This new year of 2011 began with the cold of winter continuing to grip our state. Just before Christmas the cold arrived unwanted and unwelcomed. It soon began to takes its toll on the many homeless in Rhode Island as they sought shelter from the harsh winter nights.
They too seemed to be unwanted and unwelcomed as the winter.
Families and children were left on the cold streets as there was no room at the inn. Beds for the homeless were and continue to be in dire need. Yet the voices of the poor and homeless did not go unheard and their needs did not go unheeded.
The faith communities of Rhode Island gathered to raise a clarion call across the state that one homeless person was too many. Bishop Tobin led the effort by seizing the opportunity to put the faith into action and quickly opened the former Carter Day Nursery in Providence's South Side. The late Bishop Russell J. McVinney, sensing the needs of that community, established the day care center some 50 years ago as part of the Catholic Church's mission to serve the poor. No longer just an empty asset on the balance sheet, the building has now become an emergency shelter for those who might be left out in the cold of night and a beacon of light for those who live in the darkness and despair of poverty. The well-built, large building has easily transformed into the newly named Emmanuel House and is once again serving a worthy purpose for the community.
In the Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol, when two businessmen approach the old miser Ebeneezer Scrooge to solicit a donation for the poor and needy, they note that "Christmas is a time, of all others, when want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices." Such an adage was clearly true this past Christmas as the faith communities of Rhode Island together felt the want of the homeless and rejoiced in the abundance of Emmanuel House.
Thousands of individuals, groups and businesses have donated manpower, food, warm clothing, much needed blankets, and in a great spirit of the ecumenical nature of the great feast of the birth of Christ, the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island donated $10,000.
Christmas truly is a time "of all others" when want and need are keenly felt in our world but this year they were "keenly" felt here in our local community where so many remain homeless with no place to find warm food and shelter. The wants and needs of the homeless in our state will continue well beyond the festiveness of the season into the bleak winter days and beyond. Emmanuel House is but one small but one very important and much needed step on the road to addressing the growing crisis of homelessness in Rhode Island and eliminating the scourge that is poverty from our society. We commend the leaders of all the faith communities for reminding Rhode Islanders that "want is keenly felt and abundances rejoices" at Christmas. We also commend the prophetic leadership of our chief shepherd, Bishop Tobin for putting our Catholic Faith into action in such a clear and quick manner with creation of emergency shelter for the homeless at Emmanuel House.
If you would like to further contribute to the good work of Emmanuel House, you may do so today by sending a check payable to the Diocese of Providence to the Office of Social Ministry and Catholic Charities, 184 Broad Street, Providence, RI 02903 marked to the attention of "Emmanuel House." We thank all those who have donated time, talent and treasure to supporting and sustaining the mission of Emmanuel House to serve the homeless both now and into the future. Clearly this past Christmas, Emmanuel who is God with us, was with many of our homeless brothers and sisters in the form of food and shelter.