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Challenge to End Hunger: Sr. Anne Bertain, OP

Challenge to End Hunger: Sr. Anne Bertain, OP

The Dominican Sisters of San Rafael have a deep connection with the St. Dominic’s community in San Francisco that dates back to the beginning of the last century, so it seems only natural that even through a global pandemic, they continue to meet the needs of the community and lend their support to the incredible ministry of providing food and services to those most in need.

St. Dominic’s Church in San Francisco had a St. Vincent DePaul Society in the Parish, but by 1979 there were no longer active members. At that time, longtime educator Sr. Anne Bertain, OP was stepping back from the classroom yet wanted to stay in the Parish as she saw the need to have an outreach program, thus St. Dominic’s Community Service began under the direction of Sr. Anne. As she reflects, Sr. Anne shares, “In In the beginning the program was limited. Hungry people would ring the bell at the Priory and they would receive a bag lunch with a sandwich, fruit, and other snacks put together by parishioners. Donations grew so the program was able to help people who were in crisis with rent, food, and various bills. As word spread that we had a program that invested time with each person and listened to their individual needs, more people called for an appointment.” Besides meeting the daily needs of families and individuals, a holiday program was set up for families to receive the food items for a complete Thanksgiving dinner. For Christmas, along with food, families can pick out a new toy for each child. There are 200 to 300 invited families to participate in the program. All the programs depend on many volunteers. This past year for the holiday program families received gift cards for food and toys.

Sister Anne felt more could be done to help those who came to the door each day. It was important for the guests to have a place to rest, sit down for a hot meal, get a shower, clean clothes, have books to read, use the phone, watch TV and not worry about being judged. Thus, in March of 2005, Lima Center opened in the basement of the church. Forty to seventy people (mostly men) come four days a week for a hot breakfast and lunch plus the other services offered. Each guest has their picture taken as well as staff and volunteers. Sr. Anne explained the significance of taking these pictures and displaying them on a bulletin board with their first name. “The purpose is for everyone to be called by name. You need to build trust before one will accept the help that could change their life. Calling one by name is a beginning. People need to be treated with human dignity.”

San Francisco has spent millions of dollars trying to solve the homeless crisis. It seems to keep growing. Some guests want to try to reunite with their families, but they are fearful. It takes away some of the anxiety when someone will listen and encourage you and help you make the first call. The addiction problem (drugs, alcohol, sex, etc.) needs to be addressed in a residential setting with case managers, physiologists, and with kind, but firm, councilors. Learning to live under a roof is often difficult for those who have been on the street for a long time. Housing, medical care, and a good meal are a big step in helping to turn a person’s life around.

Due to the pandemic, people are currently being served at the door of Lima Center. They receive a bag with a sandwich, drink, chips, fruit, pastry, and a container of hot food. Contributions from parishioners add to the bags.

Director of Community Service Brother Michael James along with the novices, the case manager, and others, help to put the food bags together. Sister Anne’s community makes 120 sandwiches twice a week. Francisco (pictured here with Sr. Anne), an employee of St. Dominic’s also and resident at Rose Court (Dominican Sisters’ affordable housing) brings the sandwich fixings to the convent for the sisters to assemble. “We are most grateful to all the volunteers and donors who have continued to help keep our programs going during these difficult times. We look forward to the day when we can open our doors and our guests can shower, have a place to sit, and once again take advantage of all the services Lima Center offers.

It is important to recognize during Catholic Sisters Week the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael have been partners of St. Dominic’s Parish since the beginning of the Parish School as teachers in early 1900 and Parish Ministry since 1979.

For more information about Lima Center at St. Dominic’s and to find out how you can help, please visit their website: https://stdominics.org/ministries

Sr. Anne Bertain’s story is part of our 2021 Catholic Sisters Week series a time during which we are participating in a Challenge to End Hunger in collaboration with other congregations. We aim to inspire our friends and neighbors to lend their support in any way they can to help end hunger, not just during Catholic Sisters Week, but throughout the year. #catholicsistersweek #changingtheworld #celebratingtraditions

Preachers of  Truth • Love • Justice