In Your Midst

The Solanus Casey Center

March 2005

 

Imagine… a place where staff and volunteers have the time to listen—really listen—to the needs of poor people seeking help.

 

Imagine… a place where people released from jail or prison can receive support and information about resources during those critical first hours after their release.

 

Imagine… a place where homeless people can receive information connecting them with vital services—housing, meals, healthcare.

 

The Solanus Casey Center is such a place. The center, which opened for clients on January 31, 2005, is a joint ministry of St. James Cathedral, the Archdiocese of Seattle Detention Ministry, and Catholic Community Services. The center is located at 1008 James Street, at the corner of James Street and Terry Avenue, just two blocks south of the Cathedral.


Some of the people responsible for making the Solanus Casey center a reality.  From left to right, Sister Anne Herkenrath, snjm; Gary Lazzeroni of Detention Ministry; Joan Clough of the Archdiocesan Housing Authority; Joan Henjum, director of the new center, Father Ryan, Larry Brouse, and Patty Bowman.  Not pictured are Bill Hallerman of CCS, Erica Cohen Moore of Detention Ministry, and Bob Goetschius of St. Martin de Porres Shelter.
 

The center seeks to serve primarily two groups of people who are under-served in this area: homeless persons and persons just released from jail or prison. Each group presents its own unique challenges. Although there are resources in the community whose mission is to provide basic services for homeless persons—such as shelters, meal programs, day centers, and the like – each program has its own rules and limitations, and navigating one’s way through the array of programs can often be a very difficult task. And the task is made more difficult if the person is new to the area, or does not speak English, or has some sort of disability. People coming out of detention can face the same kinds of challenges, as well as the challenge of redirecting their lives in such a way as to avoid future problems with the law. “The first 24 to 48 hours after a person is released are critical,” says Erica Cohen Moore, with the Archdiocese Criminal Justice Ministry Services. “If we can provide the person with referrals and support in those first few hours, the person has a much better chance of not re-offending.”

 

Because it is a joint ministry, the Solanus Casey Center brings together the unique gifts and resources of each of its three sponsoring entities. St. James Cathedral is providing a rent-free space for the center, financial support for the center’s operation, and volunteers who bring the all-important ministries of listening and presence. The Archdiocesan Detention Ministry brings expertise in ministering to persons who are incarcerated, not only helping them to find spiritual reconciliation but also practical resources to make positive changes in their lives. A half-time staff person from the Archdiocesan Detention Ministry will be on site to direct this aspect of the center’s work. Catholic Community Services brings its wealth of experience in serving the homeless, from its many shelters, transitional housing programs, counseling and other social services. CCS will also have a half-time staff person on site to direct the services to the homeless at the center.

 

“We are very excited to be able to work with Detention Ministry and CCS at the Solanus Casey Center,” says Father Ryan. “By working together, we are able to offer a much wider array of services than any of us would be able to offer on our own. And the fact that professional social service staff will be working with our parish lay volunteers means that we will be able to reach many more people than if the social workers were working alone.”

 

The center is named after Father Solanus Casey, a Franciscan Capuchin priest whose primary assignment throughout most of his ministry was that of “porter” or “doorkeeper.” As porter, it was Father Solanus’ job to open the door to all who knocked. So warm was his welcome, and so sincere and effective was his help, that people began to come to him in great numbers for help in a wide variety of ways—prayers for healing, spiritual support, financial help, a warm meal, a place to stay. His ministry of welcome makes him the perfect role model for what the center seeks to do.

 

What makes Father Solanus even more perfect as an inspiration is the fact that he was Sister Anne Herkenrath’s great-uncle (see article on the following page)! “I was thrilled when I learned that the center was to be named after Father Solanus, because it so embodies what his life and ministry were all about—his listening ear and reassuring manner to the poor and needy of the city,” says Sister Anne. “It’s my great hope that the staff and volunteers who will work at the center will continue to live out his ministry of caring and presence.”

 

The Solanus Casey Center will be housed in the former Honeychurch Antiques building at the corner of Terry Avenue and James Street.  The purchase of the building was made possible by a gift to St. James Cathedral from one of its generous benefactors, Mary Kay McCaw.

Patty Bowman is the Pastoral Associate at St. James Cathedral.


Other articles in the March 2005 issue:

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