Travel Log: Fort Wayne, Indiana
Sister Erin Zubal, OSU
July 15, 2016
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.” ~ Desmond Tutu
Indiana brought both tears and laughter as we made our way from Terre Haute to Fort Wayne. Being a part of Nuns on the Bus has presented us with the sacred opportunity to have our hearts broken open by the brave souls who are willing to share their stories of struggle, perseverance and hope with us. The site visits afford us the opportunity to hold space for the women, men and children who each day are faced with injustice, racism, poverty, and a broken system that continues to push them further to the margins of society instead of drawing them closer to community. This sacred story telling fuels our work to Mend the Gaps and empower our elected officials to Reweave the Fabric of Society.
Our site visit began Friday at Vincent Village in Fort Wayne, IN. We were greeted warmly by families and staff of Vincent Village who had crafted welcome banners for our arrival.
Vincent Village is a long range solution to family homelessness. This organization offers one of the most comprehensive approaches to addressing homelessness that I have seen. The mission of Vincent Village is to alleviate the problems of homelessness by providing shelter, care, advocacy, affordable housing and supportive services for homeless families as these families build strength and strive to become independent, productive members of the community. Rooted in a belief in God and under the direction of the board, Vincent Village seeks to affirm the dignity of life and all served. Vincent Village has ten full time employees and eight part time employees who seem to be doing the work of fifty full time employees. In 2015, 302 clients were served and 91% of those families moved into permanent housing. Vincent Village is most certainly living out its mission to providing a strategic and lasting solution to family homelessness.
During the site visit we heard the sacred stories of Jennifer, Wanita, Leila and Sonya. They shared with us the journey of their lives and how they came to know Vincent Village. These four women found themselves in the throws of homelessness due to multi-layered factors that left them with nothing but the clothes on their back. These four strong and valiant women took life one day at a time and did all they could to survive moment to moment, day to day. Jennifer, Wanita, Leila and Sonya are survivors because they knew they had no other choice if they were going to save their children from the world of racism, oppression and poverty. These four women made an intentional choice to reach out to Vincent Village for the life of their families. The love of their children and grandchildren gave them the courage, fortitude and perseverance to survive and eventually thrive. Jennifer, Wannita, Leila and Sonya are a few of the success stories that come out of the over 250,000 people that are homeless in the United States on any given night. We pray that our society creates the avenues and opportunities for many more to follow in these women’s footsteps.
In the evening, we were greeted by Father Phil Widman and the community of St. Mary’s Catholic Church for the Caucus. All who gathered for the Caucus were engaged and eager to discuss the gaps facing the people of Fort Wayne. In equal measure they were visionary and hopeful in discussing what their neighborhoods and communities could look like if the inequalities were addressed and everyone had the opportunity to experience justice and peace. We pray that our brothers and sisters in parishes and places of worship throughout the United States take their responsibility of faithful citizenship and living the Gospel as seriously as the Father Phil Widman and the faithful of St. Mary’s.
Nuns on the Bus has been an incredible journey. It is a privilege to stand shoulder to shoulder with these women as we offer a living prayer with our feet and hands and hope to create the holy places for crucial conversations and transformation to take place. We stand in solidarity with all of the faithful women, men and children who have signed the bus and ride with us, seeking inclusion, justice and peace for all. May our elected officials and government structures hear this message and start working on policies that address the cries of the poor and needs of the world.