Thursday, October 29, 2009
I've Been Thinking About Sister Margaret McCaffrey...
...and if you knew her you either loved her or you didn't.
She was the Mother Teresa of Shreveport.
Her name was Sister Margaret McCaffrey and she came to Shreveport in the early 60's to do the unheard of:
She provided warm breakfasts for schoolkids who usually didn't get any breakfast.
Sister Margaret made history in Shreveport by organizing the Poor Man's Supper that drew whites and blacks from many different religious denominations to the first citywide "Christian Service" event. Incredulity and pride marked that evening as Shreveporters, always separated by economic and cultural practices, supped soup and broke bread together.
In 1983 she opened up the Hospitality House in the old Cotton Club, down on Sprague street. It could hold about 60 people. She fed over 200 people a day in there, twice a day, 365 days a year.
She opened up a homeless shelter for men, a homeless shelter for women, a neighborhood clinic and numerous homes for homeless families. She was able to help people with their prescriptions, utilities, and transportation...and when other agencies could not help, due to restrictions of governmental funding, they sent them to Sister Margaret, who never took state or federal money. When the riverboat casinos came to town, offering to help, she refused them.
She had a clear vision of what was right and what was wrong. Poverty was wrong, ignoring people's dignity was wrong, gambling was wrong...
...killing, for any reason, was wrong.
In the 80's when the Gulf war began, she protested it with a group called Pax Christi. She protested the killing being done over there and signed a letter of apology to those people whose lives were being destroyed by our military.
This inflamed and galvanized folks in these parts. Counter- protesters took the placards calling for love and peace and threw them in the bayou.
Sister Margaret would not stand down...she never did.
I think that quality was what I admired most about her. No matter where the political winds of change blew, she was steadfast and unswerving.
In March of 1997 she was diagnosed with lung cancer and opted to go without treatment, but continued the day to day of her "Christian Service" work.
The last time I saw her, was in the hospital, reading "Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom".
She said she found it comforting.
I picked up a copy after she passed away.
That was ten years ago.
This Sunday, Nov. 1st, is All Saints Day and I'll be paying my respects to a Shreveport Saint, Sister Margaret McCaffrey.
Sunday November 8th is the date set for this year's Poor Man Supper and Christian Service — the organization that Sister Margaret founded to help the poor — will recognize Dr. Robert Jackson and the Martin Luther King Health Center (Shreveport, Louisiana's first free clinic and pharmacy which was opened in 1985 by Dr. Jackson & Sister Margaret) with its Sister Margaret McCaffrey Award.
The supper will be held at 6pm @ The First United Methodist Church on Texas Street, in Shreveport.