A birthday celebration for Mother Joseph

For at least the third year in a row, Sisters of Providence were invited to tea at Providence Vincent House in Pike Place Market to celebrate Mother Joseph’s birthday, which was April 16. Vicky Smith, recreational therapy coordinator for St. Joseph’s Residence, praised the enjoyable afternoon tea on April 27 which included prayer, chatting over homemade sweets, fruit and tea, playing a Mother Joseph trivia game, and touring the garden and an apartment.

Kristine and Keith

Providence Vincent House resident Kristine, accompanied by her partner Keith, visited the sisters at St. Joseph Residence to say thank you.

What really made the event special, Vicky said, was a presentation given by Kristine, a resident who explained that she has a mental illness and then read a multi-page, handwritten speech of gratitude to the Sisters of Providence for her home at The Market. Vicky described it as “articulate, heartfelt and wonderful!”

The sisters were so moved by Kristine’s presentation that they invited her to the local community meeting at St. Joseph Residence on April 25 to share her thoughts with the sisters there. Her words are shared here:

My name is Kristine and I live with my partner Keith, and cat Monkey . . . 

I met Keith while standing in the free lunch line at the Pike Place Market Senior Center 3 years ago.  We’ve been together since that day.

I have lived in essentially subsidized housing most of my adult life; 9 years at the Josephinum and 11 years at the YWCA on 5th and Seneca.  I was always aware that I was “this close to being homeless.”

Keith had been homeless for 40 odd years when he came to me at Vincent House, and I’ve had a chance to see for myself up close the ravages that homelessness have added to a person already disabled and handicapped from a young age. It can be crippling. I’ve seen it takes a very long time in a safe and loving refuge to overcome all the various miseries of homelessness. It takes persistence and patience. Some of us are never able to override this damage and our own personal conflict, and so we carry this in our minds, even into this loving refuge.\We continue to perceive this conflict all around us.

Sisters listen to Kristine

A room full of sisters were happy to welcome them and listen.

But we continue our fight, continue to snap and snarl, and continue to make war, not knowing the storm is inside us.

We find fault where there is only impeccable loving service delivered to our doors.  We grouse and complain.  We are battle worn, angry, and depressed. 

And the homeless are homeless for many good reasons, and we’ve not been able to procure homes for ourselves.

Some of us will probably continue to scratch and bite the hands that minister to us, but oh, please bear with us.  We are some of us feral and cannot be easily domesticated.

But we need care even if we don’t know that we do.

It’s often hard to give service to us in the heat of our battles.  And staff is right in the line of fire, standing in the breach to even give help we would refuse.

Our staff does this service for us.  They wake up in the morning and come here to do their work, and to continue delivering thoughtful kind services to us.  In spite of their work having some rewards, service such as this is often very hard work to administer.  But our Vincent House staff treats us with care and kindness, backed with loving service, in spite of our fight.  Thank you for persevering. 

So here we are, having fallen into the soft warm lap of our beautiful Mother Joseph, and I wish now to describe our soft landing.

Here I give you 5 snapshots to look at.

1) I walked into the office a good while back, to find Amy, red-eyed and weeping.I asked why, and she told me she had happened upon some young mother on the internet who had had a severely handicapped child. Sharing grief with someone unknown to her.Such compassion. God wants us to share the grief and joy of others.

2) Picture Gwen’s beautiful little face last week, gently, slowly, quietly helping Keith and me through a frustrating technical problem with our phone service.  Such patience and good will.

3) See Vladimir courteous and helping, with great good manners even while plunging my stuck toilet.

4) See Shaughn, so very tactful, treating us with a kind of exquisite respect while working her way through our voluminous paperwork.  We leave her office with more dignity than we entered with.

5) See Jennifer’s lovely countenance, smiling upon me as I come into her office with frustration over some problem, perking her head up and cheerfully greeting me with “Hi!  What’s up?”  Such goodness, endlessly offered in all the many years I’ve known her.

I’m standing here not only to thank you all with a grateful heart, but also to pray you will keep giving us this mighty service.

Outside our doors the streets can be exciting or joyous, stressful, dangerous, chaotic and stormy. What a relief it is to get home to our coveted sanctuary. We fight our way to Vincent House through the streets and arrive home to our refuge right in the middle of a busy city. In the courtyard, you look up at sky, clouds, 3 levels of greenery, safe from streets.  There are security cameras, double layers of security. A quiet lobby, a place to sit down.  We have our own garden plots.  There is a sense of peaceful serenity.  The courtyard is where my cat Monkey can go outdoors to a little green jungle in perfect safety.  The kitchen hosts parties, meals solemn occasions with comfortable seating, TV, classes, computer, community meetings and our own library.  The hallways are clean and the offices orderly. 

Our apartments are little jewels of possibility.  We have 2! 2 cord pulls to alert staff if we’ve fallen or need help.  We have overhead fans for the heat of summer, heat lights in our bathrooms for our comfort.  Perfect little kitchens where all the cabinetry has been carefully considered and way more than adequate for our usage, plus plenty of pull out drawers.  They didn’t have to add in all that wonderful stuff!  And, in our living areas, we’ve been provided with large closets, shelves, and smoothly gliding doors.  And extra cabinets with drawers and shelving.  Everything works well. The moment it doesn’t, we are attended by Vladimir and other staff to fix things; lights and such.

It’s fun and a pleasure to live as well as we do.  We even have the kind of window that shuts out most of the stressful sounds of a bustling, lively downtown in a city. 

And . . . and we live in the Pike Place Market!  And just look at our monthly activities!!!

Finally, all 3 of us, Keith, Monkey and I, have found sanctuary in this beautiful place of refuge. 

I believe our Vincent House is the ongoing ministry that Mother Joseph envisioned and the very embodiment of God’s will in action.  We have our refuge here and I pray all of you Sisters and staff have this kind, loving refuge to come home to.

Thanks, Kristine, and God bless.