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Catholic Online Exclusive - An interview with the Bowery Mission

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
February 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Catholic Online recently interviewed Jill Gadwood, a volunteer at The Bowery Mission in Lower Manhattan. The Bowery Mission has served homeless and hungry New Yorkers since 1879. Today, well over a hundred years into its work, the Mission continues to serve the needs of New York's "skid row" with compassionate care such as meals, shelter and clothing, as well as showers, haircuts and expert medical and optometric care. Additionally, each meal and every night of shelter is an invitation for holistic recovery and life transformation through a residential recovery program.

NEW YORK, NY (Catholic Online) - Jill Gadwood, thank you for your time. Please share with us, what is The Bowery Mission and why is its work so important to you?

GADWOOD: The Bowery Mission is more than just a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. In addition to serving over 900 meals a day, the Mission provides a lifeline to homeless men and women looking for a second (or even third or fourth) chance with its residential recovery programs. The Mission offers the homeless a welcoming, Christian environment in which to live while they recover from drug or alcohol addictions, pursue an education, look for gainful employment and discover or grow deeper in faith.

COL: What is the relationship between St. Patrick's Old Cathedral and the Mission? When did the partnership begin and what does it look like today?

GADWOOD:  The mission of St. Patrick's Old Cathedral is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the people of our community through worship, service, education and culture.  One of the great ways St. Patrick's Old Cathedral furthers this mission is by supporting local organizations which serve the homeless.  St. Patrick's Old Cathedral is just two blocks down Prince Street from The Bowery Mission, and since the spring of 2011 we have been forming a wonderful partnership of support and friendship.  We started with our first brainstorming session in the basement of the parish rectory with about 25 volunteer parishioners, and today we have over 150 volunteers who serve the Mission and other homeless organizations in various ways, including: serving meals, participating in the annual Don't Walk By event, holding donation drives at our parish to collect needed items, tutoring residents of the Mission who are pursuing a GED, connecting the Mission to legal service organizations and promoting The Bowery Mission Young Philanthropists' annual fundraiser.

COL:
Many parishes serve missions and do charitable work. What sets your endeavor apart from others?

GADWOOD:
  We have kept a local focus on our outreach to the homeless, serving The Bowery Mission, ACE (Association of Community Employment) in SoHo and the Catholic Worker's St. Joseph's house in the East Village.   While there are an infinite number of great causes out there, it is important for a community church not to overlook those who are struggling in her own neighborhood.  Because of the proximity, we have also been able to witness firsthand the fruits of our labors.

COL: Does St. Patrick's Old Cathedral enjoy a greater level of commitment or participation from parishioners than average?

GADWOOD: St. Patrick's Old Cathedral is blessed with a vibrant community of young professionals who are very involved in their parish.  They are always looking for ways to get involved, especially in community outreach work.  As mentioned before, our volunteer base for outreach to the homeless has grown six-fold in less than two years.  In addition to volunteers who participate in our local outreach programs, there are countless volunteers who serve the parish in other ways, including Eucharistic ministers to the homebound, lectors, altar servers, social committee volunteers, music ministers, RCIA catechists and mentors, and discussion group leaders.

COL:
What motivates you to do the work you do? Why not spend your time doing something else?

GADWOOD: I feel that I have a duty as a Catholic and disciple of Christ to serve the poor and others in need.  I have found volunteering with The Bowery Mission to be a wonderful experience because they are a faith-based Mission, offering the homeless more than just a hot meal and a shower but also offering them a chance to discover or grow deeper in a relationship with Christ.

COL: What are the needs of the community served by the mission?

GADWOOD:  Our volunteer group at the Mission works very closely with Peter Fitton, the Mission's Volunteer Coordinator, to assess the Mission's needs and tailor our volunteer efforts to those needs.  For example, we asked Peter what items we should collect during our donation drives at the parish.  His first response was "socks and underwear."   While most parishes collect toys for children before the Christmas Season, St. Patrick's Old Cathedral hosted an Advent Donation Drive to collect socks, underwear, hats and gloves for the homeless to help them during the cold winter months.  Socks and underwear are certainly not first on the Christmas wish list for most people, but the Mission has taught us not to take for granted the most basic necessities in life.

COL:
How can others become involved?

GADWOOD: 
Our parish website has a "Get Involved" page where parishioners or friends of the parish can express their interest in particular volunteer opportunities, including community outreach to the homeless.

Once parishioners email me about serving the homeless, I add them to the volunteer list serve and keep them updated about ongoing volunteer opportunities.  You can also contact the Mission directly by visiting these links:

Visit the Mission website here.

Donate here.

Volunteer here.

Ms. Gadwood, thank you for your time and please accept our prayers for all your continued good work for those most in need.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)