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December 3, 2021, Flint, Michigan – Sisters Carol Weber, OP, and Judy Blake, CSJ, received the C.S. Mott Citizen of the Year Award during the 2021 Art of Achievement Evening Awards Ceremony, held last month at the Capitol Theater in Flint. Co-founders and Co-directors of St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center, they were recognized for their years of service to struggling people in Flint.

The award is named for Charles Stewart Mott, founder of a major foundation that funds community organizations around the world – including the N.E.W. Life Center.

“It was a very humbling experience because there are a lot of deserving people who do a lot of work in Flint,” Sister Carol said in an interview. “People are so grateful for what we are able to do. It’s a ministry – a call from God. I’m only doing what I’m called to do.”

The ministry of Sisters Carol and Judy is extensive. The N.E.W. Life Center focuses on helping people in the North End of Flint, which is predominantly African American and low-income. Services include a food pantry, a literacy center, employment preparation, and specific job training in areas such as commercial sewing and lawn care.

During the onset of the Flint water crisis in 2014 – when lead was found in the city’s water – the Center played a key role in distributing clean water and in teaching mothers of young children the importance of good nutrition to help combat the effects of the lead. “We’re still having problems with water,” Sister Carol said, adding that the Center received the donation of a filtration system to supply clean water for cooking and drinking.

The Employment Preparation Program teaches participants “soft skills” needed to be dependable workers, as well as specific job skills. The program helps participants to “get a better handle on who they are, what their goals are, and what their life plan is,” Sister Carol explained. The Center also partners with employers who are willing to hire people who have served in prison, she added.

One of the job-training components deals with making pallets for a business that supplies them to General Motors. Another aspect of that program, Sister Carol said, is training workers to take apart wooden crates found in the landfill and giving them to Habitat for Humanity to sell in their ReStore. “We’re trying to teach our people the skill of production,” she said. “The job they will get after on-the-job training most likely will be in production.”

The women in the Center’s commercial sewing company continue making clothing for Stormy Kromer. But, as Christmas approaches, they’re also working on a special project: making personalized Christmas bags – filled with gifts such as socks, underwear, a stuffed animal, a toy, a coat, and a blanket – for almost 500 local children under the age of 10. The N.E.W. Life Center also assembles a family box for other members of the family, including clothing, personal items, and toilet paper. 

Sister Carol said two other Adrian Dominican Sisters have recently come to the N.E.W. Life Center to offer their gifts in special ministries. Sister Theresa Mayrand, OP, is beginning a support program for pregnant women and for mothers of small children. Sister Patricia Magee, OP, is starting an after-school educational program for elementary school children from a local Catholic school.      

“We’re growing,” Sister Carol said. “People are investing in us. It’s a good time for us in Flint because people recognize what we are able to do. The people in Flint trust us.”

View a slide gallery of the award ceremony


Feature photo: This is one of more than 1,000 Christmas bags that St. Luke’s N.E.W. Life Center will be distributing to children in the Flint area. The bags contain gifts such as socks, underwear, a stuffed animal, a toy, a coat, and a blanket. To the right is Sister Carol Weber, OP.

November 17, 2021, Washington, D.C. – Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA) was an eyewitness to history November 15, 2021, as she watched President Joe Biden sign the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“This is historic,” Sister Donna said in an interview. “It’s a once-in-a-generation event, the largest infrastructure bill that has ever been undertaken in the United States … and the single largest investment since the construction of the interstate highway. It was really being part of history.” 

Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD, left, President and CEO of Catholic Charities USA, and Mary Novak, Executive Director of NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice Lobby, pose on the White House Lawn.

Sister Donna said she was invited to the signing because of her leadership of an organization that serves 15 million vulnerable people throughout the United States every year. “We are the largest provider of services outside of the federal government,” she said. She was attending the event with members of both houses of Congress, as well as mayors, governors, representatives of labor unions, and representatives of organizations that serve the working class and the working poor.

Still, she was surprised and thrilled at the invitation – which came at 5 p.m. on the Friday before the Monday signing. “The White House never gives you a lot of notice.” Sister Donna arrived early for the event, knowing she would have to clear security checkpoints. Speakers included Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Senator Chuck Schumer, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and President Biden.

Along with the historic nature of the event, Sister Donna is especially thrilled at the impact of the bill on the people served by CCUSA. “It’ll be years in its unfolding, but it will do wonderful things,” she said. The bill “makes a huge investment in clean energy,” moving the country away from fossil fuels.

All of these improvements will provide good-paying jobs – key for the people served by CCUSA, Sister Donna said. “There will be so many opportunities for people to get fine jobs,” she said, noting that the local Catholic Charities agencies will work with the people they serve to help them get some of those jobs.   

People served by CCUSA will also benefit from the clean-up of drinking water throughout the country as lead pipes throughout the nation are replaced. “Whether in the rural area, the city, or the tribal nations, those who are disadvantaged are going to really benefit from that part of this investment,” Sister Donna said. She also sees the advantages of greater access to high-speed internet – so that mothers don’t have to take children to use the Internet at places like McDonald’s to complete their homework. 

“I hope it’s implemented in a timely fashion and gets the country moving in the right direction,” she said, adding that she finds great hope from the fact that the bill found bipartisan support.


Feature photo: Vice President Kamala Harris addresses a crowd of about 800 people attending the signing of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Photo by Sister Donna Markham, OP, PhD



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