President George W. Bush invited Father Mark Schmieder, Board Chairman of SFSJ CW House and President of the American Catholic Correctional Chaplains Association, to attend the ceremony of welcoming for Pope Benedict XVI at the While House on April 16, 2008. Yes, our Father Mark. “I was astounded to open my email 11 days before the event to find that I was invited,” Father Mark recalls. “And I was more astounded to find that I’d passed the background check”, he joked. But it wasn’t until Father Mark left for D.C. on April 15th that he realized that 10,000 other people received the same Presidential invitation.
And when Father Mark arrived at the White House on April 16th, his astounding experience continued. Upon presentation of identification, Father Mark was ushered ahead of the vast crowd into the “gold rope” area where he found himself only 50 feet from Pope Benedict and President Bush. Father Mark described the setting as, “a lot of pomp, with three bands, Fyffe & Drum Corps, and a harpist to accompany the solo Our Father. It was totally impressive.”
Father Mark admitted having mixed feelings in the presence of the President and the Pope, both of whom he views as not being totally responsive to the needs of the times. However, Father Mark acknowledges that the Pope did make a significant impact when he addressed the issue of clerical sexual abuse to the Bishops and when he personally visited with some sex abuse victims. And Father Mark prays for more of such actions. Among the many issues the Holy Father addressed were the issues of immigrants, human rights, and values. The Pope also quoted from his preferred theologian, St. Augustine, stating, “Do not do to others what you would not want done to you, cannot in any way vary according to the different understandings that have arisen in the world. Human rights, must be respected as an expression of justice, and not merely because they are enforceable through the will of legislators.”
We salute and thank Sam Kolis for the completion of his Eagle Scout Service Project reconstructing the courtyard of the House. Sam, a Roger Bacon senior and honor student, planned, developed, and lead a team he recruited for the heavy duty cement repair work. Sam and his team have improved our property’s safety, hygiene and look. We congratulate Sam’s parents, Conrad and Nancy Kolis, as Sam joins his brother Pete in attaining the Boy Scouts of America’s highest honor.
An alumnus of the House, Ron Brown writes: “Thank you for the opportunity to restore my life and for showing me how to be accountable and responsible. Before November 26, 2007, I had given up on life and was losing all hope.”
Ron’s journey from hopelessness to productivity and peace began with another former guest’s suggestion, “Why don’t you get a better life? Why don’t you go to the SFSJ House?” This question and this idea were posed to Ron on November 24th, 2007 by another House alumnus. Ron recalls, “George was living at St. Francis/St. Joseph Catholic Worker House at the time and just walked up to me when I was sitting on a bench in Washington Park. He asked me those questions and told me it could be better for me.
Two days later, on Monday, November 26th, I decided to do it. I asked for a bed at the SFSJ House, and I decided to get a better life. I had drunk and drugged for 32 years; I am 52 years old now. Karl and the staff at the Catholic Worker House treated me with kindness and respect. They revealed to me a better way of living and they showed me by example that it was possible for me too. I opened my heart to God and was shown His wondrous gifts and blessing. My life began to drastically change— I now walk in faith and trust, living a day at a time.
At the CW House I achieved employment, opened a bank account and had enjoyable fellowship with the guests and the staff of the CW House. On January 26th, 2008, I moved up to Charlie’s ¾ House and have continued in my sobriety, my AA meetings, and I have two sponsors. I never thought it was possible.”
We thank Ron for telling his story and we thank George for reaching out and sharing his experience of the SFSJ Catholic Worker House. Each one has now taught not just one.
We can always use donations of coffee, sugar, powder creamer, condiments, paper towels, toilet paper.
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
St. Francis/St. Joseph House of Hospitality strives to provide hospitality to homeless men. We recognize that god created each human being with great dignity and respect. The community of those of us who live and work at St. Francis/St. Joseph House of Hospitality desire to uphold this principle and to serve our guests accordingly. (Rev. 12/11/98)