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By Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP
Outreach Program Director, Gianna House
September 15, 2020, Detroit – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, struggles with job loss and worries about obtaining vital necessities were real and far-reaching. Gianna House Pregnancy and Parenting Center in Eastpointe, whose mission is to provide support and resources to mothers in need, looked at creative ways to continue to serve these women during this unprecedented time.
Gianna House opened a residence for pregnant teens ages 13 through 17 just over a year ago. While we did not accept new residents during the first, uncertain months of the pandemic, we continued to provide loving support to our resident teen and celebrated the August birth of her beautiful, healthy son. Teens may come any time during their pregnancy and remain up to a year after birthing to continue their academic education and gain parenting and life skills.
In addition, for the past five years, Gianna House has been a resource for underserved mothers of any age through a vibrant Outreach Program. In looking for ways to continue to help while our center was quarantining, our Outreach Program was expanded to include online learning opportunities for community mothers to continue to attend our classes. Mothers who take classes receive “baby bucks,” which they can use to purchase items from our closets, such as diapers, wipes, and clothing – all donated to Gianna House throughout the year.
Starting in May, modified classes were led virtually by our volunteer facilitators. As each class is completed, mothers email reflections on what they learned in class and what they need to purchase for their babies. Each Monday they pick up their items at designated times from the Gianna House porch.
“I found Gianna House very soon after COVID hit my community,” said Carmen, a mother from Macomb County, Michigan. “I was newly pregnant and very nervous. I had recently lost my stable job and money has been very tight with the conditions of the world shutdown. I was home, which made it very easy to conduct classes online and to earn diapers and other baby supplies for my son. I’m very happy GH is here to help women and families like me. They are a true blessing.”
Myleka, the single mom of five children, ages 2 to 12, from Wayne County, Michigan, also describes Gianna House as a blessing because of its online courses. “Not only did Gianna House bless us mentally but they have also helped by blessing us with the necessities that we need for our little ones,” she said. “Being able to reach out for help at a time like this and receive it was a real blessing. I would like to thank Gianna House and all of their sponsors for helping me and my family. Thank you for thinking about moms and families like mine during this pandemic!”
Finding teachers with the capability to conduct online classes was a bit challenging, but networking with established groups such as CARE of Southeast Michigan, Ascension Health System’s Southeast Michigan Community Health, and Community Housing Network, Inc., has been a great help. It works both ways – they provide great classes and we refer moms to their programs.
“As part of our national mission at Ascension, our goal is to serve the most vulnerable populations,” said Neefesha Marion, LLMSW, of Ascension Infant Mortality Program’s Jubilee Parenting Support Group. “It has been a great experience working with Gianna House, providing women and families parenting education.”
CARE’s Early Learning and Parent Education Director, Tonia Pauli, thanked Gianna House for its “unwavering support of the moms in our community. Through our state’s COVID-19 closures, Gianna House has collaborated with us to continue to provide workshops and education.”
Gianna House is now accepting applications for new residents, using safety procedures to ensure the continued health of all staff and residents. For more information please call 586-445-0440 or visit www.giannahouse.org.
September 8, 2020, Adrian, Michigan – Roman Catholics around the world celebrate many key liturgical seasons: Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. Now Catholics can join their Protestant sisters and brothers in a deeper celebration of a new liturgical season: the Season of Creation, held annually from September 1 through October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi.
The Season of Creation gives people of faith the opportunity to focus on God as Creator and on their need to appreciate and reverence creation and to cherish and protect Earth. This year’s theme is “Jubilee for the Earth: New Rhythms, New Hope.”
Father James E. Hug, SJ, Sacramental Minister for the Adrian Dominican Sisters, wrote a Catholic liturgical guide, Season of Creation 2020: Jubilee Time for the Earth, to help Catholic communities celebrate the special themes of the Season of Creation in conjunction with the liturgical readings and prayers already designated for Sundays and weekdays during this period. Father Jim has been writing these liturgical guides for the past three years to bring out the themes of Season of Creation during the Sunday Liturgies at which he presides for the Adrian Dominican Sisters.
“One of the things I found out when I started looking into the Season of Creation in the ecumenical world was that they had a website and they would create liturgies for use during the season, with special readings more oriented toward environmental themes – and Catholics didn’t have the freedom to do that,” Father Jim said. “I decided I would keep in front of me the ecological crisis and what we’re facing and use the normal readings for the Sundays of Ordinary time and ask what they said about this situation.”
This year’s liturgical guide includes commentary on each Sunday’s readings and how they pertain to environmental issues and suggestions for the Opening Prayer, Penitential Rite, intercessions, Prayer over the Gifts, Prayer after Communion, and the Final blessing. In addition, Denise Mathias, Motherhouse Music Minister, suggested hymns and responsorial psalms to go with each Sunday’s theme.
This summer, as Father Jim prepared for the 2020 Season of Creation, he heard from Amy Woolam Echeverria, Chair of the Board for the Global Catholic Climate Movement. She was involved with the Vatican Dicastery (office) for Promoting Integral Human Development, which wanted to create materials to promote Pope Francis’ 2015 environmental encyclical, Laudato Si’ and the Season of Creation. Father Jim sent his materials to her, and they were developed and designed into a document that was disseminated throughout the world.
Through Amy, Father Jim said, he began to get positive feedback from around the world, including Latin America, Australia, Oceana, and England. “I certainly had huge amounts of energy,” he said. “It’s exciting. There’s a sense that this is part of a new mission, a new contribution that I’m being asked to make.”
Father Jim has long been active in social justice issues. Before ministering with the Adrian Dominican Sisters in 2013, he served for 28 years – 24 years as Director – at the Center of Concern, a social justice institute based in Washington, D.C. “Our focus was on analyzing the social structures of injustice, but particularly economic,” Father Jim said. “Through that kind of work, ecology kept showing up.”
He became more involved in environmental issues in 2008 when an Ignatian Associate asked him to develop a workshop for a conference on creation. While doing his research, he said, “I realized how integral the ecology issues were to the social justice-systemic justice set of concerns that I was working on.”
Father Jim sees all social justice issues as interrelated. He said he is resonates the most with Pope Francis’ statement in Laudato Si’ that the world doesn’t face two crises – economic and ecological – but one “complex, interrelated crisis.”
“I’ve found myself throughout my professional life trying to help people see that we are part of huge systems,” Father Jim said. “We live simultaneously on the interior level, the interpersonal level … and in communities, in societies, in systems that govern how we develop and how we live.”
Father Jim emphasized that focus on the environment is a component of the Catholic faith. “There’s so much in our tradition about nature,” he said. “The gifts of nature [are] gifts from God, given to be shared and cared for.” But, he said, our culture values consuming resources to the point that it has become destructive to our planet. “The simplest and most direct way to say it is you can’t say you love your neighbor if you poison their water or air, increase their respiratory diseases, or push them off their land.”
Scientists have been warning about the planet being about a decade from reaching the “tipping points” that would bring about irreversible effects of climate change, Father Jim said. He hopes his liturgy guide can help Catholics to make the connection between social justice and environmental issues, understand their responsibilities, and move our society to action.
“It’s exciting to be part of something that is needed, recognized, and going somewhere,” Father Jim said. “That’s what our mission is all about.”