[Dominican Sisters of Peace Janice Thome, OP (blogger), and Rose Mary Stein, OP, attended the Nuns on the Bus event in Kansas earlier in September. During an interview with Sr. Janice, she shared the following reflection about her ministry and the people she serves:]
In Garden City, Kansas I serve in the Dominican Sisters Ministry of Presence, which is a direct service ministry with the economic poor. In this town of 30,000 we are a “majority-minority” with people who come from 25 different countries. The children in our school district speak over 37 languages because of the large number of dialects. When I first arrived, we were serving a majority of Spanish-speaking people in our ministry with the poor; now it is a majority of Anglo, English-speaking people because of the economic situations in our country and state. Those most recently struggling economically have been working in the oil industry and have been laid off because of cutbacks. We have refugees coming from Ethiopia, Somalia, Burma and many other countries. They come to western Kansas because of the job market in the dairy industry, beef packing plants, and other related jobs.
Our ministry with the poor allows us to be with families in their homes and hear their many stories. One man we visited spoke with tears in his eyes saying, “I don’t want my children to hear me asking for help. I have never done that in my life. Now I don’t have the ability to pay my light bill.”
Unfortunately, I continue to hear people say, “People are poor because they want to be. They are on welfare because of that.” These critics need to hear the stories of real people who are poor for the first time because they have a major medical problem in the family and they do not qualify for health insurance, or they have lost a job. It is an endless black hole for them.