December 11, 2009

‘Hope for a new life’: New Holy Family Shelter’s mission still helps homeless families seeking to rebuild their lives

Two brothers who will temporarily reside at the new Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis with their parents and siblings enjoy play time together in the children’s day care center during a Dec. 6 open house. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

Two brothers who will temporarily reside at the new Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis with their parents and siblings enjoy play time together in the children’s day care center during a Dec. 6 open house. (Photo by Mary Ann Wyand)

By Mary Ann Wyand

Just in time for Christmas, the staff of the new Holy Family Shelter in Indianapolis will welcome up to 30 homeless families under its roof during Advent in the hope of helping them rebuild their lives with educational and social services assistance.

The new shelter was dedicated by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein during a Mass of Thanksgiving on Dec. 6 at Holy Trinity Church in Indianapolis.

Constructed next to the historic church at 907 N. Holmes Ave. on the near west side in Indianapolis, the red brick multiservice shelter is an archdiocesan Catholic Charities agency, and a beacon of hope for married couples, families, single parents with children and expectant mothers who have no place to call home.

Holy Family Shelter was founded on Nov. 19, 1984, at 30 E. Palmer St. in the former Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet convent adjacent to historic Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on the near south side in Indianapolis as an emergency assistance facility for families experiencing a financial crisis.

Twenty-five years after welcoming the first temporary residents, the shelter has outgrown its aging facilities due to a significant increase in the number of homeless families in need of a safe place to live and a variety of social services. (Related story | Photo gallery)

During 2008, the shelter staff served 229 homeless families and helped the parents locate permanent or transitional housing. Also last year, the staff assisted 206 adults who were able to obtain employment while living at the shelter.

Archdiocesan plans for a larger shelter began nearly six years ago, and the result is a 30,000 square foot facility with 23 bedrooms, a medical examination room, case management services office, employment and housing classroom, homework room, children’s resource room, children’s playroom, family recreation room, dining room, spacious kitchen and multiple bathrooms.

“It’s beautiful,” said David Siler, the executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries, during a Dec. 6 open house as he stood outside the children’s playroom, where day care services will be provided while parents complete life skills instruction, attend job interviews and begin new employment opportunities.

“It’s a great day today,” Siler said. “This was just an idea almost six years ago. So many people, in the community and on the part of Catholic Charities, helped make this [shelter] possible. It’s a proud day, a really proud day.”

Before the open house, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein was the principal celebrant for a Mass of Thanksgiving on the second Sunday of Advent and the feast of St. Nicholas that included prayers for “the homeless of our community, that we might recognize their needs as our needs, and respond with compassion and love.”

Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, and Father John McCaslin, the pastor of Holy Trinity and St. Anthony parishes in Indianapolis, were concelebrants. Father Aaron Jenkins, associate director of vocations and chaplain of Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis, assisted the archbishop as the master of ceremonies.

“Can we not say that [St. Nicholas], this great saint of charity, brought something wonderful to this Holy Trinity neighborhood?” Archbishop Buechlein asked in his homily.

“After Mass, we will bless and offer thanks for this awesome gift of Holy Family Shelter and those who make it possible,” he said. “… Holy Family Shelter is a concrete and practical expression of the mission and ministry of charity, which we all share, … a practical expression of charity that arose from the inspiration of prayer many years ago. Its new expression here at Holy Trinity [Parish] carries on that practical charity of extending God’s care to those in need for many years to come.”

At the conclusion of the liturgy, David Bethuram, agency director of Catholic Charities Indianapolis, told Holy Trinity parishioners and guests that construction of the new shelter has been a story of hope.

“Over the course of 25 years, the shelter has housed over 9,000 families,” Bethuram said. “Knowing the increased need in Indianapolis for emergency shelter, the archdiocese and Catholic Charities formed a task force of community leaders to help find a new site and design a facility that would address the [critical] needs of the families we serve. … This new facility will allow us to provide the necessary shelter for an additional 300 people each year.”

Bethuram thanked the design team of architects and engineers, members of the Catholic Charities Indianapolis and Holy Family Services advisory councils, community partners, benefactors, Sacred Heart and Holy Trinity parishioners, shelter staff members and other supporters for their “shared vision to serve those in most need.”

He also praised Archbishop Buechlein, Msgr. Schaedel and Siler for their leadership, vision and commitment to serve the homeless.

“They were all personally involved in helping this project become a reality,” Bethuram said. “Their dedication to serve the poor and vulnerable among us with dignity and respect is inspirational.”

The new facility will better enable the shelter staff to provide families with more enhanced assistance and follow-up services, he said. “In all of this, Bill Bickel [director of Holy Family Services] and his staff, and hundreds of volunteers will continue to create an atmosphere that allows the families we serve to believe—to believe in themselves [and] to believe they can build a home. Since we believe in them, they begin to have hope.”

Quoting the late Pope John Paul II, Bethuram said, “ ‘A home is much more than a roof over one’s head. It is a place for building and seeking one’s life. Our homes are our foundation, where we raise our children and seek comfort. Our homes and our families nurture us each day to continue to participate in our community.’

“For the families that have resided in the shelter or will reside there in the future,” Bethuram said, “Holy Family Shelter is what brings them hope for a new life.”

As Archbishop Buechlein blessed an entrance of the new shelter with holy water, he prayed, “By the grace of your Holy Spirit, make this shelter a place of blessings, and a center of hope and love. Inspire staff and volunteers to welcome as Christ all clients and guests with compassion and respect. Grant to all who come through these doors a sense of security and safety, of dignity and peace.”

Families are expected to move from the Palmer Street facility to the new shelter in mid-December.

Holy Trinity parishioners are excited about the new Holy Family Shelter, Father McCaslin said during the open house, and are eager to welcome the families with love, hope and prayers.

“It’s always a wonderful blessing to have the archbishop come to our parish to celebrate the Eucharist with us and to preach to us,” Father McCaslin said. “He’s our shepherd, and we’re blessed to have him here and to celebrate with him. And we’re doubly blessed through his leadership and vision of the archdiocese to build a new shelter and to place it with us.

“We got to watch it being built from the ground up,” he said. “There had been dialogue long before that so it was nice to see it finally begin to rise and then to see it completed. Now we’re really excited to watch it be filled, and to be able to pray [for] and be present to the people who will be staying there. It’s exciting for us. It’s a part of the overall vision of how the Church is being called to proclaim the Good News here on the near west side and to spread the Gospel.” †

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