Charities to establish permanent shelter for women

Julie Filby

To serve one of the most vulnerable populations in the Denver metro area, homeless single women, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver will open the city’s first long-term emergency center for women this month.

Homeless women make up 45 percent of the Denver’s homeless population comprised of 11,377 men, women and children, according to a policy brief by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in 2012.

“The United States has the largest number of homeless women among industrialized nations,” according to the brief, “and the highest number on record since the Great Depression.”

The shelter will open within an area of Charities’ existing Samaritan House—a shelter at 2301 Lawrence St. that serves 3,500 men, women and children each year. It will have capacity for 100 women and will be called Holy Rosary at Samaritan House. The permanent shelter will replace a temporary one established over the winter at Holy Rosary Church at 4688 Pearl St. in the Globeville neighborhood, near the Interstates 25 and 70 interchange.

“The zoning code around the current temporary shelter didn’t allow for a permanent shelter so we needed to find a new place by April 15,” said Geoff Bennett, vice president of shelter and community outreach services for Catholic Charities. “So we moved fast into finding a solution to shelter the women.”

The temporary shelter will close this spring. To provide the new shelter, Charities entered into an agreement with The Salvation Army to extend the Samaritan House men’s emergency overflow into The Salvation Army’s Crossroads Center. The Crossroads Center, located at 1901 29th St., is less than a mile from Samaritan House. It can accommodate up to 100 men per night.

“The Samaritan House emergency overflow program is not ending,” Bennett explained, “but instead is being continued at Crossroads Center. All the conveniences and amenities offered at Samaritan House to the men will be extended at Crossroads.”

Holy Rosary at Samaritan House will also absorb the Salvation Army’s Red Shield program which currently houses 30 women.

“We are very excited to be working with The Salvation Army to continue our men’s shelter services,” Bennett said, “while opening a long-term emergency overnight shelter for women.”

Samaritan House is unique, he added, in that it is able to accommodate women, men and families under one roof.

“That is not the case for the majority of the other shelters that mostly take men only,” he said.

Each year, Samaritan House provides 118,000 nights of shelter and serves 240,000 warm meals. It is one of Charities’ four shelters in the archdiocese—along with Father Ed Judy House in Denver, Guadalupe Community Shelter in Greeley and The Mission in Fort Collins—providing “love, safety, shelter, clothing, food and supportive services to help restore dignity, regain lost hope, and reclaim ownership of their lives and reintegrate into the community.”

Holy Rosary at Samaritan House will open April 15.

COMING UP: Nothing about us without us

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The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October.

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods were called to consider the crisis of marriage and the family throughout the world. Yet they became the occasion for powerful churchmen to try to deconstruct Catholic moral theology and sacramental discipline, according to the tried-and-failed theologies and pastoral practices of the 1970s. The 2018 Synod, summoned to discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment, began with an effort by the Synod general secretariat to enshrine the world’s language of sexual plasticity (and the lame understandings of happiness that underwrite that language) into an official Church document. When that failed, Synod-2018 became the occasion for the Synod general secretariat to promote an ill-defined notion of “synodality” that struck more than a few bishops present as a prescription for local-option, choose-your-own-doctrine Catholicism on the model of the (imploding) Anglican Communion.

This pattern seems likely to continue at the Amazonian Synod. There, the deeper agenda will be the ordination of mature married men — viri probati — to the priesthood. Proponents will argue that this dramatic change in the Church’s longstanding tradition of a celibate priesthood (which, contrary to much misinformation, antedates the early Middle Ages by hundreds of years) is necessary because Amazonia is a Catholic area deprived of the Eucharist by a lack of priests. One hopes that the counterclaims — that Amazonia is mission territory requiring wholesale evangelization, and that Amazonia’s lack of priests reflects racial and class divisions in Latin American Catholicism that discourage priests of European pedigree from working with indigenous peoples — get a serious hearing.

Proponents of ordaining viri probati in Amazonia, including retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, have insisted that any such concession there would have no implications for the universal Church. That cannot be, however. Should the Amazonian Synod request the Pope to grant a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy for that region, and should he grant it, it will be just a matter of time before bishops conferences elsewhere — Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria come immediately to mind — make similar requests, citing pressing pastoral needs. On what ground would those requests be denied?

In a year-end interview with Vatican News, the Synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, insisted that the Amazonian Synod would not discuss environmental issues only, but would also confront “ecclesial themes” — and would do so in a way that Amazonia could be “a model for the whole world.”

We can be grateful to the cardinal for his candor in, however unintentionally, letting the celibacy cat out of the synodal bag. Any decision to ordain viri probati in Amazonia would inevitably have major consequences for the entire Church. A decision of this magnitude cannot be taken by an unrepresentative segment of the Church and then turned into a “model” for everyone else.

That is why the principle of “Nothing about us without us” must apply here. Whatever else “synodality” may mean, it surely must mean that decisions bearing on everyone should involve as broad a consultation and as global a reflection as possible. Bishops who agree should make their concerns known now, not after the Amazonian synod meets.

Featured image by Vatican Media | CNA