My family met Heart’s Home through our parish, St. James Cathedral, in Brooklyn, NY almost 10 years ago. We have become friends with many of their missionaries, consecrated lay members, priests, and religious sisters over the years. My husband and I went to several of their weekend retreats as part of the Fraternity of Maximilien Kolbe, and our five children have participated in many nursing home visits and youth group activities in the work of Heart’s Home with local young people. We are very moved by the work that Heart’s Home does in the nursing homes and shelters of our city: they deal with a very challenging population with grace and love. Many of the people that they serve in the shelter have become part of our parish community at St. James, and Heart’s Home treats each of them with great dignity; this dignity gives the shelter residents hope; it gives many of them a reason to live. They see each of the people they serve as individuals, and they take the time to celebrate each one. I was particularly moved by the exhibition they put on a few years ago of art work made by a shelter resident, Becky: it made her so proud to be treated as a real person, worthy of attention and love. This is the way that Heart’s Home treats each of the people that they serve, and it is beautiful to witness.
They have always attracted a diversity of people to themselves, and this is evident whenever I have attended their retreats in Brooklyn and at their shrine in upstate New York, where there is always a mix of “pilgrims”: other families with young children, a wonderful variety of ages from the Brooklyn housing projects and beyond. I have participated in monthly Saturday retreats for women, which have brought me deeper into the mystery of how suffering and joy are interrelated and both are redeemed by Christ. In Heart’s Home, I see Mary at the foot of the cross, which is the charism that defines them: the willingness to remain in that place where suffering feels most absurd, and to know that this is precisely where Christ meets us. I am grateful to them for sharing this charism with me and with so many other lonely, suffering people in New York City.