A group of dreamers, women religious from various congregations in Western New York, had a vision of helping those in need.
In 1998, at a Buffalo Leadership Conference of Women Religious meeting, seven sisters - Sister Joan Chachula, RSM; Sister Sharon Goodremote, FSSJ; Sister Margaret Gorman, RSM; Sister Raymond Heckler, RSM; Sister Linda Lewandowski, OSF; Sister Pauline Petruzzella, RSM; and Sister Madelene Stauring, SSJ, proposed that the LCWR establish a program for families headed by a single female parent that would include housing and support services. The goal of the program is to assist women to make healthy, life-giving choices for themselves and their children.
That dream became a reality when Gerard Place opened in 2000 as a sponsored ministry of the Western New York Leadership Conference of Women Religious. Its mission is to provide transitional housing and supportive programs for homeless, single-parent families. Gerard Place strengthens the community by empowering individuals and families toward self-sufficiency via community education and outreach.
Residents have called Gerard Place a miracle.
"The first night sleeping at Gerard Place was my best sleep ever. It felt so good knowing that my children and I finally had a safe place to sleep," said one resident, who went on to receive her GED while residing at the former St. Gerard School in Buffalo.
"I no longer have to deal with domestic violence and I feel more comfortable living my day-to-day life," said another resident. "Gerard Place has helped me to find stability in life and be financially independent. It has helped me to be able to take care of my daughter and become a better parent."
In this Year of Consecrated Life, women religious from a variety of congregations continue to volunteer their services ministering together, side by side with dedicated staff making that initial dream for Gerard Place a reality for today.
This great work continues as a sponsored ministry of the LCWR with sisters from a variety of congregations working collaboratively for the sake of those most in need. From tutoring to spiritual care to serving on boards and committees, these women religious are active right here in Buffalo, waking up the world.
"What I love most about working with the single moms or dads is to see the growth in them as they share their specific goals to become independent, responsible, caring parents," said Sister Maureen Harris, OSF. "It's also enjoyable to watch the children grow and feel safe with the staff. The parents with a strong faith connection are an inspiration to me as they come from an unstable situation to settle in and share their belief that God has blessed them in this new, safe place."
Join men and women religious as they continue waking up the world in a prayer for peace at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 13.
For more information go to buffaloreligious.wix.com/buffalo-consecrated.