Back in March, I had two possible meetings to attend, occurring at the same time. One was a Jewish Federation meeting and the other was a zoning hearing at City Hall. I told representatives from both that I would be out of town visiting family. Both times I hung up the phone in relief that I did not have to attend another meeting. Well, as it happened, my travel plans fell through. I made appointments (much to the dismay of my wife, who felt I needed a break) for that week. My last appointment came and went Thursday afternoon, and there on the calendar was the Jewish Federation council meeting and City Hall. For a moment I reflected that I had already told each that I would not attend. I could just pack my briefcase, go home and relax. No one would be the wiser! Unfortunately, I would.
Even though I had already written a letter of support, I headed downtown for the public hearing on whether it was an appropriate property use for Sister Jose Women’s Center to move to a larger facility, in a residential area, on North Seventh Avenue. The center’s mission states that it “is dedicated to the care and nurture of homeless women within our community. To our sisters without shelter, we provide beds; to those without food, we give nourishment; and, to those without purpose, we offer encouragement. We are women reaching out to women with dignity, respect and compassion.” It is the only women’s shelter in Tucson. Members of my community serve on the center’s boards, and our social action committee has been helping serve “our sisters without shelter” for the past two years. Additionally, the Jewish Federation had also written a letter of support for them to move to this new location. I had to attend.
Once there, I was asked to speak. I spoke of my volunteer commitment to the impoverished ghetto in Washington, D.C., and to the rehab of homes in Northfork, W. Va., when I was a student at Georgetown University. I spoke about our congregation’s commitment to our neighbors in Tucson when we built homes for Habitat for Humanity with churches and another synagogue in Tucson. I thought of shared scriptures that remind us of our highest religious principles that say, “You shall not be hard-hearted and shut your hand from your brother or sister who is poor. But you shall open your hand … to your brother and sister” (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). For Christians, one of the most powerful verses is found in Matthew 25:34-40, “take your inheritance … for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in ….” Jesus’ disciples answered him, “When did we do these things for you?” His response, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
My friends, next week is Passover, a holiday not just dedicated to our freedom from slavery, but a reminder that we should welcome those who are hungry for food, for shelter, for family to join us. I encourage you all to do what you can to assist “our sisters” at Sister Jose to have a place they can call home. This is our calling, and as Msgr. Thomas Cahalane, president of the Center, priest at Mother of Sorrows, and my friend said to me the other day, “Thank you for being together in the Lord’s ministry.”