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cbc 00In the absence of Sr. Marilyn Trowbridge, Sr. Karen Hartman and I were asked to represent our Congregation at the Blessing and Dedication of Catholic Charities’ Newly Refurbished Sr. Claudia Burke Center for Hope in Flint, MI in the Diocese of Lansing.
Being from Flint and having known Sr. Claudia personally, it was a joy, as well as an honor and privilege to be there.  Sr. Claudia had been missioned for service in Flint for a total of 45 years!  She loved and was very devoted to the people of Flint.  She was known for her passion for the poor.  Sr. Claudia was fondly called the “Mother Theresa of Flint!”  

No one could question her passion for justice, and, in particular, for equal housing for all.  She had even stood before a judge to fight against the practice of discrimination. 

Her arguments were so persuasive that the judge suggested that she should have been a lawyer!  When the city of Flint experienced an economic down turn, Sr. Claudia created the North End Soup Kitchen and organized the Displaced Workers Center to help those who lost jobs find employment or access social service agencies.

Whether she approached business owners with new ideas, asked for financial assistance or called them on the carpet for an unfair practice, they knew they were on the losing team and would acquiesce to her wishes.  She was called “Queen of Bingo” as a tribute to her dedication to fundraising through the popular game.  She “ate, breathed and slept for the poor!”

cbc 03What a turn-out to honor this valiant daughter of Mother Frances!   Bishop Earl Boyea, Bishop of Lansing, was present for the Blessing and Dedication.  Representatives from the Board of Catholic Charities, leaders from the community, generous donors, Priests of the Diocese, workers at the center, students from St. John Vianney School, along with Pastor, Fr. Thomas Firestone, also a member of the Board, and other people of Flint, were some of those present.

The Blessing, planned for outside, was moved inside the Center due to the threat of rain.  My brother Joe and his wife, Betty, both who knew Sister Claudia personally, picked up Sr. Karen and I along with my sister, Paddy, with whom we were staying while in Flint, and took us to the Center.  We arrived early and therefore were able   to have front row seats!  We met and greeted others as they arrived.  Msg. Grosheck from the Diocese of Lansing who had accepted Catholic Outreach and Sr. Claudia under his wing in Catholic Charities years previously and had been a great admirer and support for her, had come from Lansing for the occasion.

Vicky L. Schultz, President/CEO of Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties, led the Celebration.  Vicky had worked with Sr. Claudia several times during Sr. Claudia’s time in Flint.  She had thoroughly picked up her spirit and her passion for the poor!  This was quite evident as she led the celebration.

After the Greeting and Introduction by Vicky, the Blessing began by Bishop Boyea, assisted by Board members Michael Dear and Deacon Jim Kasprzak.  Following the Introductory Rite, the Gospel from Luke 10:30-37 was read, and the Responsorial Psalm 103 with the Refrain “Blessed are they who hope in the Lord,”  was prayed.  This was followed by a Reflection, Intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer and the Prayer of Blessing by Bishop Earl Boyea.  

cbc 04The ribbon cutting followed, done simultaneously by past and present members of the Board.  This included Virginia Landaal, Honorary Chair of the Board, who had worked personally with Sr. Claudia for many years.  She had arrived in a wheelchair!  
Bishop Boyea then proceeded throughout the whole Center, blessing each of the rooms and areas to service the poor.  All were invited to accompany him, or to visit the various areas on their own.  

Catholic Charites Center For Hope, like its namesake, Sr. Claudia Burke, is dedicated to serving all those who come in need, especially the poor and vulnerable of the community.  Housed in the renovated St. Michael School Building, the Center For Hope is an anchor for Flint residents, providing food, water, clothing, personal care, household and linen items, counseling, life skills assistance, St. Christopher Medical Transport, Re-Connections – assisting on the transition of post incarcerated individuals returning to their families and communities, a Warming Center, daytime and overnight refuge (during the winter months), as well as laundry and shower facilities and programs designed to serve a variety of needs.  The Hamilton Community Health Network has one of its sites for Primary Medical Care there.  They have now added the recitation of the Rosary before lunchtime at the North End Soup Kitchen and a Mass in St Michael Chapel monthly.  This Center is directly across the street from our former “Holy Angels Convent” which houses some of the services.

The staff and Volunteers at Catholic Charities recognize that they are all one in God’s community and that the cornerstone of healing in Flint is first and foremost to restore dignity and hope to its residents, creating this sense of community.  The Center offers just that - hope for each new day, hope for children and families who want to thrive again.
All were then invited to lunch, at which time Vicky Schultz, Catholic Charities CEO/Director introduced and thanked various people who had been greatly involved in the renovation.
I was moved deeply by this celebration!  To experience how God used one person, Sr. Claudia, a daughter of Mother Frances, to touch SO MANY PEOPLE in Flint that, filled with that same spirit, imbued with such love and dedication for the poor, that they continue with so much enthusiasm, dedication, work, money, and with their whole selves to continue and further this work!

                                Sister Mary Jacinta Doyle, SFP

Published: December 5, 2017