walking together .I worked with very creative folks in the shelters, and four of us left Catholic Charities to start Living Wages, wanting to work in the direction of education and jobs for those unemployed and homeless to work with us. Over the years we hired adults who had been homeless. Some of our staff have been with us 18+ years. We have been able to award 400 official high school diplomas from the public school down the street from our center. More than 75 attend our programs each year to prepare for college and jobs.
There are two quotes that I particularly like in Catherine Mooney’s book Philippine Duchesne: A Woman with the Poor. “She recognized their inherent dignity as human beings. She discerned the special presence of God in their midst and she was aware that charity was much more than an ornament. It was her life’s calling.”
“But Philippine’s appreciation for their dignity went further. She not only likened them to Christ: she discovered Christ in them. Eucharist and the poor are both Christ’s body for Philippine: a real presence of God in the world.”
The call that Philippine heard years ago is still strong today in the Society. It is this call that has led me to work for 25 years in Southeast DC at Living Wages Adult Education Center. THANK YOU, PHILIPPINE.
My advice is to keep dreaming.