By Liz Sullivan
If ever love could be seen, it was definitely so on March 14 during the Ecumenical Prayer Service held at Saint Julie Billiart Church in San Jose honoring the end of the parish’s temporary winter shelter for women.
There was the love of the community from the women who had spent the last month calling the church hall home and there was the outpouring of love from the parishioners who served them. It was a deep love that will last a lifetime.
“This Lent has been the most joyful Lent since I arrived in California 16 years ago,” said Father Saju Joseph, Pastor of Saint Julie. “We have been greatly privileged to serve you.”
Working in conjunction with Casa de Clara, the parish hosted seven women for a month, beginning on February 15. On March 15, the shelter moved to the First United Methodist Church in downtown San Jose.
Casa de Clara is a house of hospitality in the Catholic Worker tradition, for homeless women and women with children in San Jose.
The prayer service featured songs and the reading of the Gospel, but more powerfully it featured brief testimonials from parishioners who volunteered and those who were the beneficiaries of that support. More than 600 parishioners volunteered at the shelter.
“Our effort was just a drop in the ocean,” said volunteer Joanna Thurmann, her voice cracking with emotion. “Everyone deserves a home. I am really grateful I got to help out. It was extremely fun.”
Said volunteer Evelyn Negrete, “It was a place where you could feel love for one another.”
Volunteer Carol Bautista said, “It was an opportunity to do what my faith says.”
Saint Julie’s guests were equally grateful.
“The environment was one of extraordinary love and healing,” said Maggie.
Said Sally, “The love I received was very unconditional. Thank you from bottom of my heart.”