by Olivia Martin
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Some religious orders take time getting off the ground.
Others practically take flight.
Since arriving in the archdiocese from Brazil in 2012, the ministries of the Fraternity the Poor of Jesus Christ (PJC), a public association of the faithful, have more than doubled.
Sister Sentinelle, a member of the community, recalls how, when they first arrived, the Sisters temporarily lived above Shalom House, a Catholic Charities-run shelter for homeless men in Kansas City, Kansas.
“But then, we got [our] convent,” said Sister Sentinelle. “From there, a lot of people started to get to know us — started coming, volunteering and helping us.”
The same happened when the friars moved into the rectory next to Our Lady & St. Rose Parish, also in Kansas City, Kansas.
The Sisters and friars realize now that having space matters — because having space means more opportunity to serve the poor.
And with their expanding ministries now serving over 150 people regularly, the fraternity is actively searching for an event space in the archdiocese that will allow their ministries to flourish even more.
Need for a space
The Poor of Jesus Christ’s ministries include providing food and clothing through a food pantry, street ministry with the homeless, and retreats for couples and at-risk youth.
In addition to working with those with addictions and involved in prostitution, the community hosts multiple events per year for the area’s homeless.
Each year, for example, they hold Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and two events called Fishermen’s Net.
During those events, the Sisters, friars and volunteers drive around the Kansas City community, pick up the homeless and transport them to a central space. There, they are served a hot meal, and have the chance to take a shower, get a haircut, a manicure and some new clothes.
Participants also have the opportunity to enjoy games, a spiritual service and some musical entertainment.
“We get them in contact with people who can help them with their Social Security and basic needs that are hard for them to have met,” said Sister Sentinelle.
“We want to give them the opportunity to celebrate important holidays,” she continued, “and speak to them about the love of God and that he came for each of them — and that he came poor.”
So, having a consistent event space will make this work all the more possible.
“We have been dreaming of this space since we got here,” said Sister Sentinelle.
A place to fight loneliness
Deanna Ricke, a lay associate of the community and a member of Visitation Parish in Kansas City, Missouri, has been involved with the fraternity for over a year. She has seen how the events the Sisters and friars hold for the homeless address an increasing epidemic in American society: loneliness.
“We have a friendship and relationship deficit in this country . . . that I feel is contributing to the breakdown in stability we see,” said Ricke. “To me, if we have a space that you know is a community space, it gives all of us — black, white, Latino — a place to come together, build community, learn and worship together.”
Lisa Muessig of Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish in Overland Park agreed.
“These events are more than a meal,” she said. “It’s one thing to give food and clothing but it’s another to pray with people, meet them where they are and bring them hope.
“The Sisters and friars . . . actually bring Christ’s love [to the poor]; they represent us as a Catholic community.”
To date, it has been difficult for the community to find a space adequate to their needs.
They particularly want a space that could double as a retreat center with a large central room, showers and a kitchen.
As a mendicant community, the Poor of Jesus Christ rely completely on the generosity of others for their food, housing, modes of transportation and more. This has made finding the means to acquire their desired space all the more difficult.
But their ideal space would be in Kansas City, Kansas, near the people they help.
“Every time we go out, we try to raise [the poor’s] dignity as human beings, as sons and daughters of God,” said Sister Sentinelle.
“If they know they have a safe place they can go to take a shower, get clean clothes, a hot meal, where they can listen to the words of God and build this relationship with each other, they will feel this love of God for them and feel that the church is supporting and here for them.
“We don’t want to do this in the name of the Poor of Jesus Christ, but in the name of the Catholic Church and in the name of the archdiocese.”